You may have noticed that you leak urine when you laugh, sneeze, cough, or exercise. It’s embarrassing and a common complaint I hear from many of my patients who are over 40, men and women alike. In fact, this condition affects about 200 million people worldwide! It’s called urinary incontinence, or UI, the involuntary loss of bladder control.
There are a lot of prescription drugs and surgical procedures out there aimed at controlling this type of incontinence. However, I’d like to tell you about some natural remedies available without surgery, side effects or costly drugs! First, find out what’s making your bladder leak.
Multiple Causes and Triggers of Incontinence
Incontinence can be caused by a wide range of physical conditions and even certain foods and medications you use. The good news is that it can be controlled and/or eliminated. Below, I’ve listed some of the most common causes and triggers of incontinence:
- Weak pelvic muscles – especially in women after multiple childbirths, but can occur in men with enlarged prostates. The muscles sag, the bladder slides forward, causing urine to leak.
- Pressure – an enlarged prostate, constipation, fibroid tumors, other conditions that put pressure on the bladder.
- Side effect of certain medications – antihistamines, cold preparations, drugs for blood pressure, water retention, pain pills.
- Food and drink irritants – spicy foods, caffeine, alcohol, soda, chocolate, artificial sweeteners can irritate and/or over-stimulate the bladder.
- Nervous system conditions – stroke, Parkinson disease, brain tumor, spinal cord injury.
- Medical conditions – diabetes, bladder cancer, kidney or bladder stones, menopause, enlarged prostate.
What Can You Do About Your Incontinence?
Once you’ve determined the source of your incontinence, you can start working on controlling it and perhaps even saying goodbye to it all together! Here are some things you can do without surgery, drugs or devices:
- Strengthen weak pelvic floor muscles – Kegel exercises target and tighten specific muscles of your pelvis that support your bladder and keep it from falling forward. Basically, you pull in your pelvic muscles as if trying very hard to hold in urine. Hold it for 30 seconds and repeat several times a day. If you have difficulty performing this yourself, there are exercise devices that will help you do them correctly.
- Relieve pressure – Adequate fiber (20-25 grams) and water will relieve/prevent constipation. Enlarged prostates respond well to the herbs saw palmetto, pygeum and stinging nettle. Fibroid tumors can shrink naturally using chaste tree, red raspberry, Echinacea, and Motherwort.
- Beat side effects – if you take Rx drugs for certain medical conditions, you may be able to switch to an herbal preparation, or a different Rx medication, that does not have the side effect of urinary incontinence. Ask your doctor.
- Avoid triggers – try to cut out, or cut down, on such foods and drinks mentioned above that stimulate or irritate the bladder. Drink smaller amounts of water at one time.
- Stay dry – even if UI is an inevitable side effect of certain medical conditions, you can keep incontinence from being an embarrassing situation that limits your social activities. Protective undergarments/pads sold at drug and grocery stores can keep your clothes dry and your incontinence private.
Urinary incontinence can negatively impact your social, sexual, and professional life. If you think you might be suffering from urinary incontinence, it doesn’t have to be an embarrassing condition. Many times UI goes undiagnosed because of the social stigma surrounding it. You may assume incontinence is a sign of growing old and hide the fact that you have a problem controlling your bladder.
The truth is incontinence is not an inevitable part of aging! As I share with my patients who experience it, in many instances it is just a reversible symptom of another condition. Your best response is to bring it to your doctor’s attention as soon as possible.
Mark Rosenberg, M.D.