Women and men really can control that “got to go now” feeling without drugs…
Women and men who scout out restrooms wherever they are may think that others don’t have to worry so much about their bladders. But that’s not true.
Eye-opening statistic: One in every five adults over age 40 has overactive bladder…and after the age of 65, a whopping one in every three adults is affected. If you regularly have a strong and sudden urge to urinate and/or need to hit the john eight or more times a day (or more than once at night), chances are you have the condition, too.
Men with prostate enlargement and postmenopausal women (due to their low estrogen levels) are at increased risk of having overactive bladder. Urinary tract infections, use of certain medications (such as antidepressants and drugs to treat high blood pressure and insomnia) and even constipation also can cause or worsen the condition.
But there is a bright side. Research is now uncovering several surprisingly simple natural approaches that are highly effective for many people with overactive bladder. Among the best…*
START WITH YOUR DIET
Most people don’t connect a bladder problem to their diets. But there is a strong link. My advice…
- Take a hard line with irritants. Alcohol, caffeine and artificial sweeteners can exacerbate the feeling of urgency caused by overactive bladder. Cutting back on these items is a good first step, but they often creep back into one’s diet over time. What helps: Keep it simple—completely avoid alcohol, caffeine (all forms, including coffee, tea and caffeine-containing foods such as chocolate) and artificial sweeteners. Stick to decaffeinated herbal teas and coffee, and use agave and stevia as sweeteners.
Many individuals also are sensitive to certain foods, such as corn, wheat, dairy, eggs and peanuts. They often trigger an immune reaction that contributes to overall inflammation in the body, including in the bladder. If your symptoms of urinary urgency and/or frequency increase after eating one of these (or any other) foods, your body may be having an inflammatory response that is also affecting your bladder. Eliminate these foods from your diet.
- Keep your gut healthy. The scientific evidence is still in the early stages, but research now suggests that leaky gut syndrome, in which excess bacterial or fungal growth harms the mucosal membrane in the intestines, is at the root of several health problems, including overactive bladder.
The theory is that an imbalance of microbes, a condition known as dysbiosis, can irritate the walls of the bladder just as it does in the gut. What helps: Probiotics and oregano oil capsules. Probiotics replenish “good” bacteria, and oregano oil has antibacterial properties that help cleanse “bad” bacteria and fungi from the gut.
- Drink up! People with overactive bladder often cut way back on their fluid intake because they already make so many trips to the bathroom. But when you don’t drink enough fluids, urine tends to have an irritating effect because it becomes more concentrated. This increases urgency. What helps: Drink half your body weight in ounces of water or herbal tea daily. Do not drink any fluids after 5 pm to help prevent bathroom runs during the night.
THE RIGHT SUPPLEMENTS
Cranberry supplements (or unsweetened cranberry juice) can be helpful for bladder infections, but they’re usually not the best choice for overactive bladder. My advice…
- Try pumpkin seed extract. These capsules help tone and strengthen the tissue of your pelvic-floor muscles, which gives you better bladder control. Typical dosage: 500 mg daily.
- Consider Angelica archangelica extract. This herb has gotten positive reviews from researchers who have investigated it as a therapy for overactive bladder.
Recent finding: When 43 men with overactive bladder took 300 mg of the herb daily, they had increased bladder capacity and made fewer trips to the bathroom. Typical dosage: 100 mg daily.
Other Ways to Keep Your Bladder Healthy
Kegel exercises, which help strengthen the pelvic-floor muscles, are essential for getting control of overactive bladder symptoms. Unfortunately, most people who try doing Kegels end up doing them the wrong way. How to do Kegels: Three to five times a day, contract your pelvic-floor muscles (the ones you use to stop and start the flow of urine), hold for a count of 10, then relax completely for a count of 10. Repeat 10 times. If you’re a woman and aren’t sure if you’re contracting the right muscles, there is a possible solution.
New option for women: A medical device called Apex acts as an automatic Kegel exerciser. It is inserted into the vagina and electrically stimulates the correct muscles ($249 at PourMoi.com—cost may be covered by some insurance plans). Check with your doctor to see if this would be an appropriate aid for you.
Even though there’s no handy device to help men do Kegels, the exercises usually reduce urgency when they’re performed regularly.
Kegels can easily be part of anyone’s daily routine—do them while waiting at a red light, after going to the bathroom or while watching TV.
Try acupuncture. An increasing body of evidence shows that this therapy helps relieve overactive bladder symptoms. For example, in a study of 74 women with the condition, bladder capacity, urgency and frequency of urination significantly improved after four weekly bladder-specific acupuncture sessions.
Go for biofeedback. Small electrodes are used to monitor the muscles involved in bladder control so that an individualized exercise program can be created. Biofeedback is noninvasive and is most effective when used along with other treatments. To find a board-certified provider, consult the Biofeedback Certification International Alliance, BCIA.org.
*Talk to your doctor before trying any of these herbal remedies, especially if you take medication or have a chronic health condition.You may want to consult a naturopathic doctor. To find one near you, check Naturopathic.org.