Loss of bladder control is so common that studies have suggested as many as four in 10 people get one case of urinary incontinence (UI) a year — and 14% experience it every day. Up to 20 million Americans suffer incontinence, and roughly 75% are women. Control over the bladder can slip just like vision starts to fade or your movement starts to slow.
The three main types of UI are urge, stress and mixed. Those with urge UI have an “overactivebladder” and feel a sudden urge to urinate. (Bed-wetting is common, as the urge can strike every two hours.) Stress UI occurs when stress or pressure is put on the abdomen, such as with laughing, coughing, sneezing or rising out of a chair. Mixed UI is a combination of the other two.
UI’s causes are rooted in the brain. Damaged nerves along the passage between bladder and brain make people lose bladder sensation and motor control. The underlying cause can be much worse than incontinence: brain or spine tumors, stroke, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s or multiple sclerosis.
Physical causes include a weak bladder muscle, bladder irritation, bladder stones, or chronic urinary tract infection. For stress incontinence, weakened or damaged muscles on the pelvic floor or urethra are often the cause, making leakage more likely if the bladder feels pressure. Drug side effects are another major cause behind UI (check the label of any you are taking).
Alternative medicine offers some attractive treatments. Cranberry juice is great. For women, soy is recommended. Overall, eat fresh, natural foods such as fruits and vegetables, grains, soy beans, olive oil, nuts and fish. Limit caffeine.
For supplements, try soy isoflavones. Other capsules that will help stop inflammation include vitamins C and E, flaxseed oil, bromelain, the minerals zinc and magnesium, and carotenoids. The herbs uva ursi and goldenseal may work for cases where an infection triggered the UI.
Condition your bladder back in to a state of control using “kegal” exercises meant to strengthen muscles. They need to be performed regularly, but that’s not a problem because they are very simple.
When you’re urinating, try to stop by using the one muscle that will do it. Don’t use any other muscles. Count four seconds, then release the muscle. Experts say to do this for about two minutes at least three times a day. You are basically teaching those muscles to open and close (to relax and constrict) on your command. Incontinence comes from weak muscles and kegal exercises will build strength and lead to control.