Don’t wait to experience incontinence; follow these tips to avoid it altogether.
Keep your pelvic floor muscle strong
Regardless of age or gender, you should be doing pelvic floor exercises. The pelvic floor is a sling-like group of muscles that sit in the base of your pelvis. It attaches to your pubic bone at the front and the tailbone at the back. These are the muscles you clench when you want to ‘hold on’ to stop the passing of wind, urine or faeces. They also play an essential role in sexual function and pleasure in both men and women.
The muscle supports your pelvic organs as well as playing a critical role in bladder and bowel control. It can become weakened over time and with certain events (like pregnancy and childbirth) and lifestyle habits. Once weak, Stress Incontinence is often the result. That’s when you leak urine while coughing, sneezing, laughing or otherwise putting pressure on the pelvic muscles. With simple exercises, this can be avoided.
Read about general Basic Pelvic Floor Exercises here and Pelvic Floor Exercises for Men here. These articles step you through the process of locating the right muscles and how to do the exercises.
It’s worth noting that pelvic floor exercises can be performed by those who find it challenging to participate in sport and other physical activity. They don’t require any specialist equipment or even activewear. You can literally do them while sitting down and watching TV – so there’s no excuse!
Establish good bathroom habits
Wait until your bladder is full before emptying it. Going ‘just in case’ or at the first urge is a poor habit that can train the bladder to hold less, leading to an Over Active Bladder
Don’t rush, take your time and make sure your bladder is fully emptied. Leaving urine behind is called Urinary Retention which can lead to incontinence, infection and other health issues.
Drink plenty of water
While it seems counterintuitive, being well-hydrated helps incontinence prevention. That’s because, without sufficient water, urine becomes increasingly concentrated, which can irritate the bladder. When aggravated, the bladder can spasm or suddenly contract, resulting in urge incontinence. Urge incontinence is when you experience a sudden, overwhelming and urgent need to urinate, often without sufficient warning to get to a toilet.
People suffering incontinence can mistakenly believe that reducing their fluid intake will help fix the problem – but it can actually make it worse. Read about that and other Mistakes of Incontinence Management here. Be conscious of the type of fluid you’re consuming. Anything with caffeine, such as tea, coffee, cola, chocolate and some sports drinks, can irritate your bladder and also trigger urge incontinence. Same too for alcohol and carbonated beverages. Your best choice is plain water.
Aim to drink around two litres of water across the day. Drinking it all at once is less effective in keeping you hydrated. If the weather is warm or you’re being particularly active, drink more.
Drinking enough water also assists in keep constipation at bay, which is also beneficial, as that too can contribute to incontinence (see below).
Keep your bowel regular
Straining from persistent constipation can weaken your pelvic floor muscle and cause incontinence – both urinary and faecal. Pay attention to your diet and ensure you’re getting enough fibre, drink plenty of water and keep active to stay regular. You’ll find plenty of practical tips in this article, Improving Urinary and Faecal Incontinence with Fibre
Avoid bladder irritating foods
In addition to the beverages listed earlier in this article, there are also foods known to irritate the bladder. If you’re not suffering bladder issues, there’s probably no need to avoid these, but if you are, it’s worth eliminating them from your diet to see if they make a difference. They include:
- Spicy food
- Tomatoes and tomato-based products, like pizza sauce, pasta sauce, juice, ketchup and chutneys
- Citrus of all kind, including lemons, mandarins, oranges and grapefruit
Read more in this article, Foods and Drinks to Avoid
Watch your weight
Being overweight or obese places extra strain on your pelvic floor muscle, making it weak and causing incontinence. Keep your weight within the healthy BMI range of 18.5 and 24.9. Use the Heart Foundation BMI Calculator to see where you sit. If you need to lose weight, you can also use it to track your progress.
These days there are many ways to lose weight, from home-delivered meals, calorie and activity tracking apps and protein shakes. If you’re unsure where to start or have a significant amount of weight to lose, talk it through with your doctor. They may refer you to a nutritionist who’ll develop a tailored and sustainable eating plan to meet your goals.
Keep physically active
There’s no downside to being active. It keeps your bowel regular, helps with weight management and research increasingly suggests it’s good for your mental wellbeing as well. Aim for 30 minutes of brisk exercise each day.
Be aware though, that if you have a weak pelvic floor, the jarring of high-impact exercises can cause stress incontinence and further weaken the muscle. Such activities include running, high-impact aerobics and sports like tennis and netball. Instead, while you’re strengthening the muscle with pelvic floor exercises, chose low-impact activities like walking, swimming, golf, yoga and Pilates.
Lifting weights also adds load to a weak pelvic floor, so like high-impact sports, should be avoided until the muscle is strong enough to be braced for protection. Keep in mind that lifting toddlers, small children, bags of groceries and luggage can have the same effect as weightlifting.
Smoking causes incontinences in two way; the associated chronic cough and by irritating the bladder.
The chronic cough puts ongoing downward pressure on the pelvic floor muscle, weakening it and leading to stress incontinence. Further, smoking can irritate the bladder and cause urge incontinence. And if all that isn’t bad enough, smoking has also been linked to bladder cancer.
Strengthen your core
Your ‘core’ muscles include the abdominal, lower back and pelvic floor muscles. They have a critical role in posture and balance and, when strong, can be braced against damage and injury when performing tasks like lifting.
Many people find Pilates or yoga an enjoyable, relaxing way to strengthen their core, including their pelvic floor. You can read more about yoga and strengthening your pelvic floor here and Pilates for the same purpose, here
While these tips have been developed for incontinence prevention, they’re also useful to adopt to rectify any leaks. You might also appreciate the confidence a purpose-made, absorbent product can provide.
All TENA products have been made to handle the thin, fast flow of urine, locking it away to keep the skin’s surface dry and preventing odours from developing. They’re all soft, breathable, comfortable and discreet under everyday clothing.
For small leaks, TENA Liners for women and TENA Shields for Men are ideal. But to find the exact right product for your needs, try the Product Finder Tool. This online program steps you through a short series of questions about your situation, then suggests products that may be suitable. You can even order free samples. If they don’t turn out to be just right, jump back online and try some others.
Asaleo Care makes no warranties or representations regarding the completeness or accuracy of the information. This information should be used only as a guide and should not be relied upon as a substitute for professional, medical or other health professional advice.