Q: I’ve been having an embarrassing problem lately, with incontinence. It’s not all the time, and my bladder doesn’t empty completely, but it’s not pleasant being out somewhere and have it happen. Do you have any suggestions of things that could help?
A: Incontinence in men is most often related to benign prostate enlargement, and can be improved by supplementing with pumpkin seed oil and saw palmetto. Incontinence in women is more complex, and usually involved a weakening of the bladder and pelvic floor muscles. Millions of adults have problems with incontinence in the U.S., and more than half of those are women. It’s most common in people over 50, though can also happen to women after childbirth. There are several natural ways to help control your bladder, from herbs to different exercises.
The herb horsetail can be helpful for treating incontinence. Horsetail helps to reduce urinary tract irritation, which in turn can help to reduce episodes of incontinence. Horsetail should not be taken for extended periods of time however, and it is important to take a multivitamin or B-complex vitamin while supplementing with horsetail, since it can reduce the amount of thiamin (B1) in the body.
Cornsilk is another herb available in teas or capsules that can help with bladder health. It has a diuretic action, encouraging urination, but also helps to reduce the incidence of incontinence.
An amino acid complex can help to strengthen the bladder muscle. Another supplement that can be beneficial is a calcium and magnesium supplement which can help to control the bladder spasms that can precipitate an episode of incontinence.
Changes in diet can also make a difference. Removing bladder irritants like caffeine, alcohol, sugar, nicotine, citrus fruits, tomatoes, spicy foods, artificial sweetners, aged cheeses, and vinegar can sometimes be beneficial as well. I wouldn’t say a person would need to cut all of those things out of their diet, but excluding one for a few weeks to see if there is an improvement can be a good thing to try.
For women, kegel exercises can also help to help strengthen the muscles that control the bladder. One way to find the muscles is to stop the flow of urine when going to the washroom. Once you’ve emptied your bladder, sit or lie down and work on contracting those pelvic floor muscles. Contract for a count of five then relax for the same amount of time and repeat. You can do sets of those exercises several times a day. Kegel exercises are well known and have been used by many to help regain bladder control.
Bladder training is another helpful idea. With bladder training, some people with incontinence can train their bladders to lengthen the time in between going to the washroom. Bladder training is especially helpful for with people who have urge incontinence. A person would start by urinating at set intervals, every half hour for example, and then gradually lengthen the time in between washroom visits.
While incontinence is not really something that is talked about, it is a common problem. Hopefully some of these recommendations can be helpful to you. Finally, obesity is also a factor, which can worsen the incidence of incontinence; if you are overweight, losing those extra pounds might help.
Healthy Answers for Life is a column that seeks to answer health questions and concerns from a natural perspective. To submit a question to be answered in a future column send an email to email@example.com or mail to Healthy Answers for Life c/o Pass Health Foods at 7228 W. College Drive, Palos Heights, IL 60463.
Carolyn Johnson is one of the knowledgeable associates at Pass Health Foods at 7228 W. College Drive. Feel free to stop by the store for more information or advice. passhealthfoods.com.
This column makes no claims to diagnose, treat, prevent, mitigate, or cure diseases with any advice or products. Any health related information in this article is for educational purposes only. The ultimate responsibility for your choices and their effect on your health are yours and before applying any therapy or use of herbs, supplements, etc., you should consult your health care provider.