Some people have sudden, strong urges to go, or an uncontrollable flow. Others leak fluid when they laugh, sneeze, or exercise. Millions of adults in the U.S. have these or other bladder problems—so, you shouldn’t be embarrassed about it.
Still, incontinence can impact your everyday life. Fortunately, there are everyday ways to cope.
Keep a diary. Track your habits and bathroom visits in a journal. Write down what you eat and drink, how often you urinate, and when you leak. These details can help you pinpoint triggers and causes. For instance, some people find spicy or acidic foods—think tomatoes and grapefruits—irritate their bladders. Avoiding them could reduce symptoms.
Then, train your bladder. A diary can also serve as a starting point for bladder training, a gradual effort to lessen leaking. Once you know how often you go, start adding about 15 minutes between bathroom visits. Over time, you can teach your bladder to hold more liquid before it signals you to hit the loo.
Get things moving. Another common bathroom issue, constipation, can make incontinence worse. Straining to have a bowel movement puts pressure on your bladder and pelvic floor muscles.For good digestion, drink plenty of water and eat foods rich in fiber, including beans and dark-colored vegetables. And if you’re feeling blocked up, ask about your medicines. Some medicines used to treat incontinence can interfere with bowel function.
Choose your drinks wisely. Don’t cut back on fluids—you risk dehydration, which is when your body doesn’t have enough fluids to work properly. Running dry can also lead to infections and constipation, which ultimately worsens bladder issues. However, you might benefit from limiting certain beverages. Caffeinated, carbonated, or alcoholic drinks can lead to leaking or cause your bladder to fill more quickly.
Kick the habit. Smoking can bother the bladder and cause chronic coughing, which adds pressure. It’s also linked to most cases of bladder cancer. Quitting may improve your bladder control—and overall health.
Call in reinforcements. Pads or protective underwear can soak up leaks. Buy them online or in stores next to feminine hygiene products.
Talk with your healthcare provider if habit changes don’t improve your symptoms, or if leaks or urges interfere with daily life.
Depending on the cause, you might benefit from medication, pelvic floor exercises, devices, or surgery. Your primary care provider can advise you on the best options or refer you to a specialist.