6 Tips to Help Your Wee Problem
It’s a play on words but urinary incontinence issues are far from small for those who suffer them. Whether incontinence is no longer being able to play sports or run about with your kids or constantly worrying about the potential embarrassment after a cough or sneeze, every person’s experience is different. The good news is that there are things you can do to manage your incontinence so you can get back to doing the things you love.
1. Drink plenty of water
When you’re struggling to control your bladder, it can be tempting to avoid drinking too much in an attempt to decrease urine output. However, reducing your fluid intake can actually have the opposite effect. When you drink less, your urine becomes more concentrated and more irritating to your bladder. A sensitive bladder will produce a stronger reflex to empty making both urge and stress incontinence types worse.
2. Reduce “brown” drinks
Our team recommend the one type of fluid to avoid is brown drinks like coffee, tea and cola. These drinks in particular contain ingredients like caffeine and sugar that can increase the production of urine.
Coffee, tea, alcohol and carbonated drinks, even those without caffeine are all bladder irritants as well. This combination will increase the effect of stress, urge and mixed incontinence so trying your best to cut down or avoid these drinks all together will reduce the chance of leaks.
3. Manage constipation
An overfull bowel leaves less room for your bladder. This cuts down on the volume of urine your bladder can hold and will increase frequency of needing to go to the toilet.
Being regular can vary person to person, but generally going 3 times per day – 3 times per week is considered the normal range. You should be able to hold on until you get to the toilet and once done you should feel you have completely emptied your bowel.
Constipation might be due to lack of fluid intake (as above) so try to ensure you’re getting 1.5-2L of water in per day (6-8glasses). It may also be due to low fibre intake or other causes to do with lack of exercise, structural changes post child-birth, health conditions or medications. So if you feel you’re drinking enough and have a fibre rich diet this is worth having a chat with your GP about.
4. Perform pelvic floor exercises
Most people are probably aware exercising the pelvic floor muscles can be a great way to improve continence and reduce issues in the future but you might be shocked to know many people have no idea where to start or do these exercises incorrectly.
It can be difficult to find “the knack” and as the exercise is done internally it’s not easy to watch someone else do it and learn the way you might other exercises. We wholeheartedly believe the best way to start pelvic floor exercises is to have a session with a trained professional like a physiotherapist. Don’t worry, you dont need to have an internal examination which may turn some people off, although this can be a really valuable experience to truely get a sense of where you’re pelvic floor is at in terms of strength AND endurance.
Once you know how to find and activate your pelvic floor muscles you can start to work on training and exercising them, like you would any other muscle in your body.
5. Keep a bladder diary
There’s no better way to get on top of your wee problem than starting to document it. A bladder diary is a simple chart that allows you to record your intake and output for the day. You can also write down any wee problems – leaks or larger scale accidents that occur and what you were doing at the time.
A bladder diary really helps us as physiotherapists who unfortunately cant be with you 24/7 to get an understanding of what is happening with your bladder. Fairly quickly we can tell whether your incontinence might be stress or urged based or both, whether your fluid intake and output is imbalanced and how sensitive your bladder is when it’s filling up.
You can download a bladder diary to use at the Continence Foundation of Australia here. If you bring this in all filled in before your first physio session you’ll be guaranteed to be your physio’s favourite patient.
6. Reduce stress
Managing urinary incontinence can be stressful. Unfortunately the more worried or anxious you become about having a leak or accident the more processing your brain and nervous system is doing. This makes the nerve endings in your bladder more sensitive to stimulation and therefore far more likely to either tell you you need to go or potentially start emptying reflexively.
Calming yourself even when you are desperate to reach the toilet can be a really effective technique to settle the urge to go. This technique is especially useful if you know that your bladder tends to signal it wants to empty before its really full (urge type incontinence). We know it seems counterintuitive but rather than rushing, try pausing and taking a few deep breaths. Finding something to sit down on can give some support to your pelvic floor which can give you the reassurance that you can successfully pause and calm yourself and then walk confidently to the loo without a leak.