Article by Dr Marilyn Glenville
Bladder weakness, also known as incontinence, can affect women of all ages but it is particularly common during menopause.
Thousands of women experience frequent bladder leaks in the UK, including Kate Winslet, who has recently broke this taboo and admitted that she suffers with incontinence, saying ‘It’s bl**dy awful’
This week, we asked Dr Marilyn Glenville, the UK’s leading Nutritionist, author of Natural Solutions to Menopause who specialises in women’s health and menopause, to tell us a bit more about this uncomfortable condition.
‘Urge Incontinence is where there is a sudden need to pass urine and the woman may not be able to get to the toilet in time. It is usually caused by an overactive or irritable bladder. The bladder will often register the need to urinate when there is not much urine in there; it has become too sensitive and is telling that woman she needs to urinate when in fact she doesn’t.
The solution for urge incontinence is retraining the bladder to go longer between toilet visits and using distraction techniques so that more urine is passed at each visit. Begin by allowing yourself one trip to the toilet every hour for a week and then the following week extend the time before trips by half-an-hour. Continue until you can hold your urine for three hours at a time. This exercise teaches your bladder to hold more urine and become less sensitive when full.
Don’t be tempted to drink less if you are prone to urge incontinence. Restricting your fluid intake will not stop the problem. In fact it can make things worse by producing highly concentrated urine that irritates the bladder. Drink lots of water instead. You will know when you are hydrated if your urine appears clear to pale yellow. If it’s dark yellow you aren’t drinking enough.’
‘This is the most common form and causes women to leak urine when they laugh, cough, exercise or sneeze. It affects us more as women than it does men, largely because of our anatomy and the menopause. The drop in the oestrogen after the menopause causes the bladder muscles to lose their strength and flexibility. We also have a short urethra (the tube that runs from the bladder to the outside) Also the pressures during a vaginal birth can often weaken or stretch the tissues supporting the bladder making us more susceptible to problems after the menopause.’
4 golden rules to fight incontinence
- The first thing to do to try and improve stress incontinence is to perform pelvic floor exercises to help strengthen the pelvic floor. To find out which muscles you need to use, the next time you go to the toilet stop urinating in midstream by contracting your muscles; these are your pelvic muscles. Use these muscles to perform a Kegel, contract them and hold for a count of five and then relax. Repeat this ten times and do at least five times a day.’ explains Dr Glenville.
- Lynne Robinson, Pilates guru, founder of Body Control Pilates (www.bodycontrolpilates.com) and author of Pilates for Life recommends Pilates to support your pelvic floor muscles. ‘To get the best results it is very importance that you work the right muscles in the right way. It is very easy to get it wrong. This is why specialist help is always best, if possible, although at the end of the day you will have to do the exercises yourself. You will need to do different types of exercises as pelvic-floor muscles have different types of fibres (slow-twitch and fast-twitch fibre) and we need to work both.’
- ‘Make sure you are eating enough foods that contain vitamin C and bioflavonoids. They help to preserve collagen and stop its destruction. Collagen is important for elasticity not only in skin but also in the tissues that support the bladder and vagina. Bioflavonoids are water-soluble plant pigments and they are found in a wide range of foods. ‘Eat a rainbow’ – the more different coloured fruits and vegetables you can eat will not only give you good amounts of vitamin C but also different kinds of bioflavonoids that will help with the manufacture of collagen. You can also take NHP’s Vitamin C Plus (www.naturalhealthpractice.com, £15.77)
- Make sure you drink enough liquid. But do not go overboard as of course the more drink the more you will have to urinate out. Also be careful about too many drinks that actually act like a diuretic and cause you to pass more urine that you would normally – these can include caffeinated drinks and also alcohol.
- Herbs can be really useful. Horsetail contains good amounts of silica that helps strengthen connective tissue generally in the body and also around the bladder. Silica is found in foods such as carrots, apples, onions, pumpkin, fish, almonds and unrefined grains.’ says Dr Glenville.