How can I improve leaks holistically?
Stress incontinence is usually caused by weakening or damage occurring to the muscles that stop you urinating i.e. the pelvic floor muscles and urge incontinence usually happens as a result of overactivity of the detrusor muscles, which control the bladder. Incontinence is incredibly common with ⅓ women experiencing it in their lifetime.
It has however remained something of a taboo with many feeling unable to share their experiences. It is chiefly associated with older people and there is a lot of unhelpful baggage that comes to mind. We at NIXI believe it’s something that shouldn’t remain a taboo or something that gets in the way of experiencing a great quality of life.
Here’s some simple tips on how to improve bladder weakness.
Like any health-related issue there isn’t one magic wand that potentially stops leaks and it’s a holistic approach that works best in terms of long-term, sustainable results. Here’s some tips on how to deal with leaks holistically:
Book to see your GP
As a first step the most important thing is to get in touch with your GP to see if there are any underlying reasons as to why you are experiencing leaks and incontinence. It’s important to check with your GP first.
Then it is also worthwhile looking at other areas of your life to see if there are things you can improve upon. Like most health issues there are changes you can make which should have an impact on the frequency of leaks.
Consider whether you’re at a healthy weight for your body type
We celebrate bodies of all sizes here at NIXI but studies suggest that losing a modest amount of weight can play a significant part in reducing incontinence. A US study of 338 people revealed that those who lost 5% or 10% of their body weight were more likely to achieve at least a 70% reduction in the frequency of their urge incontinence episodes. Whilst we don’t advocate radical or faddy diets, adopting a healthy, varied diet with regular exercise can definitely help in reducing leaks and incontinence.
Work on your pee technique
It sounds weird but it’s important that you are comfortable, and that your muscles feel fully relaxed when you pee. Some women may hover over the seat (especially if it’s a public loo and the seat feels a bit icky). Hovering makes your muscles tense up and so you’re less likely to fully empty your bladder. It can also help to lean forward with your elbows on your knees rather than adopt a fully upright position when peeing.
Practice your pelvic floor exercises regularly
We know it can be hard to remember to do your pelvic floor exercises when you’re busy. However if you want to adopt a new habit then it helps to attach that habit onto an existing one. This idea is also known as 'habit chaining', and involves grouping together small activities into a routine which you link to an existing habit. So an example of this would be doing your pelvic floor exercises whilst you shower or when you brush your teeth.
This makes it something that you don’t even have to think about doing. To strengthen your pelvic floor muscles, sit comfortably and squeeze the muscles 10 to 15 times. Do not hold your breath or tighten your stomach, bottom or thigh muscles at the same time. Once you get used to this you can try holding each squeeze for a few seconds. Then each week, you can add more squeezes, but be careful not to overdo it, and always have a rest between sets of squeezes.
Cut back on booze and caffeine
There is also a link between alcohol and bladder weakness and incontinence. Alcohol is a diuretic, which means that it increases the production of urine and can also make you have to pee more often.
On top of that, alcohol can irritate the bladder, so if you have an overactive bladder (this is when you regularly get a sudden and compelling need to pee and it can happen anytime day or night). It's worth eliminating booze if you have incontinence or cutting back. Caffeine can be unhelpful as it causes your kidneys to produce more pee and can irritate your bladder too. This can make you go to the toilet more frequently. Studies show that reducing caffeine intake to below 100 mg a day - this would be the amount in one cup of brewed coffee may help reduce episodes of urge incontinence. So focus on drinking water, staying hydrated and maybe replace caffeine with herbal tea instead.
It’s important that you take a holistic approach and look at all the different lifestyle factors that could be amplifying your symptoms. Also remember you’re not alone. Bladder weakness and incontinence are incredibly common with ⅓ women experiencing it, and you’ll feel better once you have a plan in place to tackle it head on.