More than 17 million Americans suffer from overactive bladder, according to the American Medical Women’s Association. Though it typically affects men that are over the age of 65, women may start to experience symptoms in their mid-40s
What exactly is overactive bladder? It stems from a problem with bladder function that causes you to feel a strong, urgent need to urinate. This can lead to incontinence, frequent urination (eight or more times in 24 hours) and waking during the night to urinate (usually two or more times). Aside from the physical symptoms, overactive bladder can interfere with your daily life, making it difficult to attend social situations, and can even result in depression, low self-esteem, fatigue and anxiety.
What Causes Overactive Bladder?
In a healthy bladder, nerve signals let you know your bladder is “full” when it’s reached about half its capacity, and you feel you need to urinate when it’s about three-quarters full.
With overactive bladder, however, bladder muscles contract or spasm involuntarily when the bladder is only about half full. The contractions cause you to feel an urgent need to urinate, even though your bladder is not yet full.
While certain conditions, such as Parkinson’s disease and strokes, are associated with overactive bladder, other conditions can cause similar symptoms, according to the Mayo Clinic, including:
- Urinary tract infection
- Tissue inflammation near the urinary tract
- Tumors or other abnormalities in the bladder
- Enlarged prostate, constipation, bladder stones and other factors that obstruct bladder outflow
- Drinking excessive amounts of caffeine or alcohol
Certain medications can also contribute to incontinence. Diuretics, sedatives, muscles relaxants, narcotics, antihistamines, anticholinergics, antipsychotics, antidepressants and calcium channel blockers are particularly problematic for incontinence, according to the National Association for Continence (NAFC).
What to do if You Have Overactive Bladder
Overactive bladder is more common in older adults, but it is not a “normal” part of aging. If you have some of the symptoms of overactive bladder, you should see your doctor to rule out any associated or underlying problems.
While there are prescription drugs out there for overactive bladder, they do have side effects such as dry mouth, constipation, blurred vision, and memory problems. Fortunately, there are many non-drug methods you can use to help treat the condition.
- Eat a high-fiber diet. This is important to help you avoid constipation (and is great for your overall health, too). Add a unique comprehensive fiber supplement to help resolve this issue quicker.
- Exercise regularly. It’s an important part of every healthy lifestyle. Limit your consumption of caffeine and alcohol, which can trigger or worsen symptoms.
- Look for dietary triggers. Certain foods can irritate the bladder in some people. Common irritants include carbonated beverages, sugar, artificial sweeteners, spicy foods, citrus juice, tomatoes, corn syrup and milk.
- Be proactive about supporting the health of the urinary tract, naturally. Certain prescription based compounds can keep infection-causing bacteria, yeast and germs from sticking to the walls of the bladder which can result in recurrent UTIs.
- Monitor your fluid consumption. Sometimes limiting the amount of fluid you drink before bedtime or before attending a social event can help.
- Kegel exercises. Kegels strengthen the pelvic floor muscles and urinary sphincter, according to the Mayo Clinic, which help you to hold urine. These exercises can also help to suppress involuntary contractions in the bladder. Kegel exercises involve squeezing your pelvic floor muscles at least three times a day. A physical therapist or your doctor can tell you how to do them correctly.
- Maintain a healthy weight. Excess weight puts stress on the bladder and increases the risk of incontinence. Take measures to lose weight in a healthy and responsible way with supplements that increase the body’s metabolic rate resulting in steady weight loss but without harmful stimulant side effects. Don’t use feminine deodorant products, which may irritate the urethra.
- Don’t smoke. Smokers are more likely to have problems with incontinence than non-smokers.
- Bladder training. Your doctor may recommend “retraining” your bladder by gradually delaying urination when you feel the urge to go.
Finally, if an overactive bladder is holding you back from professional or social functions, consider wearing an absorbent pad so you don’t have to worry if you do experience incontinence.