Interstitial cystitis, urinary incontinence, and urinary tract infections (UTIs) among other bladder health problems cost Americans over $70 billion dollars each year, not to mention the discomfort and pain experienced. In an effort to educate Americans and take away the stigma of experiencing bladder problems, the Urology Care Foundation with the US Department of Health and Human Services created Bladder Health Awareness Month. It’s time for bladder talk and ways to prevent and/or alleviate some of the most common bladder problems.
Here are 6 easy-to-follow tips to eat and exercise your way to a healthier bladder. As always, consult with your health care provider before trying anything new or changing your diet!
- Be antibiotic aware. From November 13 – 19, the CDC promotes another health awareness month, “Get smart about antibiotics.” With the spiraling costs of antibiotics and birth of multi-resistant bacteria, steering clear of antibiotics unless absolutely necessary is a critical step toward better bladder health. Antibiotics strip our bodies of necessary good bacteria as well. When taking antibiotics follow these guidelines to stay healthier and help reduce antibiotic resistance:
- Take antibiotics as prescribed by the doctor.
- Take the entire dosage and complete the course of treatment.
- Throw away leftover antibiotics.
- Prebiotics and probiotics aren’t just for when you’re taking antibiotics: A diet rich with pre and probiotics keeps bladders healthy. Moreover, while taking antibiotics and during the weeks after you finish treatment, you’ll help your bladder and body by boosting your prebiotics and probiotics intake. (Though with a healthy, balanced diet you can get all the prebiotics and probiotics you need, after a course of antibiotics, you’ll probably need a supplement). We’re used to hearing about probiotics, but the symbiotic relationship between prebiotics (our good bacteria promotors) and probiotics (the good bacteria) is essential. Basically, the prebiotics are our probiotics motivation and PR team. Your body should have a combo:
- a banana and/or oats with yogurt (pre-pro)
- artichoke with Manchego cheese
- feta cheese with onions
- dandelion greens with yogurt dressing
- Drink your way to better bladder health. Stay hydrated! Our kidneys cleanse nearly 200 quarts of blood, every day, to produce urine. Urine gets stored in the bladder, to get ready to be emptied. This is a highly complex cleansing system. In the Western world, UTIs are the second most cause of antibiotic prescriptions. But they can be prevented by good hydration habits. By drinking fluids – especially water and non-sweet fluids – your body flushes out bacteria in the urinary tract and keeps you healthy. Moreover, good hydration can help prevent kidney stones, as fluids thin out urine and make it harder for chemicals and crystals to form. Hydrate and empty your bladder often.
- Every bite counts for bladder health. Healthy foods with natural diuretic effects – foods that make you need to relieve your bladder – include watermelon, celery, and parsley. They help the cycle of kidney-bladder-urinary tract-and out!
- Interstitial cystitis (IC) is a chronic bladder condition that affects millions of Americans. It can be very hard to diagnose and treat. It’s important that any treatment be accompanied by a trained physician. At this time there is no cure, but diet can help alleviate some of the pain. Start by eliminating trigger foods: spicy foods, chocolate, citrus and acidic foods, soy, caffeine and alcohol. Be aware of how your body reacts to different foods. Go to a registered dietitian for guidance so that you can learn about working with new dietary restrictions.
- Exercise! Maintaining a healthy weight is critical for a healthy bladder and body. A good exercise program will include cardio, strength training, flexibility and balance. Every step counts. So make movement a mindset for the entire family. But how, specifically, can exercise improve bladder health? One of the biggest bladder issues are over active bladders (OAB), bladder leakage and incontinence. Here are some great exercises to strengthen the pelvic floor:
- Kegel exercises: Lay on the floor, back straight, feet on the ground so that knees are up toward the ceiling. Contract the pelvic floor muscles (Imagine a sling of muscles that go from the ones that stop you from urinating to the ones that stop you from farting in public.) Hold for three seconds. Repeat ten times. Try to work up to ten seconds.
- Pelvic floor ball squeeze: Sit straight in a chair, chin up, feet on the ground, and place an exercise ball between your thighs. Squeeze. Hold ten seconds. Release and repeat ten times.
- Resistance band: Like in the previous exercise, sit straight in a chair, but this time with a resistance band around your thighs. With your feet together, press against the resistance band. Tighten your inner thigh and glutes.
With November being Healthy Bladder Awareness Month, I wanted to share some tips so that, every day, you can prevent bladder problems and illnesses. By developing some good exercise and eating habits, you can fend off some uncomfortable, even painful, bladder problems.