Lifestyle Changes for an Overactive Bladder
An overactive bladder involves a sudden urge to go to the bathroom and often an inability to hold your urine. In some cases, incontinence also occurs with an overactive bladder, as well as having to go to the bathroom several times overnight.
According to the Urology Care Foundation, about 33 million people in the United States have an overactive bladder, but that number may even be higher. Many people with the condition don’t seek help. Whether it is due to embarrassment or because they don’t think anything can be done, many people don’t tell their doctor.
But there is help. In addition to medication, lifestyle changes may also help reduce symptoms of an overactive bladder.
It’s important to understand there is not a one size fits all treatment for an overactive bladder. What is effective for one person may not work for someone else. Lifestyle changes to treat an overactive bladder do not have any negative side effects and may be something most people can try. Consider some of the following strategies:
Limit foods and drinks that irritate your bladder: Certain foods and drinks may irritate your bladder and contribute to the urgency you feel. Common culprits include coffee, soda, citrus fruits and spicy foods. Consider keeping a log of what you eat and how severe your symptoms are. Take one bladder irritating food or drink out of your diet at a time and see if symptoms improve.
Maintain a healthy weight: Being overweight can negatively affect your overall health including your bladder. Extra weight increases the pressure on the bladder, which can contribute to feelings of urgency. Getting to a healthy weight may not completely treat an overactive bladder, but it may decrease the severity.
Develop healthy bowel habits: If you’re constipated, it may put more pressure on your bladder. Avoiding constipation and maintaining healthy bowel habits may also improve bladder function. Be sure to drink plenty of water, get regular exercise and eat enough fiber.
Quit smoking: Cigarette smoking can irritate the muscles in the bladder, which may play a role in urgency. Although it can be difficult to break the habit, patches, medication and behavioral therapy can all help you quit.
Bladder training: Although bladder training is not a lifestyle change, it is a strategy to decrease an overactive bladder without medications. Bladder training involves gradually increasing the time between going to the bathroom. The goal is to train your bladder to hold larger volumes while gaining control over the urge to urinate.