Our Favorite Way To Improve Your Pelvic Floor Health

Our Favorite Way To Improve Your Pelvic Floor Health

Maintaining a healthy pelvic floor is so important for your overall health. Learn how standing up straight and improving your posture can help keep your pelvic floor healthy.

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Patient Perspective: My Husband Doesn't Understand My Incontinence

Patient Perspective: My Husband Doesn’t Understand My Incontinence

Are you like me? Do you live with someone who is unable to deal with your incontinence? I am sad to say that I do, and while it hasn’t always been easy, I’m starting to find ways to help my husband accept my problem. 

We’ve always been a carefree couple. Even in our early days we’d drop everything at a moments notice if a cheap flight to an exotic destination came along. We’d host impromptu parties with friends, go on vacations with other couples, and push ourselves to try new things like running marathons or participating in intense group workouts or races. 

And while we are still very much in love, and still like to be adventurous, in recent years, I’ve held back, because I suffer from incontinence.

I started noticing leaks when I was in my early 40’s. At first they were small, and didn’t happen very often. I brushed them off and still tried to do all the things we always had, without feeling the need to share this new development with my husband.

But after a while, the small leaks turned to bigger ones, and they were happening more and more frequently. I found that I couldn’t go out of the house without packing a spare change of clothes. I no longer wanted to just hop on a 5-hour flight to somewhere exotic where I wasn’t sure I’d be able to find a bathroom, or worse, have an accident on the plane.  

I had to tell my husband what was happening, and while he was supportive, he didn’t understand why I couldn’t “just hold it”.  He started to grow resentful as I declined more and more invitations, and we soon began to have fights about it, often leaving me feeling ashamed and embarrassed because of my condition.

I decided that I needed to take matters into my own hands and help my husband understand. We started doing research together online and learned more about my condition, what causes it, and ways to better manage it.  And, I’ve talked with my doctor about ways to treat my incontinence so that I can do more of the things I love. 

It hasn’t been easy, and my husband still sometimes gets frustrated at my hesitation to do some of the things we used to, but educating ourselves, together, was one of the best things we could have done to get back on track. It’s helped us both learn that this is not my fault, and that there are ways to overcome it. And, despite his frustration, I’m glad my husband is pushing me to get treatment instead of hiding behind my condition. I’m confident that with my doctor’s help, I’ll soon be able to get back to many of the things that we used to enjoy, and can’t wait to feel like my old self again. 

Sylvie R., Rockport, Massachusetts

Is Stress Contributing To Your Incontinence?

Is Stress Contributing To Your Incontinence?

As you may already know, incontinence is really common. Approximately 15 million American women deal with urinary incontinence. And about 24% of women over 40 have experienced fecal incontinence at least once in the past year, too.

But, just because incontinence is common doesn’t take away the embarrassment. The sheer thought of an unexpected leak is stressful. Plus, research shows that stress and incontinence are closely intertwined. But do stress, anxiety, and other mental health issues cause incontinence? Or does incontinence negatively impact our mental health? With 1 in 5 American adults, or 43.8 million people, experiencing mental health issues every year, you just might want to stick around to find out.

The Impact of Stress on the Bladder

Have you ever said “I’m so scared, I might pee myself?” Well, it turns out there’s real science behind that expression. When you’re really afraid or anxious, your body goes into fight or flight mode. And it’s thought that the adrenaline pumping through you triggers your need to pee.

So, there’s definitely a link between what’s going on in your brain (fear, anxiety, etc) and what might be coming out of your bladder. Anxiety and stress can cause you to urinate more frequently, too.

The Impact of Stress on the GI Tract

If you haven’t heard the phrase “I was so scared, I almost peed myself,” maybe you have heard “I was so scared, I almost pooped myself.” Your ability to hold in urine and feces is controlled by the same muscles so it makes sense that they’d behave the same way under stress. It’s true that stress and anxiety can cause diarrhea so we know that our bowels are impacted by stress.

Looking at studies of IBS patients, too, the connection between bowel health and mental health is clear. About 60% of IBS patients have generalized anxiety disorder. Another 20% have depression. That’s a pretty significant overlap.

Incontinence and Mental Health

So, back to the chicken and egg question. Both anxiety and depression have been found in many patients with incontinence. But was the incontinence caused by the mental health problems or did the mental health problems cause the incontinence?

It turns out it’s a two way street when it comes to anxiety and urinary incontinence. Anxiety and incontinence interact and exacerbate each other. And, anxiety is a risk factor for developing incontinence.

The same appears to be true with other mental health issues, like depression, which is also a risk factor for developing incontinence. Several studies have linked depression to urinary incontinence in women especially. And, people with pelvic floor disorders (incontinence is one type of pelvic floor disorder) are three times more likely to experience depression than the general population.

Anxiety even rears its head when you start talking about overactive bladder.  According to one study, 48% of patients with overactive bladder exhibit anxiety symptoms. Plus, according to the same study, about 24% of OAB patients have moderate to severe anxiety.

While anxiety and incontinence don’t have to go together, it’s easy to see how incontinence can cause anxiety -- maybe even more anxiety than you started with.

What You Can Do

It’s easy for someone on the outside to say just don’t worry, right? However, this is definitely one of those things that’s easier said than done. If you have significant anxiety or depression, please give your doctor a call. For the more common daily stressors in all of our lives, there are things you can do to help you worry less and hopefully decrease leaks too.

One option is to use absorbent products, so that the only person that knows you leaked is you. NAFC recently conducted a study that found that those who felt positively about wearing absorbent products said it was because it made them feel more protected and in control. And who doesn’t want to feel more in control? Plus, Lily Bird can help take the stress out of going to the store by delivering pads and disposable underwear straight to your door.

Don’t forget about trying pilates to doing Kegels or making dietary changes to see if that helps with incontinence or stress, too. Whether your stress is a symptom or a cause, getting it under control can help no matter what situation you’re in.

~Written by Lily Bird, a proud Trusted Partner of NAFC

About Lily Bird

Lily Bird

Lily Bird is for all of us women with leaky laughs and dribble dilemmas. We squeeze when we sneeze and drip when we jump. And we think it's high time we stop saying sorry for the spritz.

If you’re ready to tell your bladder who’s boss, Lily Bird has you covered with pads and underwear for leaky laughs and dribble dilemmas delivered right to your door. Start your free trial today.


What Are Kidney Stones? And How Do They Contribute To Incontinence?

What Are Kidney Stones?

Kidney stones affect 1 in 11 people in the US.  Kidney stones can (literally) be a real pain. But what are they? What causes them? And how can they be prevented? Read on to find out.

What are kidney stones?

The kidneys are part of your urinary tract system. Their job is to control the fluid and chemical levels in the body by cleaning the blood, then creating urine from the waste and the excess fluid in the body. Sometimes, the urine in your body contains a high level of minerals and salts that form hard deposits inside of your kidneys. These are kidney stones. Kidney stones may start out small, but can grow quite large in some cases.  

Kidney stones sometimes don’t have any symptoms, and remain inside the kidneys without issue. Or, they may travel through the urinary tract to the bladder, where they exit the body through urine. Passing a kidney stone can sometimes take several weeks and may be quite painful.  If the stone is too large, it may become lodged in the urinary tract, creating even more problems.

Types of Kidney Stones.

There are four types of kidney stones. These include: 

  • Calcium stones. These are the most common type of kidney stones. Certain diets or metabolic conditions or medications may contribute to an increase in calcium in urine.

  • Struvite stones. These types of stones form in response to an infection, like a bladder infection. Although rare, these stones can be more common in people prone to getting urinary tract infections.

  • Uric acid stones. These happen to people who drink too little fluids or who eat a high protein diet.  Certain conditions can also lead to uric acid stones, such as type 2 diabetes, or gout.

  • Cystine stones. A hereditary condition causing the kidneys to produce too much of certain amino acids.  

Do Kidney Stones Cause Incontinence?

Kidneys stones can sometimes interfere with urination, since they travel down the tubes leading from the kidneys to the bladder. This can create blockages, which may make it difficult to pass urine. Kidney stones may also make you feel like you need to urinate more often. You may feel an urgent need to use the bathroom. Sometimes this can lead to leaks if you are unable to make it to a bathroom in time. 

What Are The Symptoms Of Kidney Stones?

They symptoms of a kidney stone may vary depending on the location and size of the stone. Some stones are so small they may not cause any discomfort at all. (Although even small stones can cause a lot of pain.) Or, the symptoms may change as the stone shifts and moves from the kidney to the bladder. Typically symptoms of kidney stones may include:

  • Pain in the back or sides, the groin, or the lower abdomen. 

  • Pain when urinating

  • Red, pink or brown tinted urine. This happens when blood enters the urine.

  • Cloudy or bad smelling urine

  • Needing to urinate often, or feeling an intense need to empty your bladder.

  • Feeling a burning sensation when urinating

  • Nausea and vomiting

  • Passing small amounts of urine

 

Are Kidney Stones Painful?

 Kidney stones can range from being uncomfortable, to extremely painful, and the amount of pain, and location of that pain can change as the stone moves through your urinary tract. 

Why are kidney stones so painful? It makes sense when you think about it. The stone is trying to pass through the tube from the kidney to the bladder, which is extremely small. As the stone enters the tube, it may block urine, causing it to build up and create pressure and pain. In addition, the ureter (the tube that connects the kidneys to the bladder) contracts as the stone moves through it, pushing it closer to the bladder to get rid of it, which also causes pain.

You may feel this pain in the back or sides, where the kidneys are located or, as the stone moves closer to the bladder, you may feel it in your abdomen or groin, and urination may feel painful, much like when you have a urinary tract infection.

What Causes Kidney Stones?

There is no one cause of kidney stones, but certain diets or conditions may make you more prone to developing them.  Having a family history of kidney stones, not drinking enough fluid, being overweight, and certain diets can all make you more susceptible to getting kidney stones. Additionally, if you have conditions such as diabetes, gout, or gastrointestinal diseases (diarrhea, constipation, IBS), you may be at a greater risk for developing kidney stones.  

How Do You Treat Kidney Stones?

Waiting for the kidney stone to pass is the most common form of treatment.  This can take from a few days to a few weeks.  Luckily, over-the-counter pain medications can help relieve most of the discomfort you may feel. 

 However, if you’re in unbearable pain, or the stone becomes lodged for too long, surgery to remove the stone may be required. 

How Do You Prevent Kidney Stones?

Some people are more prone to develop kidney stones, based on heredity or their own history of stones.  People who have had kidney stones in the past are more likely to develop another in the future.

However, there are some things that you can do to help prevent those hard mineral deposits from forming in the first place. 

  • Stay Hydrated. Ensure you’re drinking enough water to stay hydrated. By maintain a good amount of fluid in the body, the kidney is better able to filter calcium, making it less likely that a build up will occur.  

  • Watch Your Diet. If you suffer from frequent kidney stones, avoid high protein diets, and reduce your sugar, and especially your salt consumption. Watch your calcium intake too to ensure you’re not overdoing it (pay attention to vitamins and supplements, especially if you’re already eating calcium rich foods). 

  • Reduce Your Weight.  Losing weight can reduce your risk for kidney stones. This is in part because reducing your weight may lead to a healthier diet, with less salty food or animal fats.  Incorporate lots of fruits and vegetables into your diet and practice regular exercise to reduce the weight.

If you are experiencing any of the symptoms listed above, make an appointment with your doctor to get it checked out.

5 Ways To Calm Yourself When You Start To Feel Overwhelmed

5 Ways To Calm Yourself When You Feel Overwhelmed

In today’s world, it seems that everyone is stressed out. And what’s more, many people wear it as a badge of honor. Being “so busy” makes us feel productive and in charge. And everyone else is the same, so why should we feel any different?

But stress has a lot of negative effects that can build up over time. It affects not only your mood and behavior, but it can lead to real medical issues if left untreated. 

If you’re feeling stressed and overwhelmed, here are 5 ways to take some of the pressure off when it all starts to feel a bit too much.

  

Five Ways To Calm Yourself Down

Be More Mindful.

Yes, mindfulness is all the rage these days, but for good reason. Mindfulness has a host of health benefits, but among other things, it can help you control stress.  When you practice mindfulness, you’re removing yourself from thinking about a stressful situation, reminding yourself to be grateful for the good things happening in your life, and shifts your perspective so that you can see things more clearly. All this works to calm your body and mind down and reduce stress.

Deep Breathing. 

Sometimes, the simple act of taking some time to breathe deeply can make a huge difference? Why? It cues your body to slow down and relax. Taking deep belly breaths can help ease stress and anxiety, slow your heartbeat and stabilize your blood pressure. Its also that mindfulness trick again. Focusing on your breath helps to ground you and bring your attention to one thing, giving your mind a break and your body a chance to recoup.  It’s easy to do, and you don’t have to do it for very long to reap the benefits.  Just find a quiet spot, and slowly breathe in deeply through your nose, allowing your belly to expand. Then slowly let the air pass back through your nose as you exhale. Even a few minutes can be helpful in a pinch, but regular practice of this (daily for 10-20 minutes) can do wonders.

 

Periodic Breaks.

Taking breaks not only help calm you down when you’re stressed, they can help make you more productive. When we work non-stop without taking a break, we’re pushing our brain to the limit, naturally tiring it out after a while, just like any other muscle in the body. But evidence suggests that taking periodic breaks helps to recharge our brain and become more focused. Taking a break may seem counter-productive to getting things done, but you’ll help yourself out in the long run by grabbing a glass of water or a healthy snack each hour, and you’ll feel much more relaxed and productive. It’s a win-win!

Call A Friend.

Studies show that those with a strong social network tend to live longer than those without one. That’s because our friends help build us up, give us a sense of belonging, and help us deal with difficult situations. We don’t always have to go it alone, so when you’re feeling like you’re about to snap, pick up the phone and chat it up with someone who you know has your back. It’s a great stress reliever.

Get Moving.

Regular exercise can do wonder for keeping your stress levels low, but even if you haven’t seen the inside of a gym in a while, taking a 5-10 minute brisk walk when you’re extra stressed can make a big difference. You’ll remove yourself from your stressful situation of the moment, get some fresh air, and release powerful stress-fighting endorphins. 

Above everything, remember that fighting stress is important to remain healthy and productive.  If you feel yourself starting to get overwhelmed, practice one or more of the five tips above.

Ask The Expert: Does Incontinence Happen Over Time Or Does It Come On Suddenly?

Ask The Expert: Does Incontinence Happen Over Time Or Does It Come On Suddenly?

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. 

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!

 

Bladder Health Hacks

Bladder Health Hacks

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.  

Baby powder.

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. 

Be brave.

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.

What Is A Pessary And Do I Need One?

What Is A Pessary And Do I Need One?

If you have incontinence, or a pelvic organ prolapse, you’ve likely heard the term “pessary” tossed around at some point.  Pelvic organ prolapse is a condition in which your pelvic floor becomes weak or compromised – sometimes due to age, sometimes due to trauma (like childbirth), causing one or more of your pelvic organs to collapse into the vagina. Pelvic organ prolapse can be mild, or severe, and symptoms can vary greatly depending on the severity. Some women may not even realize they have a prolapse until later in life.  Symptoms can include pressure or a feeling of heaviness in the vagina, incontinence, or even pain.

While some women can see big improvements in their condition with physical therapy, the condition cannot truly be “fixed” without surgery.  But, it is possible to manage pelvic organ prolapse by using a pessary. 

A pessary is a medical device, typically made out of silicone that is placed in the vagina and is used to support the pelvic floor, and the bladder, uterus and rectum.  Pessaries are not a one-size-fits all type of device. Everyone is different so your doctor will usually fit you for one that works for you. This may take a few tries, so don’t get discouraged if the first one you try doesn’t feel quite right.  Just be open with your doctor and work with them until you get the right fit.

Once you’ve found the right fit, your doctor will train you on how to insert and remove the device.  You’ll also learn how to care for your pessary, which will require weekly or biweekly cleansing.   

Pessaries can be a great solution for women with pelvic organ prolapse, or bladder incontinence, who don’t want to consider surgery (or are not quite ready for surgery yet).  It works by “holding up” the organs that may have collapsed into the vagina, relieving many of the side effects of a prolapse, such as the feeling of pressure or heaviness in the vagina, or incontinence.   

If you think you may be a good candidate for a pessary, talk to your doctor. They can review the pros and cons and help get you fitted for one.  It’s a great option for those experiencing symptoms of pelvic organ prolapse, and can provide great relief without undergoing surgery.

 

Learning To Open Up To Family And Friends About Incontinence

Learning To Open Up To Family And Friends About Incontinence

Talking about incontinence is hard for many people.  Even talking to a doctor can be challenging: on average, people wait 7 years before even seeking help for this condition.  But sometimes opening up can be the best thing you can do to begin the process of moving past your embarrassment and moving on to treatment.  

But how do you start? And whom do you start with?  Our advice is simple: find someone you trust and whom you think will be supportive. Many times this is a spouse or a partner, or a close friend or family member.  You don’t need to shout about your bladder leaks from the rooftops – often just telling one person helps to unleash the burden you’ve been carrying around and can help give voice to the anxiety and worry that has been racing around in your head.

Here are some great tips to follow when starting the conversation: 

1. Set the conversation up by letting them know that you need their support.  Some ways to start the conversation might be:

  • “I’ve been dealing with a health issue for a while and could really use someone to talk to about it. Can I talk to you?”

  • “I have a condition that’s really been getting me down. Do you have a moment to talk?”

  • “As a close friend/spouse/family member, I know that you are supportive of me. Can I talk openly to you about an issue I’ve been experiencing?”

 2. Be open.  If you’re going to talk to them, then make sure you’re being open and honest.  We know talking to others about your own bladder leakage can be hard, but if you’re really talking to someone close to you, they’ve likely suspected something was up for a while.  Let them know not just the issue, but how it’s been making you feel. 

3. Tell them what you need from them.  Are you talking to them because you don’t want to hide the problem anymore? Do you need some help researching treatment options? Are you asking for their advice on what to do? Or do you just want a sounding board to help get some things off your chest? Whatever the case may be, help them be there for you by letting them know what you expect from them.

Opening up can be hard, but it’s healthy to talk about the things that are bothering you.  And, if you feel that you don’t have anyone close to you to discuss the issue (or even if you do!), make an appointment with your doctor. He or she will be able to give you sound advice and treatment recommendations. And, it’s likely that he’s been in that seat before with other patients, so he knows just what you’re going through.   

Need help finding a physician? Visit our Find A Specialist Tool!

Does Incontinence Give You Social Anxiety? Here Are Four Ways To Deal With It.

Incontinence And Social Anxiety. 4 Ways To Deal With It.

Living with incontinence can present many physical challenges – needing to get to a restroom quickly, changing clothes or bedding after an accident, cleaning yourself up after a leak. But the emotional effects may be the most damaging.

Those who don’t live with this condition may not realize the impact that it has on it’s victims: fear of social events or gatherings, constantly seeking out bathrooms in the event of an emergency, concerns about unpleasant odors, and the incessant fear of having an accident in public, or that people will learn your secret. These are real side effects that can’t be ignored, and can create great social anxiety for people living with incontinence. For many people, it’s enough that they avoid social functions at all cost, causing their relationships with friends and family to wane.  

If you live with social anxiety because of incontinence, there are some things you can do to overcome it. See our list below for our 4 best tips. 

Be Prepared. 

Prevention is always the best medicine.  Make sure you’re prepared for a social situation by arming yourself with the right products and information. If you’ve got plans to attend a social event, make sure you’re prepared in the case of an accident.  Know where the bathrooms are and have a spare set of clothes in case you need to change quickly.  Choose your clothing wisely – black is often a forgiving color in the event of leaks. 

Stay Active.  

Keeping a regular fitness routine can do wonders for both your incontinence and your anxiety.  Maintaining an optimal weight can help minimize bladder leaks. And, regular movement can be an effective way to control cases of mild anxiety. You don’t need any fancy equipment or gym membership to make this happen either. Just getting outside for a 30 minute walk most days of the week will do wonders. (Read our tips on how to start a walking group!

Talk About It. 

Sometimes you just need to get your frustrations out. If your incontinence is affecting your mood, find a close friend or family member you trust to talk about it. Often just telling someone our troubles can take a load off and us feel not quite so alone. Don’t feel like you have anyone to talk to? Sign up for the NAFC message boards and connect with thousands of people who understand what you’re going through and are ready to listen. If all else fails, write your situation and feelings down on paper.  Journaling can be a great way to explore how you’re feeling and make sense of your emotions.

Get Treatment.

We’ve saved the best tip for last.  Treatment, for both incontinence and social anxiety, is readily available.  There are many things you can do to manage incontinence, from behavioral changes, to medications, or even surgery.  And anxiety can be treated in a plethora of ways as well – cognitive (talk) therapy, meditation, and medications can go a long way in helping you deal with the problem.  There’s no need to suffer in silence.  Talk to your doctor about what you’re facing. They will be able to put you on a treatment plan to help you deal with these difficult conditions so that you can get back to living your best life.

Need help finding a specialist to treat your condition? Visit our Specialist Locator Tool to find one in your area.

Should I Use A Probiotic?

Should You Use A Probiotic?

If you’ve been paying attention to the news at all in the past year or two, you’ve likely noticed an increase in stories about the importance of gut health. The gut, it turns out, is responsible for how your body works –your immunity, your energy levels, your hormone balance, waste elimination, and even how you think can all be affected by an unhealthy gut.  And while there are many factors that affect gut health (stress levels, the amount of shut-eye you get), what you eat plays an important role in ensuring your gut is helping you operate optimally. 

As of late, many health gurus have been touting probiotics as a great way to improve your gut health. And it’s true that the gut needs good probiotics, the “good” bacteria found in some foods and supplements to help it do its job. But how do you get these good bacteria, and are they right for you? 

Most experts agree that a healthy dose of probiotics is a good thing for most people. You can get many probiotics through foods you might be eating already. Fermented foods such as sauerkraut, tempeh and kimchi, yogurt, and beverages like kefir and kombucha, are all great options if you want to eat more probiotic foods. You may also want to consider a probiotic supplement if your diet lacks these food types. 

Experts warn to use a bit of caution when initially consuming foods high in probiotics, as they may cause a bit of irritation in your digestive system as your body gets used to them.  Additionally, many probiotic supplements are not regulated by the FDA, so it’s important to do your research on brands and choose a high-quality product.  As always, talk with your doctor before you start taking a probiotic, as they may not be for everyone. Those with an illness that affects the immune system may not be a good fit, as the probiotics may cause the person to get sick.

Want some more info on this subject? Here’s a great guide on taking probiotics from Harvard Health.

Can Incontinence Be Prevented?

Can Incontinence Be Prevented?

We often talk about incontinence as if it has already happened. In most cases, if you’re visiting this website, it probably has. But there are many things that you can do that can prevent incontinence from starting in the first place. Most of these things may also help you manage, or even eliminate symptoms of incontinence once you’ve already gotten it. Read below for some tips to stop incontinence in its tracks.

5 Tips To Prevent Incontinence

Tip #1: Maintain A Healthy Weight

Carrying around extra weight puts a lot of strain on the pelvic floor, causing the muscles to weaken and lead to leaks. In addition, folks who are overweight generally put extra pressure on their bladder, which can lead to leakage. Maintain a healthy weight by following a healthy diet and making exercise a part of your daily routine. Bonus: incorporating exercise into your day can strengthen your core and pelvic floor muscles, leading to even greater protection from leaks.

Tip #2: Don’t Smoke

Smoking on its own is an ugly habit and harmful to your health in more ways than one. People who smoke can eventually develop a chronic “smokers cough”. This chronic coughing can put a lot of strain on the pelvic floor, causing it to weaken and lead to incontinence. Smoking also irritates the bladder, causing you to need more frequent trips to the bathroom. And, smoking can lead to bladder cancer. Need help kicking the habit? Read these tips.  

Tip #3: Keep Your Pelvic Floor In Shape

The pelvic floor is a basket of muscles that supports the bladder, rectum and the uterus in women, and the bladder, rectum and prostate in men.  These muscles are essential in maintaining control over your bladder and bowel. Keeping the pelvic floor healthy can go a long way in preventing or treating incontinence.  Learn more about the pelvic floor and how you can protect it here. 

Tip #4: See A PT After Childbirth

We just talked about how important the pelvic floor is in maintaining continence. But certain things, like childbirth, can really wreak havoc on the pelvic floor and cause it to weaken. Many women don’t understand the impact that a weakened pelvic floor can have on them, even long after the baby is born.  Seeing a physical therapist specially trained in women’s health soon after childbirth can be very helpful, as they can ensure that you are healing properly and learning how to correctly (and safely) get your pelvic floor back into shape.  If left untreated, a weakened pelvic floor can lead to things like incontinence and even pelvic organ prolapse later in life, so this simple step can go a long way in protecting yourself for the future.  Learn more about how a physical therapist can help you here.

Tip #5: Watch Your Diet

This may seem to echo Tip #1, but even if you are at an ideal weight, if you’re eating foods that irritate your bladder (and if you’re susceptible to incontinence) then you may be setting yourself up for leaks.  There are many common bladder irritants (see a list of some of them here) but they can vary from person to person: what irritates one person may not bother another. If you do experience leaks, pay close attention to your diet and take note of foods that may be triggering leaks.

Ask The Expert: How Do I Manage My Incontinence While Traveling?

Ask The Expert: How Do I Manage My Incontinence While Traveling?

Question:  I’m headed across country over the holidays to visit some family. What are your tips for managing incontinence while traveling such a long distance?

Answer:  This is a common concern for people with incontinence. Being in an unfamiliar environment, especially one that may have limited bathrooms or restrictions on when you can use them can create anxiety in anyone who has trouble with bladder control. But follow the two main tips tips and you’ll be on your way to a leak free holiday!

Preparation

As with most things, preparation is everything.  Knowing that you have some backups in place can go a long way in making you feel more comfortable about your trip. Think ahead to your trip and think about what you might need. Are you traveling by car or flying? Each presents it’s own challenges for someone who is incontinent.  If you’re flying, try to get an isle seat so you have easier access to a bathroom. Traveling by car? Plan your route where with some designated bathroom stops built in so you’re never going too long without a break.  Think about the type of traveling you’ll be doing, and plan accordingly.

You also may want to limit your fluids – within reason. Drink enough so that you don’t feel thirsty, but don’t down that big gulp right before you hop in the car or get on a flight. Use some common sense here.

 Packing

This one kind of goes along with preparation, but think about what you use on a daily basis to manage your incontinence and be sure to pack plenty of supplies.  Make sure to bring an extra set of clothes with you, as well as extra absorbent protection or medication if you use it.  You never know when your travel plans might change due to canceled flights or weather and you don’t want to be stuck without these items.  If you’re flying, pack some of these supplies in your carry-on so that you have them with you in the event your flight is delayed, or your luggage gets lost. 

If you’re staying at a loved one’s house, consider if bedding protection is needed. Waterproof pads can be a great thing to bring along and will give you peace of mind at night.   You also may want to bring along any laundry detergent or plastic bags to put soiled garments in, if needed.

By planning ahead and packing accordingly, you’ll be one step ahead of the game, and will have some peace of mind knowing that you’re prepared for whatever your travels may throw at you! 

Happy Holidays!

What Causes Incontinence In Women?

What Causes Incontinence In Women_.jpg

Incontinence is a condition that affects over 25 million men and women in America. It can really happen to anyone, and can be caused by many different things. But it is much more common in women – nearly twice as common actually – and unfortunately has become something that many people (even potentially your doctor) brush off as being a normal part of aging. This couldn’t be further from the truth.

Why Is Incontinence More Prevalent In Women?

Incontinence can have many root causes.  Being overweight, problems with the prostate in men, and even conditions that cause damage to the nerves, such as multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, or even diabetes can all lead to incontinence.  But it’s no secret that women suffer from incontinence more than men. This is in part due to the fact that things like pregnancy, childbirth, and menopause are unique to women and create extra pressure and complications that can cause incontinence. 

The pressure of carrying a baby for 9 months and the trauma of childbirth to the pelvic floor can weaken the pelvic floor, making it difficult to stay continent.  Additionally the hormonal changes that occur during menopause cause a change in continence.  A decrease in estrogen can cause the vaginal tissues to become less elastic and dry and can lead to incontinence and urinary tract infections.

What Types Of Incontinence Are There 

Did you know that there are actually different types of Incontinence? Depending on what you have, there may be different options available to you.

Urge Incontinence

Urge incontinence is the frequent and urgent need to use the bathroom, accompanied by bladder leakage.  You may have a sudden feeling that you have to go to the bathroom right now, or it may be triggered by familiar things, such as arriving home, washing the dishes, etc. This type of condition may also exist without bladder leakage, and is then referred to as Overactive Bladder. 

Stress Urinary Incontinence

Stress urinary incontinence happens when pressure is placed on the bladder and causes bladder leakage. This type of leakage might happen when you’re working out, or even when you sneeze or laugh. Unlike Urge incontinence, stress urinary incontinence is not typically accompanied by the sensation of a sudden urge to urinate. Rather, stress urinary incontinence is caused by a weakened pelvic floor, and/or a weak sphincter muscle.  Stress urinary incontinence often occurs in women (although men can have it too), and typically as a result of pregnancy and childbirth. It’s a condition that can get worse as you get older, since we lose pelvic muscle tone as we age. Luckily, there are many treatment options available, and behavioral modifications, such as learning how to create a healthy pelvic floor, can do wonders for this type of incontinence.

Mixed Incontinence

As the name implies, many women can suffer from both Stress Urinary Incontinence, and Urge Incontinence, although one is typically more severe than others. Treatment options for mixed incontinence are typically the same as the treatments you would use for stress urinary incontinence, or urge incontinence.

What Are My Options?

Luckily, there are many treatment options available for the various types of incontinence women tend to have.  Below are just a few treatment options available.

Behavioral Modifications.

Often, simple changes to our lifestyle, including changes to our diet and exercise regimen, can ease a lot of the symptoms of incontinence in women.  Learning the foods and drinks that irritate the bladder, and knowing how to strengthen the core and pelvic floor muscles can do a great deal to help reduce or even eliminate symptoms.

 Absorbents

Absorbent products come in all shapes and sizes and are a great option for those who need some extra protection. Read our guide to finding the right absorbent product for you.

 Medications

There are many types of medications available that can sooth an irritable bladder. These medications typically work by relaxing the muscles around the bladder, or stopping the signal to your bladder that you need to go right now!

Procedures

If medications and behavioral modification don’t work for you, there are several options that you may want to try before you think about surgery. Many women have seen success with botox injections into their bladder (it’s not just for wrinkles!), and different forms of neuromodulation, small pulses that stimulate the nerves involved in controlling the bladder.  Learn more about these options here.

Surgery

Finally surgery can be a good option for those who have tried other treatments without success. There are several types of surgical procedures, including urinary diversion, sling procedures, and augmentation cystoplasty, that can help with incontinence in women.

It’s important to note that no treatment is 100% effective all the type. Talk with your doctor about what you can expect with each treatment, as well as the pros and cons associated with them.

Urinary incontinence can have a big impact on a woman’s life and it’s important to get it treated.  Too many women live with symptoms of urinary incontinence, thinking it’s just a normal part of aging. But there are many treatments available and it can make life so much more enjoyable when you’re not looking for a bathroom or worried about having an accident. 

If you live with urinary incontinence, make an appointment with your doctor to talk about treatment options.  

November Is National Bladder Health Awareness Month!

Each year, NAFC takes part in National Bladder Health Awareness Month. It’s a time to speak out about bladder health conditions, such as incontinence, and is a chance for us to urge everyone to take notice of their bladder health and do something to improve it.  Over 25 million Americans live with incontinence each day, but it’s a condition that too often get’s swept under the rug and left out of pertinent doctor/patient discussions due to embarrassment or acceptance. 

The truth is, this is a hard subject for most. Let’s face it; incontinence is not something most people want to talk about around the dinner table. In fact, most women wait at least 7 years before even speaking with a doctor about incontinence. 

People hide incontinence from their friends, family and even their significant other.  Incontinence limits people’s lives and how they interact with each other – fear of having an accident takes precedent over time with friends, family and even work.  It’s a taboo subject, but we believe we can change that. And you can help.

This month, take charge of your bladder health and incontinence by taking some actionable steps to manage your condition.

Start Managing Your Condition

Start by downloading our Getting Started Guide, a step-by-step manual designed to help you start managing incontinence even before visiting a doctor.   

Help Raise Awareness Within Your Immediate Circle Of Friends

If we all started speaking up a little more about incontinence, it wouldn’t be such a taboo issue.  Do your part to raise awareness of bladder health and incontinence by clicking the share links on each image and sharing these facts on Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest.

“Visit nafc.org to learn management tips and tricks on how to have a happy, healthy bladder!

Visit NAFC.org To Learn More About How To Have A Happy Healthy Bladder! #BHealth

Learn the steps to take to manage your incontinence symptoms at nafc.org.

Exercise is good for your body, and your bladder. Learn more about how to improve incontinence symptoms with diet and exercise at nafc.org.

Exercise is good for your body, and your bladder. Learn more about how to improve incontinence symptoms with diet and exercise at nafc.org. #BHealth

Incontinence can be hard to deal with. But we can help. Learn more at nafc.org.

Need some help managing your incontinence, but don't know where to turn? Visit nafc.org to find a specialist in your area! #BHealth

Need some help managing your incontinence, but don't know where to turn? Visit nafc.org to find a specialist in your area! #BHealth

Many foods can irritate the bladder, including caffeine. Learn about other bladder irritants at nafc.org.

Learn the steps to take to manage your incontinence symptoms at nafc.org. #BHealth

Up To 45% Of Women Have Incontinence. And while it might be common, it's not normal. Learn more and get help at nafc.org.

Incontinence can be hard to deal with. But we can help. Learn more at nafc.org. #BHealth

Even when you have incontinence, it's important to stay hydrated. Learn more bladder health tips at nafc.org.

Many foods can irritate the bladder, including caffeine. Learn about other bladder irritants at nafc.org. #BHealth

Did you know that over 33 million Americans have Overactive Bladder? Learn more about it and how to treat it at nafc.org.

Up To 45% Of Women Have Incontinence. And while it might be common, it's not normal. Learn more and get help at nafc.org. #BHealth
Even when you have incontinence, it's important to stay hydrated. Learn more bladder health tips at nafc.org. #BHealth
Did you know that over 33 million Americans have Overactive Bladder? Learn more about it and how to treat it at nafc.org. #BHealth

Follow Along With Us This Month 

We’re shining a spotlight on Overactive Bladder and will be rolling out a new series of videos on the many ways to treat OAB.  Check in with us here on the BHealth Blog throughout the month to watch the videos and learn about management options for this widespread condition.

 

Make A Donation To NAFC

NAFC has served the public for over 25 years as a non-profit dedicated to educating, empowering, and supporting people living with bladder and bowel conditions.  Help us continue this mission by making a donation to NAFC – every cent counts and even a little can help us continue providing services to the over 1 million people who visit our site each year.   

Your contribution matters and can make a real difference.  It’s how we’re able to continue creating free courses for your local communities. It’s how we’re able to advocate for patients in home and at assisted care facilities for quality incontinence supplies. It’s how we provide thousands of free educational brochures to patients looking for help. And it’s how we are able to increase the awareness of the impact of incontinence on those it touches.

Please consider a donation to NAFC this November in honor of Bladder Health Awarenss Month.

Thanks for all you do to support us! Now get out there, start taking some action, and make some noise! 

5 Home Remedies For UTIs

5 Home Remedies For Urinary Tract Infections - Image Of Cranberries

We get it. UTI’s are annoying and frustrating, especially if they’re recurrent.  The last thing you want to do is take time out of your busy day to visit your doctor for an antibiotic.

While antibiotics are the fastest and most recommended way to treat a UTI, there are some home remedies you can try to treat the condition. 

Below are 5 things you can try to treat a UTI on your own.

  1. Drink Lots Of Water. Drinking lots of water, and emptying your bladder when you need to, will help you flush harmful bacteria from your system. You may be hesitant to drink water due to the burning sensation you may have when peeing, but trust us on this – getting in your recommended 8 glasses a day will do you a world of good.

  2. Try Unsweetened Cranberry Juice. While the research is a bit unclear, cranberries have been used as prevention of UTI for generations. Studies have shown that cranberries actually make it harder for the bacteria that causes UTIs to stick to the urinary tract walls. So, while not really a remedy, if you frequently get UTIs, it might be worth drinking a couple of glasses of unsweetened cranberry juice, or snacking on the actual fruit (whole or dried).

  3. Don’t “Hold It”. We all get busy, but holding off going to the bathroom gives any bacteria that may already be in your bladder the chance to grow and multiply, potentially resulting in an infection (or keeping one that you already have alive and well). Drink lots of water and when you have to go, go.

  4. Try taking a probiotic. Introducing a probiotic to your system may help to replenish naturally occurring bacteria that live in the vagina, which can help fight off the bad bacteria that causes a UTI and restore the balance.

  5. Eat garlic. It turns out that garlic doesn’t just ward off vampires. A recent study showed that garlic extract may be effective in reducing the bacteria that causes UTIs.

Have you tried any of the above, or other home treatments to treat your UTI? Tell us about them in the comments below!

How To Get Rid Of A Bladder Infection Fast

How to get rid of a bladder infection fast.

If you’re reading this post, you’re likely in the midst of a bladder infection or urinary tract infection (UTI) and are in some serious need of relief now!  We get it – UTIs are no fun – they can be really painful, leave you rushing to the bathroom nonstop, and can even lead to leaks. So it’s no wonder you’re researching quick cures for bladder infections. 

The best thing you can do for fast relief from a bladder infection is to is see your doctor, and get an antibiotic. 

Antibiotics kill the bacteria that causes bladder infections and are the best way to stop a UTI in its tracks. They typically work pretty quickly, although be sure to take your medication for the full course, even if you’re feeling better sooner than that.  So, if you’ve been experiencing a UTI for more than a couple of days, make an appointment with your doctor now to get treatment.

In the meantime, there are a few things you can do for a little relief.

  1. Drink water – lots of it. Getting in the recommended eight glasses of water per day can help flush the bacteria out of your bladder and make you heal a bit faster.  Limit your caffeine or sugary drinks though, as they can irritate you bladder.
  2. When you gotta go, go. Holding your urine when you really have to go gives time for the bacteria in your system to multiply, making it harder to get rid of. 
  3. Talk to your doctor about over the counter pain relievers. While these won’t cure a UTI, they may help give you a bit of relief while you’re waiting for the antibiotics to treat the infection. 
  4. Rest.  Getting enough rest gives your body the energy it needs to be able to fight off an infection. Make sure you are getting the recommended 7-8 hours of sleep each night.
  5. Wear loose clothing.  Not only will this be more comfortable for you during this time, but it might also prevent bacteria growth. Bacteria grow the quickest in moist, warm environments so ditch the skinny jeans for a week or so and opt for loose trousers, skirts or dresses. 

Follow the steps above for quick relief from UTIs.