Urinary incontinence (UI) can be defined as the accidental or unwanted leakage of urine. The most common type of incontinence is called stress incontinence, where a small amount of urine is leaked during activities such as coughing, laughing, sneezing or exercise. Currently, it is estimated that approximately 1.5 million Canadians have some sort of incontinence issue, with most of that demographic being women.
There are a number of underlying triggers to incontinence, including nerve damage, age and childbearing. As a woman ages, a drop in estrogen during menopause can cause the weakening of the pelvic and vaginal muscles, increasing the incidence of urinary leakage. In addition, after childbirth, a woman's pelvic muscles are stretched and the nerves in the bladder can be damaged.
In general, healthy individuals will empty their bladders every three to four hours and may get up once a night to urinate. More than that may be indicative of UI. Unfortunately, it is estimated that nearly 30 per cent of all woman who do experience UI do not seek help due to embarrassment. However, there are specific natural and non-invasive approaches that can greatly improve the condition. These approaches include:
Exercising and rehabilitating the pelvic floor muscles is of the utmost importance in regaining strength. Kegel exercises involve squeezing the pelvic muscles for a count of 10 and relaxing for a count of 10. This exercise should be repeated 20 times, three to four times per day. In order to identify the proper muscles to squeeze, when urinating, attempt to stop the flow of urine completely. The muscles that are clenched are the pubococcygeus or "PC" muscles, which form the floor of the pelvis.
Biofeedback is a natural training technique that uses signals from the body to help control the symptoms of incontinence. Consulting a trained and certified biofeedback therapist is necessary. For more information, visit www.aapb.org.
Reduce caffeine intake
Many people reduce their water or fluid intake to avoid embarrassing situations. This approach is neither effective nor healthy in the long term and can result in unpleasant odours and constipation. It is important to hydrate with six to eight glasses of water or natural juice per day, spaced out over time. If nighttime urination is an issue, cut back on fluids prior to bedtime. In addition, it is best to avoid caffeinated beverages such as colas and coffee, as caffeine is a bladder irritant.
Urinary incontinence does not have to be a life-long sentence of embarrassment and avoidance of specific activities. With proper strength training in the pelvic region and optimal food choices, symptoms can decrease and even subside.
Dr. Joey Shulman is author of national bestseller The Natural Makeover Diet (Wiley, 2006). For more information, visit www.drjoey.com.
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