Very often we take bladder health for granted until a problem starts to develop. Bladder problems can lead to discomfort, difficulty urinating, frequency in urination and more.
The good news, is that by taking an active role in your bladder health, you can avoid infections and reduce the risk of developing several medical problems. We will discuss several ways you can improve your bladder’s health, but first we would like to talk a little more about the bladder in general.
The bladder is a muscular sac in the pelvis, just above and behind the pubic bone. When it is empty, the bladder is about the size and shape of a pear. Urine is made in the kidneys are travels down two tubes called ureters to the bladder. The bladder then stores the urine, allowing urination to be infrequent and controlled. The bladder is lined by layers of muscle tissue that stretch to hold the urine, and the normal capacity of the bladder is about 400-600 mL. When you urinate, the bladder muscles squeeze, and two sphincters (valves) open to let the urine flow out. The urine leaves the bladder into the urethra, which carries the urine out of the body. Now that we know more about how the bladder works, how can we keep our bladder healthy?
This is an easy one…drink water! Staying hydrated is very important to the health of your bladder. Aim to drink half you body weight in ounces, per day. Drinking water throughout the day helps to dilute urine and prevent kidney stones. If you don’t drink enough fluids throughout the day, it can cause your urine to become highly concentrated, dark yellow in color, foul smelling, and can ultimately irritate the bladder. This can cause you to use the bathroom more frequently and also affect your ability to control your urine. Not drinking enough water also causes dehydration, which encourages the growth of bacteria. This can cause a urinary tract infection or the formation of stones in the urinary tract.
Another tip is to make sure you eat your veggies! Adding more vegetables to your diet is great for many reasons, one of which is improved bladder health. Vegetables like kale and cauliflower are high in vitamin C and calcium to support kidney function while corn and potatoes are high in magnesium which can help your bladder to fully empty. If you struggle with getting in your recommended servings of veggies per day, especially green veggies, we recommend trying a high-quality powdered green drink mix. We recommend looking for one containing barley grass, wheat grass, brown rice, chlorella, and kelp, to really pack the most healthy “punch” possible. Suffice to say, a powdered green drink is the perfect vehicle for boosting your daily greens intake.
Consider practicing pelvic floor muscle exercises. Pelvic floor exercises, also known as kegel exercises, can help to hold urine in the bladder. Daily exercises can strengthen these muscles which can help keep urine from leaking when you sneeze, cough, laugh, or have a sudden urge to urinate. These exercises also may help to avoid infections by strengthening the muscles that help empty the bladder.
Trouble with UTI’s? Try a supplement containing cranberry. UTI’s are one of the most common types of infection in older adults, especially women (though men can get them too!). UTI’s often result when urine pools in the bladder, making it the perfect spot for bacteria to grow. Now, how can we ward off UTI’s? We recommend investing in a quality probiotic geared towards urinary tract health – then you can support both healthy digestion as well as urinary health. Probiotics contain certain colonies of “good” bacteria, and some evidence suggests that probiotics may help prevent UTIs by keeping the “bad” bacteria from going in the vagina. It is even better if the probiotic contains cranberry, since cranberry may help to keep bacteria from sticking to the lining of the urinary tract.1 Just make sure the probiotic contains 100% cranberry fruit extract, and doesn’t use any solvents, preservatives, sugar, water, or added flavorings.
Our last tip is to avoid bladder irritants. Certain foods and fluids can cause bladder irritation, which can cause an overactive bladder, leading to leakage and increased urgency and frequency. To support the health of your bladder, it helps to avoid spicy foods, caffeinated and carbonated beverages, vinegar, and tomato-based foods when possible. Try to cut these from your diet or dilute them with water to reduce the impact on your bladder. If this is too challenging, consider avoiding these possible bladder irritants for one week to see if it causes a favorable impact on your bladder. Then gradually, every one to two days, add one back into your diet, noting any changes in urinary urgency, frequency, or incontinence.
Although bladder problems are not likely to come up over brunch with friends, they are more common than you might think, and it is important that you take an active role in your bladder health to keep it healthy for years to come. If you have questions about maintaining your bladder health, we recommend consulting your primary care physician or urologist.
- Hisano M, Bruschini H, Nicodemo A, et al. Cranberries and lower urinary tract infection prevention. El Sevier Clinics. 2012; 67(6): 661-667.
This article is for informational purposes only. This article is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice.