The fear of embarrassment due to bladder leakage and frequent urges for urination affects majority of the elderly population. However, for women urinary incontinence and urinary problems are not limited to old age!
As many as 40% of the women suffer from bladder problems at multiple stages of life. It can happen in pregnancy and after delivery, after any surgeries that involve reproductive system organs, at menopause and at any point when their hormones start to give them a hard time!
In this post, we will discuss the types of urinary incontinence, the causes and trigger factors and what can you do to prevent the leakage incidents.
Irrespective of the stage of life you are at, these guidelines will help you to strengthen the bladder, your pelvic floor muscles and selectively remove the factors that aggravate the problem of bladder leakages. Let’s get started!
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What is Urinary Incontinence?
Urinary Incontinence is the complaint of involuntary leakage of urine. It is primarily due to prostate enlargement in men or weakness of the pelvic floor muscles in women.
15-30% of people above 65 years are affected. Women are two times more likely to struggle with urinary problems than men.
Proper functioning of urinary system is dependent on a complex interplay of multiple systems and organs that are responsible for the storage and expulsion of urine from the bladder.
- Muscles (both smooth and striated)
- Nerves (both of the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems)
- Our brain
- Pelvic organs (including bladder, urethra, and prostate in men)
It is no wonder that there can be problems in the functioning of any of the multiple organs. And any of this, however small can lead to urinary incontinence.
Health Effects of Bladder Leakage and Urination Problems
Urinary Incontinence can be embarrassing to the patient. No one likes to pee in their pants while they are in the crowd or even amongst their loved ones.
Thus, urinary problems often become an extra reason of stress and mental jostle that affects the health of the person. It can lead to:
- Social withdrawal;
- Poor self-image;
- Sleep deprivation, as there is need to frequently rise up to empty the bladder;
- Reduced productivity due to frequent interruptions;
- Sexual dysfunction;
- Urinary tract infection;
- Falls with fractures;
- Pressure ulcers.
Thankfully, there are natural ways to regain control of those leaky bladder. Adopting these measures will help you to avoid all the associated physical and psychological complications.
Urinary Incontinence can be of different types
Based on the symptoms, urinary incontinence can be classed into different types.
It is the most common type of urinary incontinence that affects men and women alike. Stress incontinence accounts for about 49% of all cases of bladder leakages and overactive bladder problems.
It happens due to the failure of the bladder muscles to close tightly while the bladder is filling up.
Also, in this case, the pelvic floor muscles are weak. Thus, the pressure is transferred to the bladder and it makes them work harder.
As a result, any stress caused due even to common activities like laughing, physical exercise, coughing, sneezing, etc, can cause leakage of urine.
This is another common cause, accounting for 21% of all cases. There is a sudden urge to urinate, and this can cause a leakage before the patient is able to reach a bathroom. Volume of the leakage may be large or small.
Eventually on getting to the bathroom, there usually isn’t much to be let out, despite the strength of the urge to urinate.
The frequency is high and it can happen around 8 times in a day. Urge incontinence also comes with nocturia (a frequent need to arise during the night to urinate).
This happens in 29% of cases. It combines symptoms of both Stress and Urge Incontinence. That is, urine leakage due to stress occurs, and the sudden urges to urinate also occurs concurrently.
This is a very rare type of incontinence. There is urine leakage even with changes in posture.
This is precipitated by remediable factors. It usually wears off after the causative factors have been remedied.
There is small continuous leakage of urine due to improper function of the detrusor bladder muscles that are responsible for urination or due to bladder outlet obstruction.
What Ayurveda has to say about Urinary Incontinence
Urinary incontinence is a Vata Dosha disorder. It happens due to an imbalance in normal functioning of Vata dosha located in the bladder, groin, and reproductive organs.
Although bladder leakages don’t only affect the older people, it is predominant among the aged population. This could be due to the fact that Vata is more predominant in older people. As a result, there is higher chance of a Vata imbalance problems as urinary problems arising in old age.
Why are women more prone to this condition?
Women are more liable to urinary incontinence because of the changes in body that happen during pregnancy, childbirth and menopause.
These conditions place a lot of strain on the pelvic floor muscles. The pelvic floor supports the womb, bladder and the urethra. So, it only makes sense that it is weakened by pregnancy.
Additionally, the female urethra is shorter than that of males. Thus, there is less muscle available to constrict the opening and to form the sphincter that is supposed to pinch the opening shut.
Thus, there is a higher chance of leakage.
What causes Urinary Problems and Bladder Leakage?
Urinary incontinence can arise due to:
- Age Related Changes: With age, changes occur in the Lower Urinary Tract (LUT) and micturition. These changes can lead to incontinence, though not all the changes can be held responsible.
- Suppression of urine and feces put pressure on the muscles of the pelvic floor, and can weaken them eventually.
- Obesity: Excessive weight means there is a heavier load on the bladder, and the muscles there can be weakened in the long run.
- Constipation: The strain to have bowel movement can put pressure on the bladder and pelvic floor muscles.
- Nerve Damage: when nerves are damaged, they can begin to misfire, send signals at the wrong time, or send no signals at all to the bladder. Childbirth or multiple sclerosis can cause damage to nerves.
- Medications such as diuretics can also be a risk factor. The urinary incontinence resolves when the medication is stopped.
- Caffeine: Drinks containing caffeine cause the bladder to fill up quickly, and an overfilled bladder can begin to leak.
- Surgery: Surgery involving reproductive organs can tamper with the support offered by the pelvic floor muscles. Hysterectomy, uterus removal, can cause these complications.
- Diabetes and Neuropathy: Diabetes can damage nerves around the bladder that help with proper urinary function.
Addressing Urinary Incontinence
In modern medicine, there are methods of curing this condition, which include:
- Pharmacotherapy: Anticholinergic drugs, for example, help reduce involuntary detrusor contractions mediated by acetylcholine.
- Surgical Options: detrusor myomectomy and bladder myomectomy.
- Pelvic Floor Muscle Training (PFMT): Practising this for 3-4 months is also an effective remedy. People who practice this are 7x more likely to be cured.
But aside these, there are highly recommended Ayurvedic cures for urinary incontinence that you should try first. These measures are all natural and holistic in nature and they come with no risk or side effect.
What’s more is that, they are cost-effective.
Ayurvedic Herbs & Remedies for Urinary Incontinence
- Amla: Amla juice mixed with honey and consumed with a ripe banana two or three times a day are useful. This helps to clear the bladder and also tones the muscles, helping to improve control over involuntary urination.
- Tulsi: 2-3 three fresh leaves of tulsi, crushed and taken with a spoon of honey can give good results. This is best in cases where the urinary problem is caused by infections.
- Reetha: Soak it overnight and drink it early the next morning before any meal. This helps manage frequent urination, and the bonus is that it is great for hair.
- A cotton bandage dipped in dhanwantaram oil can be placed over the abdomen for 20-30 minutes daily. This normalizes the flow of Vata in the body.
- Here are Ayurvedic herbs that control muscular spasms in overactive bladder and have an antimicrobial effect. These herbs are also astringent in nature and support kidney function, thus reducing the pressure on the bladder.
- Mimosa (Touch me Not)
- Corn Silk
Lifestyle and Diet Changes to Cure, Manage or Prevent Urinary Incontinence
Beyond the herbs and other remedies, to live healthy, you must be willing to help your body to take care of itself. Really, the body was made to be self-sufficient.
However, some lifestyle and dietary habits that we indulge in antagonize the body’s natural intelligence. Correcting these habits go a long way to solving most health problems that are presented.
- Minimize fluid intake by evening if there’s a concern of nocturia.
- Bladder training: Go to bathroom at set times. Keep strictly to this schedule. You can start with hourly visits, and then increase the interval by about 15 minutes each successive week. This will help ‘force the bladder to remember’ when to discharge or not.
- Quit smoking.
- Treat constipation.
- Practice Kegel exercises. These help to strengthen the pelvic floor muscles.
- Lose excess weight.
- In case of leakage, clean self with dry cloth. Douching is not encouraged.
- If you have urinary incontinence, keep in mind that fear, worry and anxiety will not help. If anything, they disturb the signals sent by the nervous system to the bladder. You might have experienced or witnessed leakage due to fear or outright terror before, where a person’s bladder lets loose when confronted with a terrifying situation.
- Take less caffeine and carbonated drinks.
- Avoid highly acidic & alkaline foods like sodas, artificial sweeteners, spicy foods, citrus fruits and juices, and tomato-based foods. These disturb normal functioning of urinary system and worsen the problem of continence.
- Take fresh, warm and nutritious foods that balance vata dosha and strengthen the muscles.
- Limit intake of spicy foods.
- Take foods rich in fiber, nuts, beans and legumes, and peas.
- Fruits like pears, apples, potatoes and melons are helpful.
- Vitamin D rich food should also be embraced, including egg yolks, mushroom, fatty fish, etc.
- Regular consumption of 15-20 raisins and walnuts a day can help to strengthen and tone up the bladder muscles and prevent nutritional deficiencies.
Yoga to Strengthen your Bladder and Prevent Urinary Incontinence
Who wants to practice yoga when you have a leaky bladder? You probably dread the fact that your bladder will leak out some urine as you are doing the poses.
But thankfully, having a leaky bladder does not mean you’re disqualified from practicing Yoga. There are some yoga poses suitable for a leaky bladder.
But it’s beyond performing yoga without the fear and embarrassment of leakage. These poses also help to alleviate urinary incontinence. They are capable of strengthening the pelvic floor and muscles that will help you better control your bladder.
So, what are some wonderful Yoga asanas to strengthen your bladder and pelvic muscles?
Supta Badha Konasana (Reclining Bound Angle Pose)
This pose helps to increase awareness of what is going on in your lower abdomen and in the pelvic area. When you are more aware of what is going on, you can better control what will happen.
It also strengthens the inner thighs and gives you greater control over what happens there.
To perform, lie flat on your back with palms up. Bring the soles of your feet together and then lower your knees to the ground.
This pose has tremendous effects on the muscles of your pelvic floor.
To perform, kneel on the ground and sit back a little like you’re sitting on your heels. Then arc your back and stretch your arms as far as you can without breaking contact with the ground.
Cobbler’s pose increases circulation and blood flow to the bladder.
To perform, sit on the floor with legs stretched out in front. Then touch your soles together and grab both big toes while keeping your back straight.
Pull your feet in as far as possible, with your leg still touching the ground. Hold this pose for two to three minutes.
Setu Bandha (Bridge Pose)
The Bridge Pose is a restorative and energizing exercise that can strengthen the pelvic floor.
To perform, lie on your back on your mat or blanket. Bend your knees while keeping your feet flat on the mat. Keep your arms on your sides with your palms facing downwards.
Afterward, exhale while keeping your inner feet and arms pressed to the floor. Then tighten your butts and lift off the mat. Keep this positing for about 8 seconds.
Lower your butts back to the ground, then repeat ten times. When you count to ten, repeat the whole procedure again.
Badha Konasana (Bound Angle Pose)
This pose supports the untucked position of the pelvis, stabilizes the sacrum and exercises the muscles of the pelvic floor, and increases the tone of the pelvic floor muscles.
Also, Badha Konasana increases circulation to and awareness in the pelvic region.
Utkatasana (Chair Pose)
The chair pose helps with the alignment, strength, and stability of the pelvic region.
To perform, stand upright with your feet flat on the ground, knees, and ankles touching. Slightly pull your tailbone inwards, and also pull in your belly button. Then begin to slowly bend your knees as if you were sitting down.
Ensure that your spine, neck, and head are aligned with the pelvic floor. Then lift your hands slowly, palms facing each other. Hold this positing while you breathe for a while, then exhale and bend forward to touch your toes.
Legs up the wall
This pose helps to reduce the risk of leakages by ensuring that your pelvic muscles can relax fully.
Keep practicing these yoga exercises for urinary incontinence consistently. You will have fewer bladder leakage incidences within three to six months.
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