Tips N' tricks to manage leaks
By Leanne Beattie:
You’re out for dinner with friends, having a glass of wine and laughing when you feel it: the dreaded urine leak! You get up and carefully leave the table, hoping nobody notices your awkward walk to the restroom. It’s natural to feel frustrated and a bit embarrassed, but did you know that urinary incontinence (UI) can often be improved with simple lifestyle changes?
Here are some tips and tricks that may help you control leaks.
Strengthen your pelvic muscles
You know how lifting weights keeps your biceps toned? Well your pelvic floor muscles need a workout too. One of the most important things we can do is pelvic floor muscle training exercises (commonly known as Kegels) every day. These 3D videos for women and men show how the pelvic floor muscle moves and supports bladder and bowel control.
Kegels will strengthen the muscles that support your bladder and urethra and help you stay dry1. Instructions: Kegel exercises
Need help? Contact a Continence Nurse Advisor (NSWOC) or a physiotherapist (PT) specializing in continence or pelvic floor health. No referral is needed. Check with your insurance company to see if a doctor’s order is needed for payment.
Lose a little
Carrying extra pounds puts pressure on your bladder and the surrounding muscles, which can lead to leaks. By losing even a bit of weight you can improve your symptoms. Research has shown that overweight women who lost an average of 8 kg (18 lbs) improved their urinary incontinence 2.
If you’re looking for a reason to quit smoking, consider doing it for your bladder. The risk of urinary incontinence is higher in people who smoke due to bladder muscle irritation from nicotine.3
What’s on your shopping list?
Improving UI could be as easy as paying attention to your shopping list. You may notice a difference in your symptoms if you reduce or avoid spicy and acidic foods known to irritate the bladder 4:
- Artificial sweeteners
- Carbonated drinks
- Citrus fruits & juices
- Spicy foods e.g. curries, chili peppers, etc.
Take fewer bathroom breaks
Have you ever been just about to leave the house, and then decide to go to the bathroom one more time “just in case”? Many people with urinary incontinence get in the habit of taking a bathroom break even if they don’t really have to go. However, this practice can make incontinence worse because it gets the bladder used to holding less urine.
Instead of making extra pit stops to avoid accidents, it is possible to retrain your bladder to function more regularly. Work with your doctor or Continence Advisor to develop a program that works for you.
Keep your bowels happy
It may not seem like an obvious connection, but being constipated can make your incontinence worse. Hard stools weakens the muscles that control urination, while straining to have a bowel movement can weaken your pelvic floor muscles. An easy way to improve constipation is by eating more fruits and vegetables, exercising, and drinking water.5
Sedatives, diuretics, muscle relaxants, antidepressants, blood pressure and heart medications, and over-the-counter cold medication may cause urinary incontinence. Talk to your doctor or pharmacist about any medications you’re taking to see if they could be the cause of your incontinence.6
Use the right product
Women’s sanitary pads aren’t the best choice for managing UI.7 Sanitary pads stay damp leaving your skin moist and prone to irritation. Use a pad or pull-up specifically designed to absorb urine. There are a number of incontinence products available depending on your situation and need. A Continence Nurse Advisor or Incontinence Specialist can assist you.
Some women use tampons as a ‘bladder hack’ for managing UI. Tampons are OK to use for short periods of time, like when you are exercising; however, it is not recommended to use tampons all day every day to treat your UI. 8
The research is clear: by adopting some or all of these tips you too can see a reduction in UI episodes, return to the activities you love to do and increase your freedom to live life to the fullest. For more information click on the links below.
Office on Women’s Health
- Subak LL. Weight Loss: A novel and effective treatment for urinary incontinence. 2005. J. Urol. 175(1)
The Canadian Continence Foundation
Annals of Internal Medicine
The Canadian Continence Foundation