Your bladder — a hollow organ that holds urine from your kidneys — is one of those body parts that you probably don’t think about until it stops working properly. Certain problems affecting your bladder can cause painful urination or urine leakage at unwanted times. Simple lifestyle changes and exercises, however, can help ensure that your bladder keeps doing its job — and doesn’t call attention to itself.
- Let It All Out
Women are especially prone to urinary tract infections, which can also involve the bladder. One way to reduce your risk is to make sure that you urinate completely. If you tighten your muscles to stop urinating too soon, the urine that didn’t quite escape will head back to your bladder, which can bring bacteria into your system.
- Drink Plenty of Fluids — But Not Too Much
Drinking plenty of water — about six to eight glasses daily — can flush bacteria out of your urinary tract and help prevent bladder infections. However, many people drink more than that these days, since they’ve heard that drinking water frequently is healthy. If you’re bothered by a constant need to empty your bladder and you’re drinking fluids throughout the day, cut back on your intake. Also, avoid caffeinated sodas and coffee — they’ll only make you urinate more.
- Go Take a Walk
Some people, like those who are sedentary or have heart disease, may develop fluid build-up in their legs during the day. At night, this fluid causes them to need to empty their bladders frequently. If you have fluid retention in your legs that’s causing an active bladder overnight, try walking around more throughout the day. If you can’t walk, flex your calf muscles and raise your legs to waist level. Ask your doctor for more tips.
- Avoid Tobacco
Every year, more than 50,000 people are diagnosed with bladder cancer. Using tobacco is a major risk factor. Cigarette smokers have a two to three times higher risk of bladder cancer than nonsmokers. If you’re still smoking or using other forms of tobacco, it’s important to stop for bladder health and other reasons as well. Talk to your doctor about how to quit smoking.
- Learn Proper Kegels
Kegel exercises are done to strengthen the muscles that allow for better bladder control. Weak muscles can contribute to urine leakage, called urinary incontinence. If you’re having bladder control issues, talk to your doctor or a specialist who can teach you how to properly do these exercises.
- Take Care When You’re Having Sex
Sexual intercourse can contribute to bladder infections in women. A woman’s urethra — the tube leading from the bladder out of the body — is located in a spot where bacteria are naturally found. As result, cleaning your genital and anal area before intercourse may help prevent these infections. Also, urinate before and after sex to help flush any bacteria out of your system so they don’t spur a bladder infection.
- Watch What You Eat
A condition called interstitial cystitis, which is much more common in women than men, causes bladder pain, urgent urination, and sometimes urinary ncontinence. Some people find that certain foods worsen their bladder symptoms. Acidic foods, such as tomatoes and orange juice, may be linked to flare-ups. Keep a diary of your symptoms and see if you can connect them to any foods. If so, steer clear of these foods and see if you notice any improvement.
- Stop Drinking at the Right Time
If you have strong urges to urinate at inopportune times, or if you have urinary incontinence, you may need to drink fewer fluids at certain times. If you’re getting up too much at night to empty your bladder, avoid fluids for two hours before bedtime. If you often feel an urgent need to “go” as you pull into work or get home after your commute, avoid drinking coffee or beverages before you leave.
- Try Cranberry Juice
Tart cranberry juice may help keep your bladder safe from infection. One study that compiled the results of previous studies involving cranberry juice or cranberry tablets found that they reduced the occurrence of urinary tract infections and were most effective in women who had recurrent infections. Ingredients in the cranberry may keep harmful bacteria from sticking to the walls of your urinary tract.
- Keep a Diary
If you feel that you’re urinating too often, keep a bladder diary of how often you visit the restroom and how often you’re drinking throughout the day, Badlani suggests. Also, keeping this diary if you have episodes of urinary incontinence will help show you and your doctor what factors might be involved in the problem.