Bladder health is important for overall wellbeing. There are actions that can be taken to make sure that not only does your bladder stays as healthy as possible but that will also reduce the likelihood of future bladder problems.
The most important thing you can do to keep your bladder working well is to ensure that you are drinking plenty of water-based drinks each day. Most adults and teenagers should have between 1500 and 2000mls of fluid every twenty-four hours, with drinks being spread throughout the waking hours, until about an hour before sleep. Most school aged children should have about 1500mls per day. More than this may be needed if the weather is very hot and for those who are very active.
If you are drinking correctly then your bladder should empty about four to eight times a day. Urine should be pale or straw-coloured. Yellow or darker coloured urine may be an indication that there is a need to increase fluid intake.
Fluids that are good for the bladder
The committee are currently working on projects including:
- Water is the best option for the bladder and for general health
- Diluted cordial / squash drinks
- Diluted fruit juice
- Many fruit and herbal teas
- Red bush tea (a type of tea that is naturally caffeine free)
Fluids to avoid
- Alcoholic drinks
- Caffeinated drinks. These include tea, coffee hot chocolate, cola and many energy drinks. Decaffeinated tea and coffee are not totally caffeine free, but have only a small amount of caffeine in them, so are a good substitute to regular tea and coffee
- Fizzy drinks
Other advice to help promote bladder health
Try to avoid constipation. Having a full bowel puts pressure on the bladder and can therefore cause problems with emptying, may make leakage more likely or worse and is associated with an increase in urinary tract infections (UTI). Eating plenty of whole grains, fruit and vegetables, drinking sufficient water to keep the urine a pale colour, undertaking some physical activity every day and going to empty your bowels as soon as you feel the need will all help to prevent constipation.
Pass urine whenever you need to. If you are drinking well then you are likely to want to empty your bladder every two to three hours. Holding on too long when you need the toilet can make it more difficult for your bladder to empty fully and can increase the likelihood of developing a urinary tract infection. Also try to avoid going ‘just in case’. If you go too often when you do not need to pass urine, then the bladder can eventually become smaller and therefore hold less, increasing the need to go to the toilet more often.
Make sure you take long enough and are relaxed when you are at the toilet. This helps the bladder to empty fully. Women should always sit down properly to pass urine. Hovering over the toilet encourages tightening of the pelvic floor and can prevent complete emptying. Emptying the bladder completely helps to protect against urinary tract infections.
Do pelvic floor exercises. The pelvic floor is the muscle group that support the pelvic organs (the bladder and lower bowel in males and females as well as the uterus and vagina in females). As with all muscles, the pelvic floor works more effectively if exercised. A strong pelvic floor will help to protect against leaks, particularly when you cough, sneeze, laugh, lift something, or have a strong urge to pass urine. If you are unsure about how to do pelvic floor exercises, speak to your healthcare professional.
Wipe from front to back after using the toilet, particularly after a bowel movement. This will help to prevent bacteria from entering the urethra, which can then cause a urinary tract infection.
If you are a smoker try to give up. Smoking is associated with bladder and kidney cancer, with irritation of the bladder lining which can make overactive bladder (a condition where there excess bladder contractions cause sudden and frequent strong urges to use the toilet and may be associated with urinary leakage) and a painful condition known as interstitial cystitis worse. Furthermore, smoking can cause coughing which may result in urinary leakage.
Try to keep your weight at the right level for your height and build. Being overweight can cause stress incontinence (leakage when you cough, sneeze, laugh or lift something). Try to stay active, as not only will this help with weight control, but moderate activity may help with bladder control.
When and who to ask for help about bladder health
If you are worried about your bladder health or are experiencing any of the following, then talk to your GP or other healthcare professional.
- Pain or a burning sensation when passing urine
- Passing blood in your urine
- Passing urine more frequently or having an urge to pass urine that is stronger than usual
- It takes you longer to empty your bladder than usual, you find it difficult to pass urine, or you feel that you have not managed to fully empty when you go to the toilet
- Any leakage of urine during the day or at night
- If you are waking more than once a night to pass urine
Problems with bladder control and function are not typical at any stage of life, including in children who are toilet trained, after childbirth or in advancing years. They may occasionally be a symptom of a wider health problem, so should be assessed. Most bladder problems are treatable and, even for those bladder issues that cannot be cured there are many management options that may make living with a bladder condition easier.
If you have any concerns about your bladder health, then do talk to your healthcare professional.
Bladder & Bowel UK have information about a wide range of bladder and bowel conditions for children and for adults on our website. For free confidential advice and support then contact our helpline via the webform or on phone number 0161 214 4591.