Our bladders are good at a lot of things, but do you know what our bladders are exceptionally great at?? FORMING HABITS. The way you train your bladder to function without even realizing it can have a huge impact on your day to day life.
You may suddenly realize that you are going to the bathroom every thirty minutes to an hour; you go to the bathroom and then feel like you need to go again ten minutes later; you park the car in the driveway, and like clockwork, the strong urgency to urinate hits you and you have to run to the bathroom before even unloading the groceries; you find yourself going to the bathroom 3 times before bed “just in case” because you are nervous that you will have to get up and go in the middle of the night. The list could go on. These symptoms did not just pop up overnight, rather, over time your body and bladder have developed habits and patterns of urinating that eventually become so interrupting to your lifestyle that you seek help or start to realize that things are not the way they used to be.
GUESS WHAT? Habits can be broken and you can start taking control of your bladder rather than feeling like your bladder is controlling you. So, grab your beverage of choice, cuddle up with a blanket, and let’s talk about tips for maintaining optimal bladder health.
“JIC” Peeing: Just in Case Peeing
Have you ever gotten ready to go to Target and then right before you get in the car, you go to the bathroom “just in case” before leaving the house? Or what about before your 45 minute exercise class, you empty your bladder “just in case” but then right when that 45 minute class is over, you go again before heading home...just in case. You make dinner for the family but before you sit down to eat, you go to the bathroom - yep, you guessed it - JUST IN CASE so that you can enjoy a warm meal and family time without the annoyance of potentially having to go to the bathroom. Don’t lie. We have all done it.
The problem with frequently going to the bathroom preventatively is that your bladder becomes retrained to give you the signal or urge to void when it is only partially full. As your bladder forms the habit of giving you the signal to “go” when only partially full, every time you leave the house, every time you pull into your driveway, etc. you may find yourself going to the bathroom very frequently. Daily life activities become dictated by whether or not you will have easy access to a bathroom. Typically, we should be able to wait 3-4 hours in between voiding, however, this voiding window easily becomes smaller and smaller if we aren’t careful.
Ignoring the Urge all Day:
This is essentially the opposite of “JIC” peeing. While it is unhealthy for our bladders to give us the signal to void prematurely, it is also unhealthy to wait 5+ hours in between voiding. Feeling the urge to urinate but trying to forget about it as long as possible until you literally cannot wait anymore or you may have an accident dampens the bladder’s ability to send urge signals to the brain over time. This may lead to urge incontinence (leaking urine before reaching the toilet because the urge to void is overpowering), weakness and poor coordination of the pelvic floor muscles, not feeling any sensation or urge to void. Delaying taking a trip to the bathroom is especially common with nurses, teachers, busy moms and dads, truck drivers, police officers, and other occupations that require prolonged hours without optimal breaks.
If this is you, find ways to overcome the barrier of feeling like you can’t take the time to go to the bathroom. That may mean setting a timer, writing a sticky note reminder, going out of your way to ask a coworker to cover you for 3 minutes to allow you to use the restroom.
Several food and drink products have a tendency to irritate the lining of the bladder or produce bladder spasms giving you the false sensation that you need to urinate; this irritation can also cause bladder and urinary tract discomfort and sensitivity. Bladder irritants often increase urinary frequency, urinary urgency, bladder or urethral discomfort, and even urinary incontinence.
Common bladder irritants include: dairy products, tomato based products, caffeine including coffee, tea, and soda, chocolate, alcohol, products with high acidity, and products with high sugar content. Does this mean that you have to completely eliminate these things from your diet forever? I’m sure you are relieved that the answer is, “no”. Knowing that these products will likely increase your symptoms allows you to take more control; maybe you do eliminate these things completely for a couple of weeks to help get your body and bladder back on track and then slowly add them back into your diet in moderation. If short term elimination is not ideal, having this information will at least help you strategically plan your day better. If you know you are about to go on a road trip, drink more water and less coffee or soda. If you know you are about to run errands for the next few hours, think twice about eating that big bowl of yogurt with a side of coffee before leaving the house. Maybe you eat spaghetti for lunch instead of dinner if most of your symptoms increase at night or before you go to bed.
The key takeaway is to avoid or decrease intake of bladder irritants if you are already struggling with bladder type symptoms and to eat/drink these products in moderation even if you don’t have blaring symptoms in order to keep your bladder and urinary tract lining healthy and happy long term.
Take Your Time on the Toilet:
One of the major causes of urinary frequency, bladder discomfort, urinary tract infections, and urinary leakage is incomplete bladder emptying when you sit on the toilet. Incomplete emptying is exactly what it sounds like; you sit on the toilet, start and end your stream, and pull up your pants to go about your day, yet, there is residual urine left in the bladder or urethra that did not come out when you were on the toilet.
Sometimes this occurs because of tension and spasm of your pelvic floor muscles in which case I recommend you see a pelvic floor physical therapist to resolve the underlying muscle dysfunction. No matter who you are, the following tips will optimize your bladder health and set healthy urination and bladder habits.
- Slow down. Rather than rushing through the urination process, take even just 20 more seconds to ensure complete and proper emptying of your bladder. After your stream of urine ends, stay on the toilet 20-30 more seconds to ensure that any final drips have a chance to exit.
- Deep breathing. As you sit for those extra seconds, perform some slow, deep breathing as you focus on relaxing your pelvic floor muscles. With your deep inhale, think about lengthening your pelvic floor or an elevator dropping down to your feet. Relax your bottom cheeks and relax your lower belly so that nothing is restricting your pelvic floor, bladder, or urethra
- Wiggle. Yes, wiggling a little bit while on the toilet - think about “wagging your tail” - can be helpful to completely empty your bladder and urethra especially if you are prone to dripping or leaking a little bit when you stand to pull up your pants.
Most of us do not realize how vast of an impact our pelvic floor muscles, bladders, and surrounding tissues and organs have on our day to day lives until something becomes “off”.
The clinicians at MOJO Pelvic Health desire to educate and empower you to connect with your body, understand your body’s optimal function, and take control of reaching your full potential without barriers and interruptions caused by poor pelvic floor and bladder dysfunction. If you feel that you need more specific treatment based on your symptoms, we would love to help you!
Schedule an appointment with one of our MOJO physical therapists today, and in the meantime, try out some of the new tips you just learned in this blog. Your bladder will thank you!