A few simple lifestyle changes may help the more
than 13 million Americans with urinary incontinence
regain control of their daily lives, one expert says.
This loss of bladder control is more common in people
65 and older and affects women more often than men.
While drugs and minimally invasive surgery can help
treat the condition, people with urinary incontinence
can also take some important steps on their own, said
Dr. Carol Figuers, an associate clinical professor
in the division of physical therapy at Duke University
For example, "decreasing or eliminating caffeine
intake can help reduce bladder urges," Figuers said
in a prepared statement.
Caffeine can irritate and stimulate the bladder and
cause urgent, frequent urination and increased urine
production, she explained. Individuals who drink more
than two caffeinated beverages a day should gradually
reduce their caffeine intake to avoid possible withdrawal
symptoms such as headache or sleepiness. Substituting
non-caffeinated drinks in place of coffee, tea and
colas can go a long way to reducing incontinence,
the Duke expert said.
On the other hand, it's not a good idea to
cut back on intake of liquids in an attempt to reduce
the urge to urinate, Figuers said. Lack of liquids
can cause dehydration, which can cause urine to become
concentrated and actually result in increased bladder
urgency, foul-smelling urine and, sometimes, bladder
Drinking too much alcohol and eating too much spicy
food can also aggravate incontinence.
Figuers said that bladder training and "timed voiding"
can help control wayward bladders. Developing a regular
schedule of urinating can help bladders hold more
urine and gradually increase the time between urination.
Holding urine too long can increase the risk of urinary
tract infection, however.
Urinary incontinence is often linked to a weakening
of the pelvic floor muscles. Pelvic floor muscle exercises
(Kegel exercises) can strengthen those muscles and
help prevent urine leakage, Figuers said.
"An individual can learn to improve both the strength
and endurance of this special muscle group through
regular exercise," she explained. "They're most effective
when a person is able to isolate the pelvic floor
muscle and exercise that muscle specifically."