Today is the THIRD installment in our Healthy Bladder Series! If you missed the first two posts, click here for why you shouldn’t “hover” over the toilet seat when urinating, and click here to learn how to FULLY empty your bladder (and why you should NOT do kegels while peeing).
And now for today’s topic… Eating for bladder health!
Five “Happy Bladder” Foods
Include these in your diet today!
1) Vegetables and Fruit. Produce tops every “healthy eating” list. Veggies and fruit are at the top of this list due to their fiber content. Berries, apples, pears, coconut, artichokes, leafy greens, pumpkin, carrots, peas, split peas (cooked) and sweet potatoes just to name a few… Basically, anything from the produce section of your favorite grocery store is fantastic for upping your fiber consumption.
Why is fiber important? Dietary fiber helps you maintain regularity, as long as you are getting enough water to flush it through your system (so be sure to drink plenty of fluid). If you are not regular — if you are constipated — your full bowels will put pressure on your bladder. This can lead to urinary leakage and/or a feeling of urinary urgency (i.e., “I’ve gotta pee, RIGHT NOW!”). In addition, chronic constipation — and the pushing/straining to have a BM that often accompanies it — can contribute to pelvic organ prolapse. So be sure to get serious about adequate fiber intake and drinking enough water to go with it.
When most people think about fiber, they think of oatmeal, whole wheat bread, brown rice, etc. However, grains can be highly inflammatory to many people’s GI tract. If you are one of the millions of people who get MORE “stopped up” rather than less when trying to increase fiber intake via whole grains, consider a new tactic: increase your fruit and veggie intake, decrease your grain intake, drink plenty of water, and make sure you ingest plenty of healthy fats (more info on fats coming).
To read more about my journey with constipation and how I overcame it by adopting a grain-free diet, click here to read my guest post titled “The #1 Flat-Belly Secret” originally posted on The Paleo Parents Blog last year.
2) Omega 3 Fatty Acids. Omega 3 fatty acids are found in fish, certain nuts and seeds (walnuts, Brazil, and macadamia nuts are high in Omega 3′s, as are flax, hemp and chia seeds), grass fed meats, and certain oils. Of course, supplements can always fill the void if you aren’t getting enough omegas through dietary sources. I recommend Nordic Naturals Arctic Cod Liver Oil (both the lemon and the orange flavors are fantastic… Not fishy at all).
Omega 3 fatty acids keep your bladder — and the rest of your body — happy by reducing inflammation. When the bladder lining is inflamed, such as when you have a bladder infection or Interstitial Cystitis (also known as IC or “painful bladder syndrome”), the pain can be unbearable. If you have either of these conditions (a bladder infection or IC) you will want to see a medical specialist for treatment, but any woman can do her entire body a favor by eating anti-inflammatory foods.
3) Probiotics. These “healthy bacteria” live in your gut and help provide smooth elimination and bowel regularity. Again, bowel regularity is imperative for bladder and pelvic floor health. If you are constipated, your full bowels will push on your bladder causing it to be more sensitive and more prone to leakage. Furthermore, straining to eliminate a constipated bowel movement causes stress and strain on the pelvic floor muscles.
Cultured milk products (i.e. yogurt) are the classic way to consume probiotics via food. If you do not tolerate dairy you can also get probiotics through fermented vegetables (i.e. sauerkraut, certain pickles, and kimchi) and/or dietary supplements. If you purchase fermented veggies for their probiotic content, make sure the only ingredients are veggies and salt, and that the labels include words such as “live” or “active cultures.”
Note: If you suffer from SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth), talk to your healthcare provider before taking probiotics. Some probiotics — especially supplemental forms that also contain prebiotics — can hinder rather than help your symptoms.
4) Herbal Teas. Herbal teas (or hot water with lemon) are good alternatives to caffeinated beverages such as coffee and black or green tea. Caffeine, even in small quantities, can be problematic for women dealing with urinary urgency. Caffeine is a stimulant, which can make your nervous system “jumpy” and may increase anxiety. This can increase urinary urgency and decrease bladder control for some women.
Caffeine is also a diuretic, meaning that it causes water to leave your body (in other words, it causes urination). In addition, caffeine has been shown to relax the detrusor (bladder wall) muscles, thereby causing the bladder to feel fuller more frequently. For a happy bladder, ditch the java and choose herbal tea instead! Two herbal teas that tend to be soothing and calming are chamomile and peppermint.
5) Stevia (or no sweetener at all). Chemical-based artificial sweeteners have been shown to be irritating and inflammatory to the bladder lining, which is problematic for women dealing with painful bladder syndrome and for women with urinary urgency. Sweeten your foods and beverages with natural sweeteners such as stevia or honey… Or better yet, avoid sugar and other sweeteners altogether. Sweets are highly addictive, highly caloric, and – save the exception of fruits – generally devoid of nutrition.
Lastly, remember to eat in moderation.
I love food, and I love to eat…. Don’t we all? However, to prevent (and even treat) incontinence, it is important to maintain a healthy weight. Excess weight is directly correlated with an increased risk of both pelvic organ prolapse AND urinary incontinence. The good news? Improved bladder control has been shown to be a benefit associated with moderate weight reduction.
For more information about weight loss in the treatment of urinary incontinence, refer to the study: “Weight loss to treat urinary incontinence in overweight and obese women” in the New England Journal of Medicine, 2009.
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