How to boost your bladder control

Don't be too embarrassed to find ways of coping with bladder weakness. Here's how your pharmacist can help.

Bladder weakness – it’s not something many people would even admit to, let alone discuss with their nearest and dearest. A survey by incontinence experts Tena, for instance, suggests that just 37 percent of women would talk about light bladder weakness with their family. And a third of women said they’d rather go for a week without chocolate than admit to their friends that they suffer from light bladder weakness.

Yet it is something that affects more people than many of us realise. The Tena survey – which was carried out earlier this year – also revealed that 62 percent of people said they had experienced light bladder weakness, with 30 percent admitting it was often or sometimes something that happened when they laughed and 61 percent claiming it happened when they coughed or sneezed.

Other statistics suggests one in four women over the age of 35 experience some sort of bladder weakness, often caused by pregnancy, childbirth, obesity or menopause. And one in nine men will experience some form of bladder weakness, too, often as a result of prostate problems or obesity.

And perhaps thanks to the fact that we are increasingly becoming an ageing population (by 2018, for instance, the number of older people in Europe is expected to exceed the number of younger people), experts reckon that by 2025 there could be as many as 29 million people with bladder weakness. And that’s just in Europe.

Ask your pharmacist

In other words, if you do have a bladder weakness problem, it’s more common than you think. You can of course discuss the problem with your pharmacist – many pharmacies these days have consultation rooms where you can talk to a pharmacist in confidence.

You could, for instance, ask about the range of products – such as incontinence pads, pants and bed and chair pads, as well as over-the-counter and prescription medicines – that’s available at your local pharmacy.

Your pharmacist can also advise you about the ways in which you can help yourself in managing bladder weakness. Here are a few tips that they may suggest:

Watch what you eat

Keep a record of what you’re eating and drinking as well as how bad your bladder weakness problems are. You may discover that certain foods or drinks affect your bladder more than others. Many people, for instance, find acidic foods and drinks, citrus foods (including orange and grapefruit juice) and spicy foods make their bladder weakness symptoms worse.

Avoid stimulants

Alcohol and caffeine are thought to irritate the bladder, which may make you want to go to the loo more often. So limit your intake of them wherever possible. Drinks that contain caffeine include coffee, tea and colas.

Drink water

Don’t stop drinking water if you have bladder weakness. Unlikely as this sounds, it may make the problem worse, as it could make your bladder get used to holding less liquid. However, try to avoid drinking too much in the few hours before going to bed.

Lose weight

Being overweight puts a strain on your pelvic floor muscles – the muscles that surround the opening to the bladder – which can also make bladder weakness worse.

Stay regular

Straining associated with constipation may also weaken your pelvic floor muscles. If, however, you have a problem with constipation, ask your pharmacist to recommend a gentle remedy.

Train your bladder

Avoid going to the loo unless you really need to – if you go too frequently, it can reduce your bladder’s capacity. Also take your time and try to empty your bladder as fully as possible when you do go. And ask your GP about learning how to do pelvic floor (or Kegel) exercises, as these too may help.