Taking road trips, travelling, being physically active, having a good laugh, having a good time outdoors with friends and families or having a good night’s sleep are little things in life that make it all worthwhile. But not many of us who don’t suffer from bladder control issues realise the impact of bladder health on all these aspects of life. People struggling with bladder health have to constantly keep aware of the nearest bathroom due to strong, uncontrollable urges to urinate, think about preventing urine leakage, protect clothing from wetness and escape the stigma of making frequent trips to the bathroom.
November is Bladder Health Month and we’d like to shed some light to common bladder health problems and some things that you can do to improve bladder health.
COMMON BLADDER HEALTH PROBLEMS
1. Urinary Incontinence
Urinary incontinence is the leaking of urine that you can’t control. The severity of urinary incontinence ranges from leaking urine when you cough or sneeze to having that strong “gotta go” urge or feeling. 
A type of urinary incontinence is stress urinary incontinence (SUI). It happens when the pelvic floor muscles have stretched. Physical activity puts pressure on the bladder, then the bladder leaks. Leaking may happen with exercise, walking, bending, lifting, or even sneezing and coughing. It can be a few drops of urine to a tablespoon or more. 
Another type of urinary incontinence is overflow incontinence. With overflow incontinence, the body makes more urine than the bladder can hold or the bladder is full and cannot empty thereby causing it to leak urine. There may also be something blocking the flow or perhaps the bladder muscle may not contract (squeeze) as it should. Symptoms of overflow incontinence include frequent urinating of a small amount and a constant drip, called “dribbling.”
Urinary incontinence is not a disease, but a symptom of many conditions. It is also not hereditary nor is it a normal part of aging. It can be managed or treated.
Photo by Sasun Bughdaryan on Unsplash
2. Overactive Bladder (OAB)
Overactive bladder (OAB) can cause strong, sudden urges to go to the bathroom and result in urinary incontinence or leakage.  OAB can also cause someone to urinate many times during the day and night.
OAB is more common among men with prostate problems and women after menopause.
With OAB, your brain tells your bladder to empty even when it is not full, or the bladder muscles are too active - contracting (squeezing) to pass urine before your bladder is full - causing the urge to urinate. 
OAB is not a disease, but a name given to a group of troubling urinary symptoms. It can be managed and treated by making lifestyle changes, drugs, or surgery.
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3. Urinary Tract Infection (UTI)
A UTI is when bacteria get into your urine and travel up to your bladder.
When you have UTI, the lining of the bladder and urethra become red, irritated and inflamed, causing pain in your lower abdomen, pelvic area and lower back, and will usually make you feel like urinating more often. Burning or pain when urinating is the most common symptom. You may also feel a strong urge or need to urinate but only get a few drops. At times, you may also find that your urine smells bad and is cloudy. 
Women are more likely to get a UTI than men because women have shorter urethras than men, so bacteria have a shorter distance to travel to reach the bladder.
There are steps that can be taken to avoid UTIs.
Photo by Anthony Tran on Unsplash
HOW TO IMPROVE BLADDER HEALTH
1. Drink enough water
Stay hydrated by drinking approximately 2 litres of water a day. 
Limit your intake of coffee, tea, cola or alcohol as these can heighten bladder activity and lead to leakage. 
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2. Have good bathroom habits
Don’t hold your urine and make sure to urinate when you feel the need to. Most of us need to urinate approximately every 3 to 4 hours. 
Women should sit to go to the toilet - they should not hover over the toilet seat.
Take your time when on the toilet so that your bladder can empty - if you rush, and do not empty your bladder fully, over time, you could get a bladder infection. 
Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash
3. Do Kegel exercises
Kegel exercises help to make the muscles under the uterus, bladder and bowel stronger. Kegel exercises are very helpful for those having problems with urine leakage. 
Kegel exercises can be done any time you are sitting or lying down. You can do them while you’re eating, sitting at your work desk, driving, resting or watching television.
How to do basic Kegel exercises?
- Make sure your bladder is empty, then sit or lie down.
- Tighten your pelvic floor muscles. Hold tight and count 3 to 5 seconds.
- Relax the muscles and count 3 to 5 seconds.
- Repeat 10 times, 3 times a day (morning, afternoon, night).
*Breathe deeply and relax your body when you are doing these exercises. Make sure you are not tightening your stomach, thigh, buttock, or chest muscles.
After 4 to 6 weeks, you should feel better and have fewer symptoms. Keep doing the exercises, but do not increase how many you do. Overdoing it can lead to straining when you urinate or move your bowels.
- Lie on the back and bend the knees, with the feet flat on the floor about hip-width apart. Keep the arms by the sides with the palms facing down.
- Contract the buttocks and pelvic floor muscles, and lift the buttocks several inches off the ground.
- Hold this position for 3 to 8 seconds.
- Relax the buttocks and pelvic floor muscles, and lower the buttocks to the ground.
- Repeat this up to 10 times per set.
- Rest, then perform up to two additional sets.
Photo by Pericoach
Doing Kegel exercises while you are urinating can weaken your pelvic floor muscles over time or cause damage to bladder and kidneys.
In women, doing Kegel exercises incorrectly or with too much force may cause vaginal muscles to tighten too much. This can cause pain during sexual intercourse.
Incontinence will return if you stop doing these exercises. Once you start doing them, you may need to do them for the rest of your life.
4. Take supplements
- Ideal for UTIs.
- Punarnava is a herb that controls the recurrence of urinary system infections by neutralizing disease-causing germs and their toxic effects, thus supporting healthy kidney and urinary function.
- Also contains antioxidants to protect the body from free radical damage.
- Helps to manage Benign Prostate Hyperplasia (BPH).
- Contains both 5-ARI and α-blocker to decrease prostate growth and relieve urination problems effectively.
- Offers instant symptomatic relief for urination problems.
- Relieves symptoms of prostate enlargement (e.g., frequent urination at night, weak urine stream, straining to pass urine, incomplete bladder emptying, etc.)
- Combats UTIs and symptoms.
- Normalizes urinary pH and alleviates burning during urination.
- Has antimicrobial properties to combat urinary pathogens.
- Has anti-inflammatory properties to soothe an irritated bladder.
- Suitable for those experiencing OAB.
- Traditionally used to improve urination, reduce minor swelling and relieve body heatiness.