You can manage many of your OAB symptoms by making simple lifestyle changes, including staying properly hydrated, managing weight, quitting smoking, and with Kegel exercises and bladder retraining.
Often, OAB sufferers think that dehydrating themselves will decrease their OAB symptoms. It may sound counterintuitive, but staying properly hydrated (overactive bladder dehydration and overhydration are both issues) can decrease symptoms.
Decreasing fluid intake can cause a laundry list of problems, such as dehydration, constipation, and kidney stones; all the above can irritate the bladder and worsen symptoms.
Overhydration will fill the bladder too much, exacerbating OAB symptoms. So, what’s the perfect balance?
You may have heard the old adage that we should be drinking eight glasses of water each day. According to the American Urogynecologic Society, this is not recommended for OAB sufferers — people with OAB are recommended to drink when thirsty.
Stay away from beverages that worsen OAB symptoms, but take sips of water throughout the day and limit your liquid consumption close to bedtime.
Maintain a Healthy Weight
Extra weight is a problem because it increases pressure on your bladder and causes urine leaks with even simple activities, such as laughing, coughing, sneezing, or lifting. Eat healthy and get regular exercise to help you lose weight and maintain a healthy diet.
As if you needed another reason to quit smoking — smokers are more likely than non-smokers to have bladder control issues; this may be due in part to the chronic cough that many smokers have. This chronic cough will put pressure on the bladder repeatedly.
If you smoke, you should quit because smoking irritates the bladder muscles. Smoker's cough also contributes to OAB symptoms.
Kegel exercises help to strengthen the pelvic floor muscles. Performing these exercises can not only increase the strength of the pelvic floor, but also promote urinary sphincter control because the pelvic floor muscles are used to open and close the urethra. They also support the bladder during everyday activities.
Kegel exercises can be performed easily and discreetly. To do them, simply squeeze the pelvic floor muscles tightly, as if trying to control your stream of urine. Physicians recommend performing these exercises three to four times per day.
The good news is you can do them anywhere and no one will know you are doing them!
Kegel exercises can help you to minimize bladder contractions. These exercises are safe and don’t pose any complications or side effects.
According the Urology Care Foundation, the most general way to do these is by squeezing the muscles of the anus in the same way you would stop yourself from passing gas. The squeezed muscles are the pelvic floor muscles and if you feel a pulling sensation at the anus, you are using the right muscles.
Bladder retraining can help you strengthen your bladder muscles. This works best with Kegel exercises.
The basic idea is to let the urge to urinate pass instead of rushing to the bathroom right away. You then gradually work your way to holding your bladder for longer times.
The steps involved in a bladder training program include:
- Keep a diary. For a few days, write down when you urinate. This can help to create a bladder training schedule.
- Assess your diary. Look at your bladder diary. Assess the amount of time in between voids. Then, increase the amount of time by 15 minutes.
- Stick to the schedule. Stick to the routine that you’ve set. Use the restroom immediately when waking, then stick to the schedule. If you feel like you will have an accident, use the restroom but return to the schedule after.
- Use relaxation techniques. When you feel like you’ve got to go and it isn’t time, test out different relaxation techniques, such as breathing exercises. These not only will relax you, but distract you.
- Increase time between intervals. Increase the time between voids. Perhaps increase by 15 minutes every week until you reach an interval of two to four hours.
The Bottom Line
Overactive bladder can interfere with your life professionally, personally and socially. It can prevent you from living your life and cause anxiety, depression and self-esteem issues.
By trying to manage your symptoms at home, you are trying charge of your health and minimizing and preventing embarrassing scenarios. These methods are natural and safe and can make a difference without the worry of unwanted side effects.
Having an overactive bladder can be frustrating and embarrassing — but it does not have to control your life!