“You are what you eat.” That phrase has been used as a mother’s warning for children to avoid junk food for generations, but as science and healthcare research expands, we’re learning that it’s probably truer than we thought. Everything that we put in our bodies has the opportunity to impact our health - even urinary health.
General & Urinary Health
It seems that all health issues can be solved, or at the very least alleviated, with the right diet and exercise and by simply leading an overall healthy lifestyle. Like the rest of our body, our bladder and urinary tract change as we age - losing muscle mass, function, and flexibility, all of which can lead to urinary complications. And just like the rest of our body, preventative health measures are recommended to be taken to help reduce the chance of developing health problems later in life. That being said, there are a few steps you can take that will help your overall health and may help with urinary health. Drink Water - It may seem logical to drink less liquid when you’re experiencing light bladder leaks, but drinking water is the best for bladder health. Our bodies are made up of mostly water to control things like digestion, absorption, circulation, creation of saliva, and the maintenance of body temperature and transportation of nutrients. Don’t Smoke - We all know smoking is bad for your health, as there are enough PSAs and warning signs for anyone to know that. But smoking could actually be impacting your urinary health! Nicotine is a known bladder irritant causing urges as a short-term side-effect, with chronic coughing leading to the weakening of the pelvic floor being more long-term. In addition, smokers are more likely to develop bladder or other pelvic cancers than non-smokers, which may affect urinary health. Regular Exercise - Being active and exercising has numerous health benefits, including aiding in digestion and keeping the pelvic floor strong and healthy. Practice Good Peeing Habits - Most adults would like to think we have this part down, but a lot of us have made some pretty bad choices when it comes to peeing properly. Always: go when you have to, go after sexual intercourse, always completely empty the bladder (don’t rush!), and of course wipe front to back to avoid contamination or infection.
Foods to Eat (and Avoid)
Even with a healthy lifestyle and a good diet, sometimes urinary problems occur. When this happens, there are certain foods you can add to your diet to help boost your bladder health, and some you should avoid for a while (or completely). The general rule of thumb is to aim for high-fiber foods that your body will find soothing as opposed to “irritating”. The Urology Care Foundation recommends the following foods if you have a tricky bladder that tends to leak:
Potatoes (all kinds!)
On the opposite end of things, there are definitely foods and food products that your bladder will probably not be the biggest fan of. If you can, try to avoid the following foods:
Caffeinated beverages and foods
Citrus fruits and juices
Milk and milk products
Sugar or honey
We’re not claiming that if you cut out morning coffee and eat exclusively pears and potatoes that your leaks will suddenly disappear, but finding the right balance could help your bladder out a little bit.
What About Cranberries?
What would a blog about food and urinary health be without bringing up cranberries? If you’ve ever experienced a UTI, you were probably told one way or another to drink some cranberry juice. The theory behind this is that cranberries contain A-type proanthocyanidins (PACs), which have been found to prevent adherence of bacteria to the bladder wall. This is great in theory, but in reality most cranberry juices you find at the supermarket simply just do not contain enough of this ingredient to be effective. There are some studies that show while cranberry supplements and juice don’t cure UTIs or other bladder infections, they could be another preventative step. A 2013 study found that “cranberry juice and tablets reduced the occurrence of UTIs compared to placebo in women with recurrent UTIs.” So, there is plenty of research still to be done on the subject of cranberries and urinary health, however, adding the supplement or juice (NOT juice cocktail!) could aid in prevention of future infections or problems when used in conjunction with a healthy lifestyle.
A Word About Obesity
Your diet also has a direct relationship with your body weight, and your body weight impacts your bladder and urinary health. People that are overweight or obese have a BMI (Body Mass Index) of 25 or above. Individuals that meet these criteria tend to lose muscle mass, flexibility, and strength at a higher rate than normal-weight individuals, impacting the pelvic floor. More weight also adds extra pressure to the urinary tract at all times, which may lead to further complications.
If you’re experiencing urinary health complications like UTIs or incontinence problems, a change in diet may be one step you can take to improve it. Talk to your doctor about your symptoms so you can be properly diagnosed and treated. One of the most common urinary complications that women face is called Stress Urinary Incontinence (SUI). SUI is the unintentional bladder leak when the bladder or urinary tract is put under pressure from an activity or motion like running or coughing. While a change in diet may help women experiencing SUI, there is another new solution to help reduce leaks immediately for up to 12 hours a day! Revive® is a bladder support device made of soft, flexible silicone to fit comfortably in the vaginal tract for all-day support. Clinically-tested and FDA-approved for over-the-counter use, you can find the reusable device at a retailer near you!