What you eat can make a big difference when managing bladder health and preventing leaks. Learn the do’s and don’ts in this article.Read More
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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: Does incontinence happen over time, or is it something that comes on suddenly?
Expert Answer: This really depends on your unique situation. For many people, aging, and pelvic floors that have been weakened over time can slowly contribute to incontinence. For women, this process may have started with childbirth as the initial factor that caused the weakness. Overtime, if not treated or seen to, a weak pelvic floor can lead to incontinence, even if it didn’t happen right away after birth (or if it went away for a while).
There are other things that can contribute to incontinence over time too. Being over weight can place excess pressure on the bladder, making it harder to avoid accidents. Smoking can contribute to incontinence since many long-time smokers develop a chronic cough, again placing excess pressure on the bladder and causing the pelvic floor to weaken over time.
Certain neurological diseases, such as MS or Parkinson’s Disease, and diabetes, can also increase your risk for incontinence, as they interfere with the nerve signals between the bladder and the brain.
However, other things can contribute to incontinence too, and can be much more apparent quickly rather than over a period of time. In men, prostate surgery can sometimes lead to a period of incontinence immediately after the procedure. And incontinence can also result in anyone who may have had neurological damage, such as spinal cord damage from an accident, or other medical condition. Even some minor conditions, such as a bladder infection, may cause a sudden episode of incontinence.
Finally, sometimes the foods you eat or the medications you take may cause you to have incontinence. There are many known bladder irritants that can contribute to incontinence: alcohol, caffeine, spicy or acidic foods (keep in mind that this is a case by case basis – not everyone is affected by every bladder irritant). And, some medications, such has heart and blood pressure medications, or muscle relaxants may act as diuretics, causing you to increase your urine production, and potentially leading to incontinence.
The most important thing to remember here, no matter how incontinence comes about, is that it’s not a normal condition. Common? Yes. Normal? No. Incontinence is not an inevitable part of aging, nor should it be something you feel you need to live with. Many people can see great improvements with behavioral and lifestyle changes, and if those don’t work, you can talk to your doctor about medications, in-office treatments, or even surgery.
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Those with incontinence know that having it can be a lot of work. Just being prepared takes effort, and having an accident can create a laundry list (literally) of things you have to do.
There are of course many standard things that you do to protect yourself. Wear protection, talk to your doctor, etc. But, like with any condition, people find different ways of coping that may not always seem as obvious to others. We wanted to know what people do on a daily basis that helps them deal with incontinence. So we asked. Here are some of the best tips we heard:
Talk about it.
One of the first and best things you can do when you have incontinence is to talk about it. Many people are embarrassed to have incontinence and for that reason try to keep it hidden from friends, family and even their doctor for years. But opening up about your incontinence can really take a load off. You’ll often find that people are supportive you and you may just find the push you need to seek treatment. Too nervous to talk to someone close to you? Try the NAFC message boards. It’s an anonymous forum filled with supportive people who are experiencing bladder or bowel conditions. It’s a warm and friendly community and can be a great place to connect with others who can share tips with you, or just lend an ear. Sign up for the message boards here.
Don’t be afraid to change your doctor.
Most physicians are very helpful when patients come to them with incontinence. But if you feel that you’re being brushed off, it’s time to find a new physician. Incontinence may be common as we age, but it’s not normal, and you should never be told to just live with it. And, if you’re feeling like your treatment plan just isn’t cutting it, talk to your doctor about changing things up. Remember – you are in charge of your own health. Be your own advocate.
We’ve heard from many people that using baby powder helps to keep moisture at bay when wearing absorbent briefs. This is a great option to try if you experience a lot of sweating.
Research your condition.
So many people with incontinence live for years in denial, thinking that if they ignore the problem, it might go away, or at the very least, they won’t have to admit they have the condition. But that’s not a good way to live. Learn as much as you can about your condition and the treatments available. Try behavioral modifications to see if any of them work. Talk to your doctor about your research, and let him or her know if you find something you‘re interested in trying. Again – no one will care more about your health than you, so don’t be a bystander. Get busy and be in the know. Because knowledge really is power.
Pay attention to what you eat.
It sounds simple, but watching what you eat really can have an effect on your bladder. First, identify your triggers. Keep a bladder diary for a few days and see if you notice any patterns. Do you feel an urgent need every time you have a diet soft drink? Have an accident each morning after your orange juice? You might start to see some trends that correlate to what you eat, indicating that those are foods that are irritating your bladder. Once you identify your problem foods or drinks, try eliminating them and see if it makes a difference.
Don’t be afraid to try lots of products until you find one that works.
There are so many products on the market, it’s nearly impossible that you won’t eventually find one that works for you. The trick is to think about the 3 F’s: form, fit and function. In other words, figure out what style you like, make sure the fit is good, and think about how and when you will use the product. Then, try lots of brands and styles until you find one that works best. Many mail order services offer sample packs to make it easier (and less expensive) to try different products and most of them also have consultants on hand to walk you through selecting something that will be right for you.
Incontinence can really shake up your confidence. You may feel nervous to go out for fear of having an accident. Or you may be scared that someone will notice you’re wearing absorbent products. But incontinence is a medical condition, and it’s nothing to be ashamed of. And since over 25 million people live with incontinence, you likely know someone else who has this problem too. So keep your chin up, get treatment, and get busy living your life. Holding yourself back because of something like incontinence just isn’t worth it.
Do you run to the bathroom after every meal? Do you ever notice that you always seem to have an accident after eating a specific type of food? It’s no coincidence. What you eat and drink has a huge effect on your bathroom habits, and if you’re suffering from bladder leakage (or bowel leakage, for that matter), it’s worth your time to start paying more attention to your diet.
There are many known bladder irritants that may be causing you trouble.
Below is a list of some of the most common foods that have been known to irritate the bladder:
Citrus Juice & Fruits
Sugar & Artificial Sweeteners
The sugar, caffeine, or acidity in these foods and drinks can irritate the bladder, causing an accidental leakage to occur. If you think one of these foods may be contributing to your bladder leaks, try eliminating it from your diet for a couple of weeks and see what happens. After a while, slowly add it back in and see if the problem reemerges. If so, you know it’s a food or drink you should avoid.
Everyone is different of course, and not all of the foods listed above will be triggers for everyone. That cup of coffee that causes you to sprint to the ladies room each morning may not have any effect on someone else struggling with bladder leakage. That’s why it’s so important to keep track of what you eat and drink. A bladder diary can be ideal for this task by letting you track what you consume, and also when you have accidents. Over time, you may start to see a correlation between that tomato sauce you love and your trips to the bathroom. A bladder diary also comes in handy when talking with your doctor about your condition. It gives them a roadmap of what you’re experiencing and helps them in diagnosing your problem and finding a solution.
Ready to start tracking? Download your free bladder or bowel diary here.
Women sometimes get all the attention when talking about bladder problems. And while it’s true that bladder leakage affects more women than men, that doesn’t mean men are free from the condition. In fact, studies suggest that as many as 15% of men living at home between the ages of 15 to 64 are affected by incontinence.
Here are 5 of the top reasons men may experience bladder leakage.
1. You Have A Prostate Problem.
By far, conditions affecting the prostate account for the majority of problems in men with incontinence. Enlarged prostate (Benign Prostate Hyperplasia, or BPH) can constrict or block the urethra, compromising the bladder’s ability to effectively empty. This can cause urgency and frequency since the bladder still signals that it needs emptying. And, for men who have had prostate removal surgery due to prostate cancer, urine leakage is common during the first six weeks after surgery. After that, roughly 20% of men may continue to have a significant problem with leakage, or stress urinary incontinence.
2. You’re Overweight.
Excess weight can place extra pressure on the bladder, which, combined with loss of muscle control, can lead to leakage. If you’re overweight and experiencing bladder leaks, try losing a few pounds – even a small amount can make a big difference. And your overall health will benefit too.
3. You Have Diabetes (or another neurological condition).
happens when there is a lack of bladder control due to a brain, spinal cord or nerve problem. This can be caused by a number of conditions, such as diabetes, MS, Parkinson’s disease, or spinal cord injury. Treatment options vary depending on your symptoms, but they do exist and should be seen to.
4. An Obstruction In Your Urinary Tract.
Again, this is most often caused by an enlarged prostate in men, but can also be due to a blood clots, tumors, bladder stones, or even scarring of the urethra caused by injury or surgery. Blockage can cause urine to build up, leading to trouble urinating, leakage, and even distended bladder.
5. What You’re Consuming.
While what you eat or drink may not directly cause bladder leaks, if you’re already to prone to them, certain things you consume can make your symptoms worse. Excessive alcohol, certain medications, and caffeine all act as diuretics and can cause you to need to use the restroom more often. Other foods, like citrus foods, artificial sweeteners, and citrus foods can irritate the bladder, causing an increase need to go to the bathroom. This, combined with an existing bladder problem can lead to more leaks.
Men can sometimes have a difficult time speaking up about bladder issues, even to their doctor. And initial treatment options, such as using adult absorbent products, can seem foreign and uncomfortable. But living with incontinence is no way to live, especially with so many treatment options available to you. If you struggle with #bladderleakage, learn more about your condition, and talk to your doctor about the options that exist for you so that you can continue to live the life you want.
June 5, 2017, Charleston, SC: The National Association For Continence launches new campaign, “Life Without Leaks”, to raise awareness of bladder leakage and urinary incontinence, and to urge people to seek treatment.
Laura’s bladder-leakage problem started early in life, shortly after she had kids. She would leak a little sometimes when she sneezed, ran, coughed or laughed, but just once in a while, and nothing to make her think it was a big deal. But as the years went by, Laura’s problem got worse. It progressed to the point to where she could not leave the house without packing an extra pair of clothes. She scouted out the nearest bathroom wherever she went. And she stopped doing some of the things that had mattered most to her – traveling with her husband, running, socializing with her friends and family. Slowly, her “little problem” had become it’s own prison – limiting Laura’s life and keeping her from doing the things she wanted.
Laura’s story is not uncommon. Millions of Americans live with some form of Bladder Leakage, yet few seek treatment for it. And while the issue may seem trivial to some, for those who struggle with bladder leakage and incontinence, it can be devastating. Apart from the obvious physical effects, bladder leakage can have a huge impact on emotional well-being. Many people are ashamed of the issue, and take great measures to hide it from friends, and even close family members. As the condition worsens, people retreat further into their lives, limiting their social interaction for fear of having an accident. And the things they loved to do take a backseat to protecting their pride and hiding their problem from others. Financial impact of the condition can also be damaging – the cost for supplies, productivity loss, and missed work can add up, causing even more distress.
NAFC’s new campaign, “Life Without Leaks”, is meant to show people that there is a light at the end of the tunnel – that they don’t have to live with bladder leakage and can take their life back again simply by getting educated and seeking treatment. “We wanted to show people the life they may be missing due to bladder leakage – the one they may have even forgotten they once loved,” says Steven Gregg, Executive Director of NAFC. “Urinary Incontinence is often a slow-building condition, getting worse as time goes by if left untreated. Many people who have it have made so many small adjustments over the years to compensate they may not even recognize what they’ve given up in order to hide their shame. We want to remind them of the life they once loved – to show them life is possible without leaks.”
NAFC launched the campaign’s first video in June, with more videos planned to launch through 2017. The campaign is supported through NAFC’s social channels, email, and their website. www.nafc.org. “We’re trying to raise awareness of this under-treated and little talked about condition,” says Gregg. “There are so many treatment options available for incontinence. We just need to get people to take that first step and seek them out.”
“Life Without Leaks”, has been funded through a sponsorship from Astellas.
You don’t really hear much about incontinence in men. Let’s face it – it’s not something that anyone ever really wants to talk about, but for men, it can be especially hard. Men are supposed to be tough. Caretakers. Leaders. Defenders. Admitting to something like incontinence can feel like a slap in the face. But it’s something that happens to everyone – not just women – and it isn’t something that anyone should have to live with.
Unfortunately though, many do. As many as 15% of men living at home between the ages of 15-64 may have some type of incontinence.
Men – if you struggle with bladder leakage, we urge you to speak up about it. This doesn’t mean shouting about it from the rooftops. But a frank discussion with your doctor or a loved one is a good start.
Here are 4 good reasons to talk to Someone about your incontinence:
You’ll get some emotional support.
Have you ever had something on your mind that weighed on you? Keeping your incontinence a secret can have big effects on your emotional well-being. Many people who live with incontinence become more reclusive as time goes on and the condition worsens. They avoid social activities, or don’t do the things they once enjoyed because they’re scared of having an embarrassing accident in public. But this can mean isolating themselves from others, and hurting some of their close relationships.
Lean in to those close to you and let them know what’s going on. You’ll likely find that their support motivates you to take the next step in talking to your doctor, where you can finally find some treatment. Still not ready to talk to someone close? Try our message boards. They're filled with lots of people who struggle with bladder leakage and can be a great resource when you need some tips on how to manage, thoughts on treatment options, or even when you just need a place to vent. Trust us, they know what you’re going through, and are a wonderful and caring community where you can share your concerns without judgment.
You can find out what’s actually causing Your bladder leaks.
In most cases, incontinence is not the real condition – it’s a symptom of something else. Talking to a professional about it may help you uncover the true source of what’s going on, which could be something that’s easily treated, or something that’s far more serious than some light bladder leakage. Either way, finding out is better than living in the dark, and will help you get the treatment you need to be on your way to recovery.
You’ll learn about the incontinence treatments options available to you.
We’ve come a long way from adult diapers being the only treatment option. While absorbent products are still great management tools, there are many things you can do to actually treat the symptoms and avoid leaks all together. Diet and exercise changes, kegels (yes - they're good for men too!), medications, minimally invasive procedures, and even surgical options all exist. Learning more about your options will help you find something that works for you and your lifestyle, and can feel very empowering.
There’s no good reason not to discuss it.
With so many treatment options available to you these days, there’s really not a reason to stay silent. Yes, it will probably be an uncomfortable discussion at first, but it’s not one that your doctor hasn’t had before. They hear from men who have this problem all the time. Talk with them and begin getting treatment so that you can get back to the activities you once enjoyed, instead of worrying about your bladder.
NAFC has some great resources that can help you as you begin getting treatment. Check them out below:
Understanding what is normal during sex and what is unusual can be challenging. After all, sex is a very private experience and differs for every person. Generally speaking, there is no reason for your bladder to empty during sex or for you to feel extreme discomfort or experience pain during sex.
As you can guess, the health of your bladder can directly affect your sex life.
Two common reasons individuals experience pain or discomfort with their bladder during or after sex are: bladder pain syndrome and stress urinary incontinence.
Interstitial cystitis/bladder pain syndrome (IC/BPS)
Bladder pain syndrome is the continual sensation of pressure or pain on the bladder. This syndrome typically affects women and leaves individuals feeling as if they have to urinate when they don’t have any urine to pass.
Consider making dietary changes and practicing bladder retraining so your bladder begins to hold more urine before experiencing the urge to go.
Relax before engaging in sex to ensure as little stress as possible. Stress can cause flare-ups and trigger discomfort.
Stress Urinary Incontinence
Stress Urinary Incontinence or SUI occurs because of weak pelvic floor muscles and/or a deficient urethral sphincter. This weakness can cause the bladder to leak during exercise, coughing, sneezing, laughing, or any body movement that puts pressure on the bladder. If sex is particular jarring, SUI can be affected.
Consider exercises to strengthen your pelvic floor and limit caffeine intake. Always empty your bladder before sex.
We hope this peek into how your bladder health can impact sex was helpful. If you have experienced any of the symptoms noted above and haven’t talked to your doctor, it’s time to schedule an appointment. Additionally, we feel it’s important to share your health with your partner if you continue to have sex while experiencing some of these bladder health concerns.
Join us on our forum to talk more and learn how others have dealt with issues like these.
While women make up the majority of individuals struggling with bladder concerns, there are millions of men dealing with accidental bowel leakage (ABL). The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disease (NIDDK) defines bowel control problems as "the inability to hold a bowel movement until reaching a bathroom.”
Bowel leakage can include symptoms like: trouble holding a bowel movement, having solid or liquid stool leak when least expected or finding streaks of stool in underwear.
While age is a contributing factor, ABL has been reported to affect both men and women as early as 40. As a growing concern among the Baby Boomer generation, more studies and research are being conducted to see what can be done to better manage and reduce or treat ABL.
The causes of bowel leakage can vary. Some folks experience ABL as a result of diarrhea, constipation, or damage to muscles or nerves. No matter the reason, many individuals are encouraged to normalize stool consistency with increased fiber intake and strengthen the sphincter muscles with pelvic floor exercises.
With practice and patience in finding the right solution, ABL can be managed effectively so individuals can move on.
Read our bowel retraining guide to learn more about a transitional treatment options. how to regulate your system.
It’s a rare day when we people tell us their family has a known history of bladder and bowel concerns. So often, a struggle with overactive bladder is considered a rite of passage with childbirth, or an enlarged prostate is chocked up to older age. While age and the stress of childbirth are two predominant factors in both of those symptoms, it can still be very helpful for families to learn when and why their loved ones experienced struggles with continence so they can take proactive measures to avoid the same circumstances.
Two examples of how this could play out are outlined below:
· A man tells his parents about his latest test result only to hear his father say, “Oh yea. I struggled with an enlarged prostate before I finally went to the doctor last year.”
In the examples above, both individuals with new bladder health concerns could have taken preventative measures to lessen the chances of them getting to the point they are now.
The woman could’ve talked to her yoga or Pilates instructor and asked for tips to build her pelvic floor before labor and delivery. Or, when she built her birthing plan with her Doctor, she could’ve stressed consideration her Mother’s past experiences.
If the man had known his father’s situation, he could’ve talked to his doctor about his family history during his yearly check up months earlier. Maybe his father’s experience would’ve spurred him to take note of his prostate health much sooner.
We encourage an open dialogue about bladder and bowel concerns for two reasons: being transparent can help future generations learn how to best care for their bodies and being honest about a health concern can foster a community of family and friends who keep you accountable to a treatment plan.
When’s the last time you spoke to your family about bladder health? Share your experience below.
Think incontinence is an inevitable part of aging? Think again. There are lots of things that you can do to improve your bladder health that don’t involve a trip to the doctor, medications, or surgery.
Here are 5 ways you can help keep your bladder in check.
Watch what you eat and drink.
For those with incontinence, what we eat and drink can greatly affect our bladders. Make sure you are making healthy choices and avoiding bladder irritants. And to learn what your bladder triggers are, keep a bladder diary.
Keep a healthy weight.
Extra weight can put pressure on your bladder. Make sure that you get regular exercise and pay attention to what you are eating to ensure you are maintaining an optimal weight.
You’ve heard it before, and it’s worth repeating. Just as regular exercise can benefit other parts of the body, these little exercises for your pelvic floor can help to strengthen the muscles to promote better bladder control. Follow these steps to know that you are doing them correctly.
Avoid constipation and trouble voiding.
Having a full rectum can create pressure on the bladder. Additionally, sitting on the toilet for too long or straining during a bowel movement can cause damage to your pelvic floor. Take steps to avoid constipation (eat well and drink lots of water) and reexamine your voiding posture.
We all know that smoking is bad for you, but did you know it can affect your continence too? Nicotine and smoke are bladder irritants and can be triggers for incontinence, making it one more reason to quit.
Share with us! Tell us how you keep your bladder healthy in the comments below!