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Encourage others to start talking and gain control of their bladder health!  We've made it simple for you to share National Bladder Health Week news, resources, tips and tools with your friends, family and healthcare providers.  We have a variety of  simple activities you can choose from to promote awareness of bladder health.  They are cut and paste one of the sample newsletter or emails below.

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Incontinence Stories From Experts & Real People | NAFC BHealth Blog

Log in daily to learn tips about #incontinence, #bladder leakage, overcoming symptoms, and first hand accounts from experts and patients.

 

Staying Young With A Positive Outlook

Sarah Jenkins

stay young with a positive outlook!

Getting older is inevitable. It will happen to us all at one point, but just because we’re all aging doesn’t mean our life has to decline. The power of positivity is a real thing, and research shows that those who are optimistic about getting older, and who follow the mantra “you’re only as old as you feel” actually do fare better than those who are more likely to attribute aches and pain to old age.

In a study from the Journal of American Medical Association, researchers looked at the effects of positive age stereotypes to see what effect it had on helping people recover from certain disabilities. Participants (aged 70 years or older) were asked to relay 5 words or phrases that came to mind when they thought of old people. None of the participants had a disability prior to the initial questioning, but they did experience at least one month of disability during the 11-year follow up. The people who had given more positive age stereotypes were 44% more likely to fully recover from severe disability and were able to perform daily activities better as they aged than those with negative age stereotypes.

Positive thinking does matter. Even as we age, we are still in control of our own life. How we view it, and our health, make a big difference.  Nothing could be truer when considering a condition like incontinence. At NAFC, we hear from people all the time who think incontinence is simply a part of getting older. They’ve already resigned themselves to the fact that it will happen and there is nothing that can be done. But that is simply not true. (And if you follow this blog we hope you know that by now!) Lifestyle changes, medication, simple medical procedures, and even surgery can often correct the problem (or at least greatly improve the symptoms).  Don’t let your health decline simply because you’re marking another year on the calendar. Take charge of your wellbeing and attack any health concerns head on now, to enjoy a long and happy life.

Here’s a quick exercise to try each day. Close your eyes and think of a time when you were at your optimal health. Think of your vibrancy at that age, your energy, how you felt. Now think of yourself as that age – not just in this exercise, but throughout your day. Associate yourself with that vibrant, younger version in everything you do. And, if research is correct, you may just start noticing the difference!


Have some tips to share on how you “think yourself young”? Share them in the comments below!

Coming Out Of The Closet About Pelvic Organ Prolapse

Sarah Jenkins

This is a guest post from Betty Heath, of The Rejoicing Soul.

During the past twelve years I have shared much of my life’s journey with you. Well, today I am coming out of the closet.  Stunning isn’t it? I was recently diagnosed with Pelvic Organ Prolapse. How many of you can identify with me? The current estimate of the number of women in the U.S. with this condition is approximately 4.3 million. According to a recent study by the World Health Organization guestimates indicate that there are 36 million women world-wide with this condition. The reality is that it is difficult to know what the real numbers are because women are reluctant to be talk about it or be treated for it.

Pelvic Organ Prolapse (POP) is quite common among today’s female population. Many women have the symptoms but because they are embarrassed to discuss them with anyone they suffer in silence.  POP can occur when the pelvic floor muscles weaken and one or more organs shift out into the vaginal canal and even bulge outside of the body.

My journey with POP began sometime in the spring of 2016. I began having symptoms of POP which include pressure, pain and/or fullness in vagina or rectum or both; sensation of ‘your insides falling out’; bulging in the vagina; severe back pain and incontinence. Every time I went for a walk or even sneezed I thought my insides were going to fall right out onto the ground. I began staying home more often and said little about it to my friends. At first I attributed these symptoms to old age and laughed them off. After all, I am approaching the ripe old age of 80. We hear and see so many TV ads regarding incontinence and because the causes are never addressed we become oblivious to what they might be.

This past fall I finally decided I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life worrying about my insides falling out and was tired of dealing with this issue so I made an appointment with a gynecologist. After the initial exam I was referred to Dr. Alexander Shapiro who is a specialist gyn/urologist in Denver. That exam took place in early December and was one hour and thirty minutes.

After the exam I told him I never dreamed I would be sitting in a gyn/urologist office at the age of 79. He smiled and replied, “We do have ways to keep popping up in your lives, don’t we.”  I then told him this was the most disgusting, gross thing that has ever happened to me. He said, “Right now your insides are a total mess. This is a very intimate surgery and is a major surgery. This is who you are right now and you can’t allow this to define your life. I promise you I can repair the damage and relieve the pain and discomfort”.

The four-hour surgery took place on Monday, January 30. I told my physician that most women my age are having face lifts and here I was having a butt-lift. I went home Tuesday and Wednesday as I was having breakfast I suddenly realized that the fullness/pressure feeling and the back pain I had prior to surgery were totally gone. Oh, what a relief it is. I cried tears of joy. I’ve experienced minimal pain with this surgery.

Today, if you are a woman reading this (or a man who has a woman in your life with this condition) I urge you to make an appointment to at least talk with your physician about your problem. There is help and hope for women with POP. New treatment options evolve daily to control, improve and repair this cryptic health condition.

Join with me in taking Pelvic Organ Prolapse out of the closet and make it common knowledge for women of all ages. Don’t allow this condition to define who you are or how you live your life.  Don’t wait! Call for your appointment today.

Betty Heath

About The Author:  Betty Heath lives in Colorado with her husband. She is “retired from work, but not from living”, and has a weekly column called “As I See It”, which appears each Sunday in the Longmont Times-Call, owned by the Denver Post. She enjoys writing, cooking, gardening, and quilting. Betty also volunteers in the St. Vrain Valley School District, helping students learn how to write from their heart. For the past six years, she and her husband have volunteered as Santa and Mrs. Claus for the Holiday Festival in the Carbon Valley. You can read more from Betty at her blog, The Rejoicing Soul.

What To Expect Post Menopause

Sarah Jenkins

What To Expect Post Menopause - common ailments

So, you’ve made it through menopause – now what? While many of the symptoms that came along with menopause will go away, because of some of the changes that happened during menopause, you still need to be on your A-game to remain healthy.

Here are some of the common things to watch out for:

Vaginal Bleeding 

As your estrogen levels drop during menopause, the vaginal lining becomes very thin and, as a result, may be easily irritated, resulting in bleeding. Polyps (usually non-cancerous growths) can also occur. Bleeding after menopause is not normal, so if you experience this, be sure to see your doctor right away to get checked out to ensure it’s nothing serious.

Risk of Osteoporosis

After menopause, a woman’s bone breakdown overtakes bone buildup, resulting in a loss of bone mass. Overtime, this can develop into osteoporosis. Prevention is key here – be sure to exercise on a regular basis (weight bearing exercises done regularly are great at making bones stronger). Eat high calcium foods, such as low-fat milk and dairy products, canned fish, dark leafy greens, and calcium fortified foods. Vitamin D is also essential, as it helps the body better absorb the calcium you’ll be taking in. You can get Vitamin D naturally by exposing your skin to sun for about 20 minutes daily, but you may also get it from foods like eggs, fatty fish, cereal and milk. If you feel you are at a risk for not getting the calcium or vitamin D you need, talk to your doctor about taking supplements.

Risk of Heart Disease

While menopause doesn’t cause heart disease, women are at an increased risk for heart disease after menopause has occurred. Some believe that lack of estrogen may again be to blame, but other changes are in effect too – increased blood pressure, increased LDL cholesterol (this is the “bad” one) and higher levels of fat in the blood can also increase after menopause.  Diet and exercise are as important as ever (to keep your heart healthy and prevent other conditions). Just 30 minutes of physical activity - walking, dancing, and swimming are all great options – 5 days per week can give you a good aerobic workout. And be sure to eat a healthy diet while avoiding too much red meat, or high sugar foods and drinks.

Vaginal Dryness

Because of low estrogen levels, you may still experience some vaginal dryness. Over the counter vaginal lubricants and moisturizers can help ease these symptoms, but if that doesn’t work, talk with your doctor about using some type of estrogen treatment – there are many available, and in different forms (tablets, rings, creams).

Life after menopause can be a wonderful time provided you take the time for self care and work to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

The Pelvic Floor As We Age. A look at how it changes through the different phases of life (pregnancy, menopause, etc.).

Sarah Jenkins

The Pelvic Floor As We Age

A Guest Post By Michelle Herbst, PT

Times have changed. The pelvic floor was once considered a taboo subject. As women age their birthing history and overall muscle weakness may catch up with them.  A healthy pelvic floor can be achieved as we age but often times little attention is paid to our pelvic floor until it starts to fail. It can be difficult for women to seek medical attention due to feelings of embarrassment and despair. But, advances in health care and knowledge of the aging process allows today’s women to seek effective treatments.

Let’s step back and take a closer look at the pelvic floor as we age.

The pelvic floor is a sling supporting our abdominal and pelvic organs. It is made up of our muscles and connective tissues which I like to think of as our active and passive pelvic support structures. The pelvic floor muscles, or active pelvic support structures, create a muscular sling whereas our passive pelvic support structures are made of connective tissue called fascia. Fascia is a spider-web like material traveling through and covering the pelvic floor.

The active and passive pelvic support system are one in the same. They are knitted together interlacing creating a dynamic basin of support. Healthy pelvic support system work together controlling our sphincters, limit the downward descent of the pelvic organs and aide in sexual appreciation. Damage or weakness to the pelvic support system may result in symptoms of pelvic floor dysfunctions resulting in leakage and pelvic organ prolapse.

The pelvic floor over time.     

Pregnancy, child birth and the post-partum period is a time of great change. The interlacing nature of the active and passive pelvic floor support systems protect the mother and baby as they both grown. Child birth calls on the pelvic support system to push and slide the baby out into the world. The pelvic floor muscles can heal in as quickly as 6 weeks after delivery. But, the physical strain of living and creating new life can be taxing on the pelvic support system leaving it overstretched and weak.

The prescription is often kegels and post-partum kegels can be hard to do. The muscles are lengthened, very weak and trying to ‘reconnect’ to their nerve supply. In an attempt to ‘get it all done’, the post-partum mom is often multi-tasking while doing kegels. Their brain is preoccupied, sleep deprived and foggy. Despite good intentions, many new mothers ‘muscle their way through’ relying on other muscle groups to assist or do the job of the pelvic floor. Overtime with due diligence and a sleeping baby – the brain fog lifts, kegels are consistent and pelvic floor muscles recover allowing the new mom to return to and enjoy life’s pleasures and adventures.

Life continues to click at a fast pace.  The biological process of aging ticks away. The passage of time can be bittersweet. In the 3rd through 5th decades of a woman’s life, she will begin to experience a gradual loss in overall muscle strength and tensile strength of their connective tissue. In their 4th and 5th decades, peri-menopause ushers in a decrease in circulating estrogen and progesterone. The conclusion of these gradual changes are marked by menopause which is typically complete during the 5th decade. Life starts to catch up with you. The birthing of children, past injuries, the development of chronic health conditions and your family history may predispose the active and passive support system to overall weakening and loss of integrity resulting in leakage, organ prolapse and decline in sexual function.

What to do?

1.     Protect and strengthen your active pelvic support system by engaging in a strength program and doing your kegels. Peak muscle strength occurs in twenties or thirties. And, unless a woman is engaging in a strength program she will begin lose muscle mass and strength.

2.     Protect the passive pelvic support system by avoiding straining during bowel movements and avoid holding your breath while lifting, pushing and pulling. The passive pelvic support system can not ‘fix itself’ and will need to rely strength of the active pelvic support system. So, revisit number 1 again and again and again …

3.     Stay healthy and seek out your doctor’s advice when you are sick or notice your first sign of leakage or prolapse. The treatment often times isn’t as bad as you think it will be.

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Michelle Herbst, PT

Michelle Herbst, PT

Staying Strong And Preventing Bladder Leakage During Menopause

Sarah Jenkins

preventing #bladderleakage during menopause

It’s estimated that a whopping 6,000 women reach menopause each day in the US. Menopause happens to every woman, and is the shift in hormonal changes that result in the cessation of menstruation.

While many women know about the common symptoms of menopause (Hot flashes! Insomnia!), there are certain changes that come about in menopause that are often surprising to women. One of these is loss of bladder or bowel control. 

A number of things occur during menopause that can contribute to you suddenly experiencing a bit of leakage:

Weakening Of Pelvic Floor Muscles

Your pelvic floor muscles play a huge role in controlling your bladder and bowel. As the muscles weaken, it can lead to more urgent needs to use the restroom, and more leaks. Weakened muscles can also lead to an increased risk for pelvic organ prolapse.

A Less Elastic Bladder 

Changes that occur during menopause can cause the bladder to lose it’s elasticity and the ability to stretch. This can cause increased irritation in the bladder when it fills with urine, and can impact the nerves that regulate bladder function, which can sometimes cause overactive bladder (OAB).

Vaginal Dryness  

During and after menopause, the body produces much less estrogen, which results in an increase of vaginal dryness. This dryness has a number of consequences, which can include an increase in the amount of urinary tract infections.

Anal Trauma 

While anal trauma is usually the result of childbirth, many women may not see the results of it until menopause, when that, combined with a weakened pelvic floor can increase the risk of fecal incontinence.

It’s important to know that while these changes can lead to bladder or bowel leakage, the symptoms can also be avoided or eliminated by taking proper care of the pelvic floor. It’s never too late to start strengthening things up. Here are some ways to increase the strength of your pelvic floor as you go through this period:

Get Active 

As simple as it sounds, simply staying active is great to keep your weight, and overall health in check.  Gentle exercises, like walking, that don’t place too much pressure on the pelvic floor are best.

Try Squats

Squats are a great way to build up your glute and core muscles. To perform one, stand with feet shoulder with apart. Keeping your knees over your feet (don’t let them move past your toes), lower your bottom down as if you are sitting in a chair, being careful not to lean too far forward. Raise back up to starting position.  Aim for 10 reps per day. (Note, if these feel too difficult for you, try wall squats, which use the same movement, but are performed with your back to the wall for extra support.)

Kegel 

When done correctly, kegels can do wonders for helping women with incontinence.  They help strengthen the muscles that prevent bladder leakage and also help to avoid or reduce the symptoms of pelvic organ prolapse.  Remember that when performing a kegal, learning how to relax the pelvic floor is just as important as learning how to tighten it. In some cases, women have pelvic floors that are too tight and cannot relax, and if this is the case, kegels can end up aggravating your condition. If you’re concerned about your pelvic floor, or just can’t get the hang of how to do a kegel, visit a pelvic floor physical therapist for help.

 

Hormones! They Are A Changin'. Top 3 Myths About Menopause - Debunked!

Sarah Jenkins

Menopause will affect every woman at some point in her life. Menopause occurs when hormonal changes cause the menstrual cycle to stop. Whether you are on the verge of this life change or right in the middle of it, there are things you can do to manage the side-effects. But first, it helps to know what is and isn’t true. Here are some common myths about menopause and the reality behind them:

MYTH #1: MENOPAUSE BEGINS AT A CERTAIN AGE.

Fact: While the average age for menopause to start is 52, this is not a steadfast rule.

Women can begin menopause as early as their 30s and as late as their 60s! Technically, menopause begins when you have stopped having a menstrual cycle for 12 months. But symptoms can start even before this begins – perimenopausal symptoms can last anywhere from a few months to several years before actual menopause starts.

MYTH #2: HOT FLASHES ARE THE BIGGEST SYMPTOM I NEED TO WORRY ABOUT.

Fact: While hot flashes are a commonly talked about symptom of perimenopause and menopause, there are many symptoms that can occur (although not all women experience all symptoms). Irritability, fatigue, anxiety, mood swings, low libido, forgetfulness, weight gain and vaginal dryness are just a few of the symptoms that women may experience during this stage of life.

MYTH #3: INCONTINENCE THAT COMES AS WE AGE IS JUST A RESULT OF GETTING OLDER AND THERE’S NOTHING I CAN DO ABOUT IT.

Fact: It’s true that menopause can increase the risk of urinary incontinence. Duringmenopause, estrogen levels decline, causing a number of changes to the body. Without proper care, pelvic floor muscles can become weaker, increasing the possibility of leakage, or even pelvic organ prolapse. Vaginal dryness can occur as the lining of the vagina produces less mucus. And a decline in bladder elasticity can increase bladder irritation and impact bladder function, which can cause overactive bladder (OAB). But while hormonal changes that come with age can influence symptoms, there are many things that can be done to prevent or manage incontinence, starting with taking proper care of your pelvic floor. If you are experiencing any of the above symptoms, talk with a licensed physical therapist who specializes in women’s health as soon as possible so that they can evaluate your symptoms and set you up on a proper treatment plan.

 

Prolapse After Pregnancy – It’s Not Your Fault.

Sarah Jenkins

Prolapse After Pregnancy - It's Not Your Fault.

Around 6 weeks postpartum, I had expected to feel a bit more like myself.  I had avoided exploring anything in the vaginal area for fear of what I would find, but had felt a general heaviness since I had given birth.  Not knowing for sure if this was normal, I made an appointment with my doctor to get checked out. 

Upon examination, my doctor confirmed that I had a prolapsed bladder.  His tone was nonchalant, as if it was totally normal and something that just happened sometimes. 

I was completely shocked. What had gone wrong?  And why did I never hear that this was a possibility?  I immediately started blaming myself.  Why had I not done more kegels during my pregnancy?  Why didn’t I do more research to know that something like this could happen?  Did the decision to use a vacuum during the last bit of pushing influence this?  What could I have done to prevent this?

But the truth is, some women really are just more susceptible to prolapse.  While a prolapse can occur for many reasons, some women have more of a genetic risk for the condition due to the strength of the connective tissues.  It’s not your fault. 


That being said, there are some things that may help you either avoid a prolapse, or at least improve your symptoms if you have one:

  • Maintain a normal weight.  If you are overweight, you are more susceptible to a prolapse due to increased pressure inside the abdomen. 
  • Avoid constipation.  Becoming constipated can cause you to strain during bowel movements, increasing the chance of a prolapse.  Ensure you are eating a high fiber diet and drink plenty of water every day.
  • Keep active.  A regular exercise plan keeps your weight in check, and also helps promote healthy bowels.  Be sure to include your pelvic muscles in your daily workout routine too.
  • Avoid extra pressure inside the abdomen.  Things like lifting heavy objects, and chronic coughing, create persistent pressure, which can increase the likelihood of developing a prolapse, or making your symptoms worse if you have one.  Stay healthy and avoid strenuous lifting. 

Whatever you do though, don’t blame yourself for developing a prolapse.  Instead, use that energy to find out what you can do to improve your symptoms and treat the condition.  Talk to your doctor about your options, and find a qualified physical therapist to help you learn how to strengthen your muscles to improve symptoms.

The Mama Body: Physical Therapy During And After Pregnancy

Sarah Jenkins

A Guest Blog by Lizanne Pastore PT, MA, COMT

Eighty percent of the bodily changes occurring during pregnancy happen in the first trimester!  Isn’t that astounding?  A woman’s body must adjust quickly to a 40% increase in fluid volume, increased heart and respiratory rates and myriad other changes that may affect us in different ways.  The fluid volume increase, for example, can make our connective tissues weaker—our tendons can get a little mushy and our nerves and blood vessels a bit softer.  This extra fluid and tissue weakening makes us more prone to things like leg swelling, varicosities, tendonitis, carpal tunnel syndrome, or sciatica.  

The hormonal changes in pregnancy play a big role in our metabolism, mood, memory and, of course, ligamentous laxity.  Some pregnant women experience instability not only in the pelvis and hips, but also in the joints of the spine, elbows, and wrists.  Our musculoskeletal system is taxed by these changes even before the baby gets very big.  Then, as baby grows, we might begin seeing rectus abdominis separation (“diastasis recti,”) spinal problems from posture and center of gravity changes, even rib dysfunction as the ribs are forced out and up to make room for belly.  Foot pain from falling arches from the sudden weight gain can occur, and on and on. 

In the pelvic girdle, there is a list of other maladies that can be downright scary to a pregnant or postpartum mama.  And most women are not warned about these potential problems.   Pelvic girdle pain manifesting as coccyx, pubic or sacroiliac joint pain; groin or hip pain; pelvic muscle or nerve pain; plus urinary or fecal incontinence or pelvic organ prolapse are some of the more common things occurring during or after pregnancy. 

After birth, as Mom is busy caring for her newborn and any other children at home—schlepping heavy car seats, strollers, laundry baskets, breastfeeding through the day and night, lifting ever-heavier babies into and out of cribs—she wonders why everything hurts, or why she feels a clicking in her pelvic bones when she lifts her leg!  Well, she is busy performing exceedingly challenging tasks with a sub-optimal musculo-skeletal-neural system (not to mention sleep deprivation!) 

It is well documented that both pregnancy and vaginal birth increases a woman’s risk of developing pelvic organ prolapse or becoming incontinent later in life.  And many women think that leaking during or after birth is “normal” because their friends, moms, aunts, and sisters leaked, plus there are 20 different brands of incontinence pads to choose from in the drugstore, so it “must” be normal.   

But this is wrong; leaking and pelvic organ prolapse is common, but not normal or OK.   The same holds true for back or pelvic pain.  Sure pregnancy puts demands on our bodies, but there is no reason to “put up” with pain, leaking, prolapse, numb hands or legs!  There is a health professional who knows all about this—a physical therapist specially trained in women’s health issues and the pelvic floor.  These PT’s are special – they understand the pregnant and postpartum body and are experts in negotiating a path to health and strength for women with special concerns.

After an initial assessment, which often includes a thorough pelvic muscle exam and possibly even a biofeedback analysis, the woman is prescribed a home program.  This program may include a combination of postural or corrective exercises, motor training or strengthening exercises, bladder and bowel re-training, special instruction to change movement strategies to limit stressors on the body, and even self-care techniques for pain or prolapse, such as self massage for constipation, or gentle inversions for prolapse. 

Wouldn’t it be amazing if every pregnant woman and new mama could have a visit with a PT like this?  Guess what – they can!  If you are reading this article and are pregnant talk about this option with your doctor.  And if you have friends, sisters, aunts and co-workers who might be pregnant or new moms, talk to them about it.  Tell them to ask their doctors for a referral to woman’s health physical therapist!  

Need help finding a qualified PT? Visit the NAFC Specialist Locator to find one in your area.

About the author:  A physical therapist for 29 years, Lizanne has specialized in treating women and men with complex pelvic floor and pelvic girdle issues since 2005.  She has worked primarily in San Francisco and the Bay Area, running a successful private practice for the past 18 years. She writes, lectures, and teaches about pelvic health at the professional and community levels and is currently a board member of the NAFC.  

Postpartum Isn’t Easier When You’re a PT

Sarah Jenkins

….But it helps

Pregnancy can be a wonderful time of growth, change and anticipation.  As the baby grows, the mother’s body goes through normal musculoskeletal changes.  Muscles in the abdominal and pelvic region stretch, ligaments soften and joints loosen.  Some women handle these changes with ease but others may need the help of a physical therapist to manage pain and incontinence

After the birth of the baby, there are still changes. The postpartum (or post-birth) period can be a beautiful yet challenging time for the mom too. We call this time period the fourth trimester. 

As a PT and mom, I can attest to the challenges I listed above. I can also say that postpartum doesn’t get any easier or feel any better because you’re a PT and you intellectually understand the physiological changes in your body after having a baby. I’m a PT and I know what I need to do for myself and my recovery but knowing what to do and experiencing the discomfort and managing it are different.

Hormones greatly affect the mom emotionally and physically and the pelvic floor muscles are overstretched and weak.  The new mom likely has an incision to care for and may be experiencing some urinary leakage. Ligaments and joints gradually tighten as hormones begin return to pre-pregnancy levels.  However, muscles like the lazy.  If a muscle isn’t exercised it will remain loose and weak.

My prescription for healing after having a baby? Kegels, Tummy Time and Walks.

The secret sauce to making sure that prescription works? Repetition

Understand the purpose of kegeling. 

The pelvic floor muscles create a natural bowl or basket supporting our pelvic and abdominal organs.  The pelvic floor is vital in controlling our bowel and bladder, is part of our core muscles, assists in our sexual response and must stretch to allow for the baby to slide through the birth canal.

A kegel is the contraction of the pelvic floor muscles. You can learn more about how to kegel, here.

Mimic your baby + get on your tummy.

Use that tummy time to kegel from a new position and just take in the moments you have with your new little one.

Try to walk at least once a day.

You need socialization and your baby needs it too.  Lucky for you, walking is a great pelvic floor exercise.

At the end of the day, variety and repetition are key. As both a PT and a mom, I’ve found that strengthening the pelvic floor by challenging those muscles in a variety of ways will allow the muscles to become strong enough to maintain dryness. Eventually, your pelvic floor wall will become strong enough for a return to pre-pregnancy activities.

Although we all have to deal with this postpartum changes, being a PT certainly helped me have perspective. I hope this article can help you too!

P.S.  Remember that whatever you do in the name of healing your body is a way to take care of yourself. If you don’t take care of yourself, how could anyone expect you to take care of your little one? Take a deep breath and give these suggestions a try. If you need an extra boost to get you going, read this blog post for inspiration!

About the Author, Michelle Herbst:   I am a wife and mother with a passion of helping women live to their fullest potential.  I am a women’s health physical therapist and for nearly decade have helped women with musculoskeletal conditions during their pregnancies, postpartum period and into their golden years.

How a 'Birth Plan' Can Help Protect Your Pelvic Floor

Dawn Dingman

The relationship between urinary incontinence (UI), pelvic floor disorders, and vaginal birth is a hot topic. Popular magazines and some scientific journals claim that vaginal birth is a cause of urinary incontinence, which has fueled the debate about another equally hot topic: cesarean delivery by maternal request! The presumed logic is this: if vaginal birth leads to UI, then cesarean delivery should be done to prevent it. In fact, questions surrounding causes and prevention of UI, as it relates to vaginal birth, are far more complex. Scientific studies done to date have shown no conclusive evidence that vaginal birth causes UI or pelvic floor disorders. Until we have more answers, cesarean deliveries done to protect the pelvic floor are unwarranted.

What is a “Birth Plan”?

It is never too early to learn what you can do during childbearing years to protect your pelvic floor and bladder health. A Birth Plan is a paper document you develop that serves as a communication tool between you and your healthcare provider. It describes how you would like to be cared for during your pregnancy, labor, and birth.  A Birth Plan helps you and your provider focus on practices and procedures you believe are important to include or avoid. Everyone wants a healthy mother and baby – that is a given. However, there are many pathways to achieving a safe, normal vaginal birth, a healthy infant and a healthy, satisfied mother and family. A Birth Plan simply places these thoughts in writing. During the course of your prenatal visits, a Birth Plan encourages conversation with your provider about the processes and procedures that occur in the hospital during labor and birth that may affect your bladder and pelvic floor.

Tips For Determining a Birth Plan

During your pregnancy, ask your provider to teach you the correct method for doing Kegel exercises. When done correctly, Kegels help strengthen your pelvic floor during pregnancy and after birth.

The obesity epidemic in the United States has led to changes in recommendations about weight gain in pregnancy. Ask your provider about the optimal weight gain for you. The old adage, “eating for two” no longer applies. Obese mothers who give birth to excessively large infants are more likely to experience postpartum bladder troubles whether having a vaginal or operative birth.

Pregnancy provides the ideal time for women to quit smoking. Cigarette smoking is a risk factor for urinary incontinence. Your healthcare provider has many suggestions to help you quit once and for all.

Once in labor, being upright allows gravity to assist with your baby’s descent instead of working against it while lying on your back.

New evidence shows that “gentle pushing” or delayed, non-directed pushing techniques can minimize pelvic trauma and are more protective than “forced pushing.”

To protect pelvic floor muscles, nerves, and connective tissue, express your desire to avoid the use of episiotomy, forceps and/or vacuum extraction. There is more than a decade of research that an episiotomy need not be performed unless there are indications for such intervention (e.g., fetal distress). Episiotomy, especially midline, has been shown to increase a woman’s risk of anal sphincter injury and not to reduce the risk of other pelvic floor disorders. Patients should discuss whether or not to have an episiotomy and be certain that their doctor will not use one, other than in extreme situations. Sometimes however, these maneuvers may be necessary for you or your baby’s health.

For help in writing a Birth Plan that works for you, consult your library, pregnancy resources, your healthcare  provider, and the Internet. Your healthcare provider can guide you about trusted web sites.

What No One Told You About The 4th Trimester

Sarah Jenkins

what to expect after you've had the baby

When you were pregnant, everyone joined you in counting down the days, weeks, and months until your baby would be born. Now that your little one is here, the countdown is over. But that doesn’t mean the woes of pregnancy are over.

The fourth trimester, or the recovery period and adjustment period of your body after birth, is a very formative time period. This month is filled with changes in your body, your household, and your baby’s body. Now that your little one is out of the safe cocoon of your womb, they’re learning to latch on to you for feedings and lay near you for warmth and comfort. All the while, your organs are resituating themselves and your hormone levels are skyrocketing to fuel these shifts.

Although everyone knows about the exterior changes that come after having a baby, many women are still surprised to feel so out of control with their bowels and bladder.

Childbirth—cesarean or vaginal—does a number on your organs. The trauma of childbirth weakens your pelvic floor muscles, often leaving them feeling like they had their own personal cross fit session.

Understand the level of work your body has done for you and react appropriately. The fourth trimester is a period of rest and recuperation. To treat yourself like anything else will only put you at risk for less than ideal symptoms in the long run.

Take time to map out a recovery plan for your bowels and bladder so you can ease your way back to a pre-baby stage. If you are experiencing urinary or bowel leakage, or a frequent urge to go often, start with a bladder and bowel diary. Fill it out and take note of what your body is responding to and then bring it to your doctor in your next postpartum appointment. 

3 Common Infections That Affect Young Women And How To Treat Them.

Sarah Jenkins

3 Common Infections That Affect Young Women And How To Treat Them: UTI, Yeast Infection, HPV

You’re young, healthy and probably think you’re invincible. However there are some infections that are common in young women. Read below to learn about three you are likely to experience at some point, and what to do about them.

Urinary Tract Infections

Urinary tract infections can occur in men and women of any age. They can be very uncomfortable and most symptoms include a burning feeling when urinating, urinating frequently, feeling tired or shaky, or feeling a pain or pressure in your back or lower stomach. They occur when foreign bacteria enter into the urethra and travel up to the bladder where they can cause an infection.  The most common causes of UTIs are improper wiping after using the toilet (always wipe from front to back to avoid spreading bacteria from the anus to the urethra) and sexual intercourse, which can present larger numbers of bacteria into the bladder. (Tip: Always urinate after having sex – it helps to flush away any bacteria that may be present). UTIs typically clear up quickly with antibiotics, but drinking plenty of water, removing any bladder irritants from your diet (caffeine, alcohol, spicy foods), and emptying your bladder regularly can help treat UTIs too.

Yeast Infections.

Yeast infections are caused by the presence of extra yeast in the vagina. When the normal ratio of yeast to healthy bacteria is off, yeast can grow too much and cause an infection. This imbalance can be caused by fluctuating hormones, certain antibiotics, or other conditions like diabetes. Many women experience itching in the vagina, in addition to painful urination and a thick white discharge. Yeast infections are typically diagnosed by a physician, and can be treated with OTC antifungal cream, suppositories, or antifungal tablets.

HPV.

Younger women tend to have more sexual partners than older women.  Great for your sex life – not so great when trying to prevent STDs.  The human papilloma virus is the most common sexually transmitted disease, and one that you should be regularly checked for. Be sure to ask your doctor to check for HPV at each Pap smear.  It’s a good idea to also get tested for chlamydia and gonorrhea while you’re at it. 

Learn more about women’s conditions here. 

Ask The Expert: Is Urinary Incontinence A Normal Part Of Aging?

Sarah Jenkins

Ask The Expert

Each month, we ask our expert panel to answer one of our reader's questions. To learn more about the NAFC Expert Panel, and how to submit your own question, see below.

Question: Is Urinary Incontinence A Normal Part Of Aging?

Answer: We get this question all the time, and suspect that many people believe this, even though it’s not really true. Here are the facts:

While incontinence should never be considered a normal occurrence, our chances of getting it do increase as we get older. Certain life events (childbirth, for example) can cause the muscles and tissues to weaken, and, over time can result in urinary incontinence. Other conditions can also play a role – neurological conditions such as MS or Parkinson’s Disease, being overweight, or prostate problems in men can all contribute to bladder leakage.

So, in a way, yes, as you get older, you may be more likely to experience urinary incontinence, but it’s typically a symptom of something else. And it most certainly can be treated. Lifestyle changes, such as diet and exercise (especially performing moves that increase the strength of the pelvic floor) can do wonders in improving symptoms of incontinence. And, if that doesn’t work, medications, minimally invasive procedures (like Botox injections or InterStim) or even surgery are all options for treating the issue.

The most important thing to take away is that having bladder leakage is not a lost cause. If you live with this symptom, find a doctor and talk about your options. Life’s too short to live with a condition that has so many options for treatment.

Are you an expert in incontinence care? Would you like to join the NAFC expert panel? Have a question you'd like answered? Contact us!

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4 Moves To Help You Strengthen Your Pelvic Floor Before You Get Pregnant.

Sarah Jenkins

How to firm up your pelvic floor before you become pregnant.

Thinking of trying for a baby soon? Now is the perfect time to start strengthening your body in preparation for pregnancy and childbirth. And even if you’re not quite at that stage yet, the moves listed here are great for anyone to improve pelvic floor and core strength.

The pelvic floor acts as a basket of muscles that help support the pelvic organs (your uterus, bladder and bowels).  Keeping them toned can not only help ease pregnancy discomforts (like urine leakage and hemorrhoids), but it can also help you later on in life as your body naturally changes due to hormones, and age. The moves below work not only the pelvic floor, but also other important muscles connected to it to ensure overall core strength.

Kegels 

There’s a reason that you’ve heard again and again that kegels are important.  This exercise has long been touted by professionals as one of the most vital exercises in increasing your pelvic floor strength.   Follow the instructions below to be sure you’re performing them correctly.

  1. Identify your pelvic floor muscles by attempting to stop your urine flow mid-stream. If you can do this, you’ve found the muscles! (Note – don’t practice your kegels in this way on a regular basis – it should only be done to identify the correct muscles.)
  2. Performing with an empty bladder, your first goal should be to tighten your pelvic floor muscles for 5 seconds. Then relax them for 5 seconds. Try to do 5 reps on your first day. As you gain confidence from your new routine, aim for 10 seconds at a time, relaxing for 10 seconds between contractions. 
  3. Be careful not to flex the muscles in your abdomen, thighs, or buttocks. Also, avoid holding your breath. Breathe freely during the exercises to keep from stressing the rest of your body.
  4. Aim for at least 3 sets of 10 repetitions per day.  The beauty of kegels is that they can be done anywhere, anytime.  Try performing them during your downtime, such as waiting in line, or sitting at a stoplight.
  5. Give yourself encouragement. These exercises will feel foreign in the beginning. But the longer you stay with this, the better your bladder health will become. As a bonus, Kegels have been reported to increase sexual pleasure as well. 

To learn more about kegels and the variations of kegel exercises that you can perform, review the information on our website found here, or check out one of our most visited blogs here.

Squats

Strong glutes and hamstrings are very important to the overall health of your pelvic floor.  And one of the best exercises to develop these muscles is the deep squat.  Squatting is actually one of the most natural forms of movement there is, however our modern-day lifestyle, characterized by long hours of sitting at a desk or on a couch, has made the squat virtually extinct.  By strengthening your glutes and hamstrings, you’ll be adding additional support to your pelvic floor.  Follow the instructions below to make sure you are performing squats safely and correctly.

  1. Stand with feet slightly wider than your hips, toes pointed slightly outward. 
  2. Keep your spine in a neutral position – don’t round your back, and don’t over accentuate the natural arch of your back.
  3. Extend your arms out straight so they are parallel with the ground, palms facing down.
  4. Balance your weight on the heels and the balls of your feet.
  5. Taking a deep breath, begin sending your hips backwards as your knees begin to bend.
  6. Keep your back straight, and your chest and shoulders up.
  7. Be sure to keep your knees directly in line with your feet as you squat.
  8. Continue lowering your hips until they are slightly lower than your knees to perform a deep squat.
  9. Use your core to push yourself back up, keeping your bodyweight in your heels. 
  10. Congratulations! You have just completed 1 rep!

It may help to watch yourself in a mirror as you first perform this exercise, as it is easy to perform squats incorrectly.  Some things to watch for are not dropping low enough, leaning your body too far forward, allowing your knees to drift inward, and performing the exercise too quickly.   Aim to complete about 2-3 sets of 10 reps daily.

Finding Your TA

Your transverse abdominus, also known as the TA muscle, is the muscle that is located deep within your core, below the six-pack muscles.  This muscle is often overlooked, but it serves a vital role.  The TA muscle helps to stabilize the core, pelvis and lower back, and is recruited almost anytime a movement is made.  Strengthening your TA muscle will ensure that you are protecting your back and spine from extra force or pressure when you move, and will help aid in pelvic floor stabilization.

The following steps provide a very basic way to locate your TA muscle and give it a workout:

  1. Lie on your back, with your knees bent.
  2. Place your hand on your stomach, just over your belly button.
  3. Inhale.
  4. While you exhale, tighten your stomach muscles and pull your belly button inward.  You should imagine that you are tightening a corset and flattening your stomach.
  5. Repeat 3 sets of 10 reps each.

Once you have a good feeling for where your TA muscle is and how to activate it, you can begin incorporating the action into your everyday life - while sitting at work, standing in line, etc.  Also try to practice tightening your TA muscle, like a brace, every time you perform a movement such as lifting, sneezing, squatting, etc.  With practice, this action can become automatic and will aid in your core stability.

Multifidus

The multifidus is one of the most important muscles in aiding spinal support.  The muscles are attached to the spinal column and are called upon when bending backwards, turning, and bending side to side.  These muscles work with the rest of your pelvic floor muscles and TA muscle to help you hold good posture, and to stabilize your lower back and pelvis during movement.  Try the exercise below to strengthen the multifidus muscle:

  1. Lie on your stomach, with your forehead on your hands, or a towel, looking straight down. (Not to the side)
  2. Very slowly, rotate your pelvis back slightly so that your tailbone lifts toward the ceiling.  This should be a very subtle movement.
  3. Hold for one second, then rotate your pelvis back to the floor.
  4. Complete 3 sets of 10 reps each. 

Practice activating your multifidus muscle throughout your day by keeping good posture. 

Even before you’ve had children, there may be times when certain pelvic floor exercises are not appropriate. And, it’s important to know that there is no “one” exercise alone that will strengthen your pelvic floor as it is supported by many muscles.  Always check with your doctor before beginning any exercise program.  And, if you have concerns about your pelvic floor, no matter what life-stage you are in, consult a trained physical therapist specialized in women’s health. Your Physical Therapist will also be able to ensure that you are performing the moves correctly so that you are getting the most out of your workout.  Use the NAFC Physician Locator to find a doctor in your area. 

Note: Even before you’ve had children, there may be times when certain pelvic floor exercises are not appropriate. Always check with your doctor before beginning any exercise program.  If you have concerns about your pelvic floor, no matter what life-stage you are in, consult a trained physical therapist specialized in women’s health.

Pre-pregnancy And The Pelvic Floor - It's All About Prevention

Sarah Jenkins

Pre-Pregnancy and the Pelvic floor

If you’ve never been pregnant, it’s likely you’ve spent little time thinking about your pelvic floor. And yet, now is exactly the time that you should be focused on it.  A healthy pelvic floor can prepare you for a great pregnancy and a safe delivery, and it can prevent a host of problems that may occur after childbirth. The pelvic floor works as a basket of muscles, holding your uterus, bladder, and rectum in place.  When you’re young, and your pelvic floor has not suffered the effects of age or childbirth, you usually see few complications. But sometimes, strain on the pelvic floor (like carrying a baby for nine month, giving birth, and the natural effects of gravity over time) can cause problems like bladder leakage. The good news? These effects can be lessened, or even eliminated, if proper care is given to the pelvic floor now.  Here are the steps you need to take to ensure that you’re taking proper care of your pelvic floor, and yourself, prior to becoming pregnant.

Assemble your squad. 

Finding the right team of professionals is key to keeping your health in check.  If you haven’t already, do your due diligence and start seeing these health care professionals on a regular basis.

  • Gyno
  • Primary Care physician
  • Dentist
  • Dermatologist

Keep a healthy weight and develop a workout routine.

If you’re planning to get pregnant, don’t fall into the trap of thinking that weight doesn’t matter pre-pregnancy – the healthier you are now, the healthier you will be during your pregnancy, and the easier it may be to shed those extra pounds after baby arrives. Not only that, but keeping your core and pelvic floor strong now will help better prepare you for pregnancy and childbirth.

Maintain a healthy diet.  

Eating right is always a good idea, and it can really help you maintain your weight. In addition, keeping your diet in check can help you prevent diabetes (a condition that is on the rise in the US, and that, in some cases lead to neurogenic bladder.)

Routine Exams

Get a well-woman exam every year – be sure to talk with your physician about general health metrics like blood pressure levels, diet, weight, and any stress that you may be experiencing. Have a regular Pap smear every 3 years if you’re between 21 and 30. While you’re at it, be sure to have a yearly breast exam to check for any unusual changes. Do your own monthly exams as well and become familiar with how your breasts normally look and feel.

Quit those bad habits

If you haven’t heard, smoking is really not cool anymore and even if you don’t believe that, consider this – aside from a host of other health problems, smoking can contribute to a leaky bladder

Uncover any risk factors that you may have by learning your health history.

Talk with your family to learn about any risks that you may have health-wise. Knowing these now can help you prevent possible health threats down the road.

Even if you only choose to follow a couple of these steps prior to pregnancy, know this: this time is all about prevention – the steps you take now to take care of your body will pay off in folds down the road.  Don’t wait to start taking control of your health. 

Check in with us all month to learn how to stay healthy at every stage of life.

 

 

Three Generations Of Incontinence

Sarah Jenkins

Talk about incontinence with your family.

Sometimes it's hard to open up with others about what's happening with our health. But doing so can help you gain valuable insights into your background and may help you take preventative action to avoid some conditions. Read this story about the importance of sharing your health history and the impact it can make on the entire family.

Growing up in a very conservative family in the 20’s, my Grandmother learned at an early age how to “act properly”. She was a lady, for sure, always looking immaculate, with great manners and a strong sense of pride. She was a private person – never sharing too much and kept any troubles or personal concerns to herself. She passed these traits along to my own mother and then, by default, on to me.  What none of us knew, until recently, is that while acting ladylike is well and good in many cases, keeping things inside can sometimes cause rippling effects throughout generations, especially as it relates to health concerns.

You see, we all suffer from bladder leakage. My Grandmother gave birth to three children in her younger years, and as she inched toward middle age, she began experiencing the symptoms of stress urinary incontinence, causing her to leak urine when extra “stress” (coughing, laughing, sneezing) is placed on the bladder. For her, this was simply something that she had to live with. She would never dream of talking to anyone about it, especially her doctor. It just became a part of who she was and she managed as well as she could on her own, in silence. My mother suffered a similar fate, dealing with her bladder leakage in much the same way as my Grandmother did for all those years. It wasn’t until I started experiencing symptoms a few years after the birth of my second child that I ever knew it was something that had plagued generations of my family.  I was on the phone with my mom when, after a particularly intense sneezing fit, had to excuse myself to use the restroom. When I got back to the phone, my mother very delicately asked me if everything was ok. And though I had never spoken with her candidly about this before, I suddenly felt a need to know if she had also experienced the problem. I asked her very calmly if she had ever had “issues” holding her bladder, and suddenly it was if the flood gates had opened – she shared her struggles over the years, and also her suspicion that her own mother had experienced the same things. We decided to ask my Grandmother at our next monthly visit and finally, the three of us sat down and spoke frankly about this very common problem.

What I learned shocked me, but also sounded vaguely familiar. My Grandmother had never spoken to anyone about her issue – not even once. She purchased incontinence supplies as discreetly as she could and never even told my Grandfather that she was experiencing problems (although I can’t imagine that he didn’t know).  My mother, at least, did tell her doctor, but after a trying, and failing, on one medication, decided to just try to manage it herself and live with the issue.  I had only just been experiencing light leaks for the past few months, but after hearing their stories and learning about the years of living with the condition, I was determined to do something. That very day I made an appointment with my doctor to learn my options. I read everything I could find about the issue before my appointment and was armed with a list of questions for my doctor. At my appointment we talked about my options, and I started out by making several lifestyle changes – including taking a hard look at my diet, and practicing several core and pelvic floor exercises to gain some of the strength back that I lost after having kids.

It’s been about a year since my conversation with my Mom and Grandmother, and I’m so glad that I finally opened up to them and learned their struggle. Too many keep conditions such as incontinence to themselves, instead of speaking up about it – especially to those they love. Knowing that I wasn’t the only one, and in fact, that this problem likely had at least a little bit to do with genetics helped me immensely. During my research into my own problem, I came across a study that showed incontinence that occurs before you reach middle age is likely determined by your genes. I only wish that I would have had the conversation with my family earlier.

May is Women’s Health Month. And Mother’s Day just happens to be coming up as well. Use this time with your family wisely – make it a point to ask them about their health history. You’ll be able to better arm yourself with information on your background and how to treat your own condition simply by speaking up and starting the conversation. And who knows – you may find that you have someone else who knows exactly what you’re going through who is right under your nose.

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Women's Health Month

Sarah Jenkins

Women's Health Month

May is Women's Health Month, and we're celebrating at NAFC by walking you through all the ways to keep yourself strong and healthy at every stage. Here's a breakdown of what you can expect from us this month:

Week 1:  We're talking about the early years and prevention! Learn about how to strengthen your pelvic floor before pregnancy.

Week 2: Pregnancy and childbirth can really do a number on your pelvic floor. Learn what you can do during pregnancy to prepare for childbirth, and what you can do after baby's here to regain your body.

Week 3: Peri-Menopause and Menopause are an inevitable part of every woman's life. And while hormones can cause major changes to your body, there are things you can do to make this transition as easy as possible.

Week 4: Life after menopause can be a great time for you if you make an effort to remain healthy and strong. Learn about the steps you can take to enjoy these years.

Plus, all month long we'll be shining the spotlight on OAB and sharing tips, tricks and articles to show you how to manage symptoms of overactive bladder.

Follow along with us on the BHealth Blog, and on Facebook and Twitter!
 

 

 

Eating Your Way Through Constipation

Sarah Jenkins

Diet habits to avoid constipation

Being constipated is a very uncomfortable situation, leaving many people stressed and impatient. For some, constipation further aggravates bladder control issues and for others, the problem is merely uncomfortable. Regardless of how your bladder is affected, the impatience and stress caused by constipation only makes the whole situation worse.

Thankfully, constipation is usually a situation fixed by better eating habits and/or a change in medication. Talk to your doctor about your constipation and consider bringing in a bowel diary of how often you pass a bowel movement.

If medication is the sole catalyst, your doctor should be able to advise a healthy alternative. And if eating a more fibrous diet is in the books for you, consider trying these ten constipation-fighting foods.

      Popcorn
      Nuts
      Beans and Legumes
      Grapes
      Broccoli
      Flax Seeds
      Pineapple Juice
      Bran
      Figs
      Prunes

What foods or drinks do you use to combat constipation?

Ask The Expert: What's The Difference Between IBS And Crohn's Disease?

Sarah Jenkins

Ask The Expert

Each month, we ask our expert panel to answer one of our reader's questions. To learn more about the NAFC Expert Panel, and how to submit your own question, see below.

Question: What’s the difference between IBS and Crohn’s Disease? Could I have both?

Answer: While both of these conditions seem to have similar symptoms, they are in fact different, and, yes, it is possible for someone to have both at the same time. Here’s a quick breakdown of the two:

Crohn’s Disease is a chronic, inflammatory bowel disease that affects parts of the digestive tract. Symptoms often include diarrhea, a frequent need to move your bowels, stomach pain, and bloating (all symptoms of IBS). However, with Crohn’s disease, patients also may notice things like vomiting, tiredness, weight loss, fever, or even bleeding.  It’s not certain what causes Crohn’s disease, but most experts believe it is an abnormality in the immune system that can trigger the condition. Chron’s disease is also more common in those with a family history of the disease.

IBS (also called “spastic colon”) carries similar symptoms to Crohn’s disease – cue the diarrhea, frequent trips to the bathroom, and stomach pain.  However, treatment for Crohn’s disease and IBS are different so it pays to be examined for both so that you understand what is causing your symptoms and you can treat it appropriately.  Testing for both conditions can be done with a physical exam, blood test, and usually a colonoscopy or other type of endoscopy procedure.

If you experience any symptoms related to IBS or Crohn’s disease, make an appointment with your doctor today to get tested.

Are you an expert in incontinence care? Would you like to join the NAFC expert panel? Have a question you'd like answered? Contact us!

Could Alcohol Consumption Be Contributing To Your Incontinence Or Bedwetting Problem?

Sarah Jenkins

Alcohol and incontinence 

Eric was 43 when he first woke up wet. He had no idea what had happened to him, but after a couple of minutes he realized:  he had wet the bed. He was shocked – this had never happened to him before and he had no idea why it was happening now.

The bedwetting continued a couple of times a month for a few months until he finally knew something had to be done.  He noticed that he seemed to only wet the bed after he had had a few drinks with his buddies during their regular poker night. “I don’t usually drink much, but I like to have a few beers with the guys during our regular hang out.  I decided to try switching to water for the next couple of poker nights just to see what would happen.” Sure enough, once he omitted the alcohol, things improved dramatically.

Eric’s situation is not uncommon. Over 35 million American adults suffer from incontinence, and nearly 5 million have a bedwetting problem. And, while alcohol cannot be attributed to all of these cases, it is definitely something to try omitting for a while if you do suffer from incontinence. Sometimes, simple lifestyle changes can make a huge difference.

Alcohol on it’s own doesn’t cause incontinence, but for those who are prone to bladder leaks, it can be a trigger.  Alcohol is a diuretic, which means that in increases the production of urine and can also cause a person to need to use the restroom more often. Not only that, alcohol irritates the bladder, which can make overactive bladder symptoms worse. It’s worth it to try eliminating alcohol if you have incontinence. (Especially if you tend to drink to excess.)

Alcohol isn’t the only thing you should watch out for if you struggle with bladder leakage.  The following foods and drinks can also irritate the bladder:

  • Caffeinated beverages like coffee and tea
  • Chocolate (it contains caffeine too!)
  • Carbonated drinks
  • Spicy foods
  • Citrus foods
  • Acidic foods, such as tomatoes
  • Cranberry juice
  • Sugar – including artificial sweeteners
  • Certain medications

If you are experiencing incontinence, try eliminating some of these foods from your diet to see if it makes a difference. It may help you to keep a bladder diary during this experiment to record how what you eat affects your bladder leaks. And if you experience bedwetting, definitely try skipping that nightly glass of wine. As Eric discovered, sometimes making simple lifestyle changes can make a huge difference.  “I’m dry again! I miss having a drink with the guys, but it’s something I can live without if it means I don’t wet the bed.”

Want a handy cheat sheet of foods to avoid if you have incontinence? Print out our free download of foods that may trigger incontinence and hang it on your fridge for easy reference!