STAYING HEALTHY: STRATEGY FOR PATIENTS
Along with clinical treatments, certain behavior and lifestyle modifications can help patients maintain pelvic floor health:
MANAGE YOUR FLUID INTAKE
It is a huge misperception that women need to drink eight 8 oz. glasses of water every day. Unless you exercise heavily or work in hot conditions, most women can drink much less than this amount and stay very healthy. Remember, also, that we get as much as 20 percent of our daily fluids from fruits and other foods in our diets.
What goes in must come out. If you drink a lot of fluids throughout the day and are bothered by a frequent urge to urinate, start by simply decreasing your fluid intake. Take small sips of fluid when you’re thirsty, or maybe even consider sucking on a piece of candy or chewing a piece of gum. Also try spreading out your fluids throughout the day, and if you get up more than twice per night limit your fluid intake after 6 PM.
AVOID BLADDER IRRITANTS
Fluids that contain caffeine, artificial sweeteners and citrus juices have been shown to have somewhat of a diuretic affect and thus irritate the bladder.
Being overweight definitely impacts bladder function. Weight loss will relieve pressure on the bladder and will help you regain your bladder control.
MAKE A SCHEDULE
The bladder is a very trainable organ. Timing restroom breaks has been shown to be extremely effective in training the bladder and preventing involuntary spasms that can lead to leakage. Begin by picking a manageable time interval and urinating according to the clock. For the first week, for example, you might urinate every 45 minutes throughout the day while you’re awake. The second week, try increasing that time interval by 15 minutes. Continue to increase the interval week by week until you reach a reasonable timeframe—usually in the range of going every 3 to 4 hours.
Your doctor can help you initiate this and may also prescribe a drug that will prevent the bladder from going into a spasm, which will assist you in maintaining your restroom schedule.
WORK THE RIGHT MUSCLES
Many women think they are doing Kegel exercises, but in reality they are not isolating the correct muscles. The pelvic floor muscles are deep muscles that, as a result of childbirth and the aging process, become somewhat evasive over time. Women who think they’re doing Kegel exercise are often actually contracting their buttock muscles, the thigh muscles or their abdominal muscles. Obviously, if you can’t correctly identify your pelvic floor muscles then performing these exercises is useless. If done properly, however, Kegel exercises can significantly improve bladder and bowel function.
Your healthcare provider can do a simple examination and let you know if you are appropriately identifying these muscles. If not, you should strongly consider seeing a pelvic floor physical therapist. These specialists have numerous techniques to reacquaint you with these muscles and teach you the proper technique to exercise them. By contracting and holding these muscles several times throughout the day, you will notice them strengthening over time. In one to two months, you should see improvements in bladder control.
OUTSMART YOUR BLADDER
You may not realize that there is a synergistic relationship between the pelvic floor muscles and the bladder: When the bladder starts to contract, the pelvic floor muscles start to relax. When you feel significant urgency, the worst thing to do is get into a race with your bladder—most of the time you’ll lose that race and leak before you make it to the toilet. Instead, stop to identify and contract your pelvic floor muscles. Often this will stop the spasm before it has a chance to cause a leak. This technique is an urge-suppression strategy, and it is very helpful in managing patients with urge incontinence or overactive bladder.