Everyone uses their bladder many times each day, but they may not know what to do to keep their bladder healthy. Located in the lower abdomen, the bladder is a hollow organ, much like a balloon, that stores urine. It is part of the urinary system, which also includes the kidneys, ureters, and urethra.
How the Kidneys and Bladder Function
The kidneys remove toxins and waste from our blood. Every day, the kidneys filter approximately 150 liters blood to produce up to 2 liters of urine. Urine consists of wastes and extra fluid. The bladder stores urine normally until we are in good place to empty our bladders. As urine flows into the bladder, the muscular walls expand like a balloon. Sudden pressure from sneezing, coughing, or exercise may overcome the valve of the bladder, the urethra, and trigger urinary leakage.
According to the American Urogynecologic Society, these types of leaks are most common among women over 45 years old, or women who have given birth. This type of leakage associated with physical activity is called Stress Urinary Incontinence.
Unfortunately, we can also experience Overactive Bladder. It is helpful to understand that we are born with a bladder than empties well on its own and it takes most of us 3-7 years to learn to control our bladders. As we age, we become more prone to our bladders emptying outside our control. Overactive Bladder (OAB) is a complex condition that affects about 15 percent of women. It is costly, embarrassing, and frequently results in avoiding social activities due to fear of leakage.
If you feel an uncontrollable urge to empty your bladder or you have an urge to go that you cannot defer, you may need bladder health support.
Common Bladder Problems
Bladder problems are common and can disrupt day-to-day life. When people have bladder problems, they may avoid social settings and have a harder time getting tasks done at home or at work.
Common bladder problems include:
- Urinary tract infections (UTIs)—UTIs are the second most common type of infection in the body and can happen anywhere in the urinary system. More than half of women will have at least one UTI in their lifetime. Older women are more likely to get UTIs because the bladder muscles weaken and make it hard to fully empty the bladder. This causes urine to stay in the bladder. When urine stays in the bladder too long, it makes an infection more likely. Types of UTIs include:
- Bladder infection—This is the most common type of UTI, in which bacteria enter the bladder and cause symptoms such as strong and sudden urges to urinate.
- Kidney infection—Infections in the bladder can spread to the kidneys, which can lead to severe problems. When kidney infections occur frequently or last a long time, they may cause permanent damage to the kidneys.
- Urethra infection —A UTI can also develop in the urethra, but this is less common.
- Lower urinary tract symptoms (LUTS)—a group of symptoms such as trouble urinating, loss of bladder control, leaking urine, and frequent need to urinate. LUTS are caused by problems with the bladder, urethra, or pelvic floor muscles.
- Bladder cancer—Bladder cancer occurs in the lining of the bladder.
Fortunately, there are natural and easy methods to support bladder health and make sure your urinary tract is functioning optimally.
Ways to Maintain Bladder Health
In a healthy bladder, the sensation to use the bathroom is not painful and can be put off until it is socially acceptable and convenient to urinate. Urination should not be painful for a healthy bladder, and urine leakage shouldn’t occur.
How can you maintain a healthy bladder? First, consider how much you are drinking and the type of fluids you consume. The old “8 glasses of water per day” rule is unfounded and may lead to over-drinking and “bladder on the brain.” Instead, drink to your thirst, and choose water above all other beverages — especially those with caffeine or artificial sweeteners. Below are a few more helpful tips:
- Urinate when you feel you need to, approximately every 3 to 4 hours.
- Choose water — it’s the healthiest beverage option and often the least expensive.
- Understand that increasing fluid intake may increase trips to the bathroom.
- Have regular bowel movements — at least once every other day.
- Maintain a healthy weight by eating wisely and getting regular exercise — obesity is linked to increased urinary urgency, frequency, and leakage.
If you have bothersome bladder symptoms, talk to your health care provider today.
Source: National Institute on Aging, https://www.ucrhealth.org, https://www.urologyhealth.org.