How to Maintain a Healthy Bladder and Bowel
Maintaining a healthy bladder and bowel is central to our physical and mental wellbeing. Not only can weak bladder and bowel health lead to further conditions, but it can make you feel uncomfortable, self-conscious, and generally pretty lousy! You may well feel that you don’t want to engage in normal life because you do not feel in control of your body.
Understanding how to maintain the health of your bladder and bowel could help you to take control of your future and allow you the freedom to live the life that you want.
Bladder problems, in particular, are extremely common. According to Bladder & Bowel UK, a registered charity that provides information and support for sufferers, up to six million people in the UK are thought to experience urinary incontinence.
Below we have detailed some of the best tips for maintaining bowel and bladder health, but do remember that there is a great deal of professional support available to cure, treat or manage bladder and bowel problems, so do seek medical advice from your GP if you still have problems after following these tips.
Drink plenty of water
For many people with urinary incontinence, drinking plenty of fluids seems counterintuitive. However, the advice to drink 6 to 8 glasses of water a day (but normally no more than that), is not only a basic rule for our general health, but also extremely important if you have urinary problems.
If you limit fluid intake it is likely to make incontinence worse as it reduces your bladder’s capacity. It can also cause constipation or make it worse.
If you get bored with water, try organic non-caffeinated herbal and fruit teas.
Avoid caffeine and alcohol
Caffeine can make incontinence worse as it irritates the bladder. For most people, coffee is the biggest problem, but there is caffeine lurking in many other drinks such as energy drinks, hot chocolate, tea, and green tea.
Alcohol is a diuretic which makes you urinate more often.
Some medications are also diuretics, so check with your doctor or pharmacist of incontinence is a problem.
Too much alcohol can impact the microbial balance in your gut. Equally, both caffeine and alcohol can affect your mental health, which in turn will adversely impact your gut health.
Eat the right food
A Mediterranean diet is recommended for general good health. It is particularly good for people with bowel problems as the diet is rich in high fibre foods: whole grains, vegetables, fruits, beans, and nuts.
Avoid acidic and spicy foods as they can irritate the bladder and make incontinence worse.
Eating the right foods will also help you lose weight which is an added benefit, both for your self-esteem and many other health issues. But specifically, in terms of urinary problems, being overweight can weaken your pelvic floor muscles and cause incontinence because of the pressure of fatty tissue on your bladder.
You know it’s good for your general health. But if smoking is causing you to cough you are putting strain on your pelvic floor muscles. Even if incontinence is not a problem now, smoking puts you more at risk of such problems in the future.
Women who smoke are three more times likely to develop urge incontinence – or will feel the need to urinate more frequently.
Get the right exercise
Your urinary tract stays healthy if you have strong pelvic floor muscles. Consequently, if you want to avoid the incontinence problems of older age, you need to exercise. Taking up Pilates or yoga is a great way to make sure you are using pelvic floor muscles and better for you, while you have incontinence problems, than high-impact exercises such as sit-ups, jogging and aerobics which put pressure on the pelvic floor muscles.
For your bowel, exercising helps to maintain your weight. Obesity is a trigger for many gut issues. Equally, exercise is a great way to generally stay healthy – whether it is the physicality or your mental wellbeing. In all ways, exercise is an essential route to a healthy bladder and bowel.
You can also do pelvic floor exercise at home.
Do be aware that this is not a quick fix: it could take 3 months or more before you see any benefits.
Chew your food properly
Chewing your food well is surprisingly effective at maintaining a healthy bowel. You should chew firmer foods up to 30 times. First, this will create lots of saliva, which will begin the digestive processes. Secondly, your food will break down quicker, creating fewer bacteria in the gut and so causing fewer problems.
Ensure good hygiene
It is important to keep the area around the urethra clean to avoid bladder infections. Shower regularly and, when you go to the toilet, wipe from front to back.
Avoid using strong soaps as they can cause a pH balance that promotes bacteria growth.
Urinate after sex to clear and potentially harmful substances from your urinary tract to prevent possible infection.
Wear loose, breathable clothing such as cotton as opposed to man-made fabrics, particularly for underwear.
Treat constipation promptly
Avoid constipation by changing your diet and lifestyle, as discussed above. If you strain to poo, this weakens your pelvic floor muscles and makes urinary incontinence worse.
As you can see, our bladder and bowel health is impacted heavily by our lifestyles. Stress and mental health problems can be a result of poor physical health, but poor physical condition can increase the impact on our anxiety and depression. Therefore, we need to act to break the cycle by drinking plenty, eating well and staying active.
There are specific activities we can undertake to maintain bladder and bowel health, including the right behaviours and improved hygiene. However, the best advice is to work for an all-round healthy body.