Knowing that you may need to quickly find a bathroom with little or no warning can cramp your lifestyle. You might say no to fun activities, and miss special outings with family and friends because you’re concerned about the inconvenience and possible embarrassment.
But even if you have persistent and unpredictable symptoms of overactive bladder (OAB), you don’t have to resign yourself to staying home. In fact, if you do, you may only make things worse. Avoiding exercise and other physical activities may lead to obesity and poor muscle tone, and both could add to incontinence problems.
Staying active–physically, mentally, and socially–is essential for a happy life. So now’s the time to take simple steps that can help you take your life back and return to doing the things you enjoy most. Here are some tips that can help prevent overactive bladder from standing in your way.
Choose the right activities. Some people need to avoid high-impact activities like running or tennis because they cause leaking. If this is an issue for you, experiment with ways to modify the activity–say, power walking instead of running. Or look for low-impact alternatives like swimming or bicycling.
Train in advance. Work with your doctor to teach your bladder to hold urine longer, resist the feeling of urgency, and urinate only at scheduled times during the day. Ask about simple Kegel exercises that can strengthen the muscles you use to prevent urination.
Get ready, get set, go–and go again. Here’s a trick many people with OAB swear by: Urinate about half an hour before leaving the house, and then urinate again immediately before leaving. That can help to empty your bladder more completely, so you don’t have to go again during your activity.
Do restroom reconnaissance. Find out where the nearest restrooms are at your destination, either before you leave home or immediately upon arrival. Your smartphone can help; look for restroom-locator apps (they’re great for long drives too).
Don’t be afraid to drink. It’s okay to cut back on fluids a little when you’re about to leave for an activity where getting to a bathroom may be difficult. But most of the time, avoiding liquids so you won’t have to urinate as often isn’t a good idea. That only results in more concentrated urine that may irritate your bladder and cause you to urinate more frequently.
Your urine will tell you whether you’re getting enough to drink. It should be pale yellow. Smelly, dark yellow urine means you’re not drinking enough. Get about 3 or 4 glasses of liquid per day–more if you’re sweating from heat or exercise. And avoid or reduce liquids that may worsen your bladder symptoms: coffee, tea, citrus juices, alcohol, and other beverages that contain caffeine or artificial sweeteners.
Watch what you eat. Some foods may make OAB symptoms worse. Among the culprits: spicy foods, citrus fruits, tomatoes, and (sorry about that) chocolate. If you can’t completely eliminate them, at least cut down. Individuals vary in how they react to these and other foods. Keep a food and beverage diary to help learn which foods may trigger your bladder problems so you can avoid them on a day when you’ll be physically active.
Be good to your bowels. Constipation may contribute to bladder problems. Get plenty of fiber in your diet to help maintain regularity. Exercise helps too–another reason to stay active.
A healthy lifestyle helps. If you smoke, here’s another incentive to quit: cigarette smoke may irritate your bladder muscle. And if you’re overweight, know that losing those extra pounds may reduce your risk of leaking urine during exercise, coughing, laughing, and other physical activities.
Get extra help if you’re still worried about leaks. Ask your doctor about products you can wear to help prevent or reduce leaks. There are different designs for men and women.
And just in case: Accidents may happen. Wearing dark clothes makes wet spots less conspicuous. Bring extra clothes you can change into if needed, along with a sealable plastic bag for soiled clothing. And consider wearing absorbent incontinence products that can help you feel secure and confident.
Life is too good to let overactive bladder keep you on the sidelines. Start putting these tips to work today, and start saying “yes” to all those fun activities you’ve been longing for!
To learn more about overactive bladder:
8 Dos and Don'ts for Overactive Bladder
New Over-the-Counter Relief for Overactive Bladder
Could Bacteria Cause Overactive Bladder Symptoms?