How to Best Cope with Incontinence – Essential Tips and Advice

For many people with urinary incontinence, the following self-help tips and lifestyle changes are enough to relieve symptoms.
How to Best Cope with Incontinence – Essential Tips and Advice
Coping with Incontinence. Image/Shutterstock

Incontinence is a health issue that doesn’t always get a lot of attention, and it can leave people feeling embarrassed or too ashamed to discuss it. The fact is it’s probably more common than you may think, and while it can be more prevalent in seniors it’s an issue that can affect men and women at any age.

So what happens if you’ve recently been diagnosed with incontinence? What does that mean to your life, what changes will you need to make, and how can you cope with it? Here we’ll take a look at some essential tips and advice that can help you to better cope with incontinence.

Understand the Causes

When you are diagnosed with anything, the first step is always to learn more about that health condition. Incontinence means that the muscles and nerves that work to hold and release urine from the bladder aren’t working properly. This can result in small leaks that you aren’t able to control – especially if you sneeze or cough. Those with incontinence also tend to get strong urgencies to suddenly need to urinate and it can be hard to hold it.

Did you also know that incontinence is an umbrella term as there are five different types? Your doctor will be able to specify which one you have, but they consist of:

  • Functional incontinence
  • Urge incontinence
  • Overflow incontinence
  • Mixed incontinence
  • Stress incontinence

Seek Effective Treatment

The next question you likely have is whether or not there are any treatments for incontinence. Here’s the good news, several different treatments can help you to better cope with and control your incontinence. Sometimes it will take just one treatment and in other cases, a combination of options will be needed. Results will also vary from person to person.

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*All individuals are unique. Your results can and will vary.

Some of the common types of treatments are:

  • Bladder training
  • Medication
  • Surgery
  • Nerve stimulation
  • Biofeedback

On top of all of these treatment options, you will also likely need to make some lifestyle changes. For many, this can prove to be the most difficult part, as they aren’t always the easiest changes to make.

Lose Weight

Your doctor may recommend that you lose weight, as carrying too much extra weight can weaken your pelvic floor. Excess subcutaneous fat also puts extra pressure on the bladder if you have a spare tire around your abdominal region, which many men and women do.

Talk to your doctor before you embark on a weight loss program, so you can lose weight safely. There may also be additional help available in the form of diet coaching or membership of a weight loss group.

Drink Enough Water

It’s very easy to assume that drinking less water or other fluids is helpful if you suffer from incontinence, but this is a mistake. Dehydration causes more problems and if you don’t drink enough, your bladder capacity will shrink. A smaller bladder means you’ll feel the urge to pass water sooner than normal.

Water is the best beverage, as it is sugar-, alcohol-, and caffeine-free. Try to drink between six and eight glasses of water each day. Make a note each time you finish a glass, so you don’t drink too little or too much.

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*All individuals are unique. Your results can and will vary.

Not drinking enough fluids can also cause constipation, which leads us to the next point.

Avoid Constipation

Constipation makes urinary incontinence worse, as it places extra strain on the pelvic floor muscles. If you suffer from constipation, take a good look at your diet to see if it contains enough fiber. A sedentary lifestyle can also make constipation worse, so if you sit behind a desk all day, make an effort to move more – take a lunchtime walk or use the stairs instead of the elevator.

Talk to your doctor if self-help measures don’t resolve your constipation issues.

Avoid Caffeine

Caffeine can cause bladder irritation. If your bladder feels irritated and it feels like it needs emptying more than normal, eliminating caffeine might help. Coffee is the biggest source of caffeine, but don’t forget that many other beverages and foods contain caffeine, albeit in smaller amounts. These include:

  • Tea
  • Energy drinks
  • Green tea
  • Cola
  • Chocolate

Avoid Alcohol

Alcohol will make you pass more urine, due to its diuretic properties, so it could be contributing to your urinary issues. An occasional glass of wine or bottle of beer won’t make much difference, but if you drink several units of alcohol each day, cut back or cut out all alcohol to see if it helps.

Quit Smoking

Regular smokers tend to cough a lot because smoking irritates the lungs and throat. Unfortunately, coughing can strain the pelvic floor, which as we have already mentioned, makes continence problems worse.

Take advantage of any smoking cessation help available from your doctor or medical insurance provider. Don’t forget, quitting smoking will improve all aspects of your health, not just your incontinence issues.

Change Your Exercise Routine

High-impact exercise can make urinary problems worse. Instead of running, try pilates or Yoga, as these work the core – this can help if your problem is stress-related.

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Try Home and Personal Care Products

Then there are the home and personal care products that can help to make you feel more comfortable and better manage your incontinence. You can find home health care products at MIP in the category of incontinence.

  • Utilize bed pads and bedding that launders easily and doesn’t retain odor or stains.
  • Look for pads or underwear meant for incontinence. These are disposable and are designed to absorb leaks and odor. They tend to come in various absorbencies, so be sure to pick a product that matches your needs.

While you’re bound to feel upset about your diagnosis, the fact is that there are many ways to deal with incontinence including lifestyle changes that will help to better control your symptoms. It may take some time before you find a solution to your problem, but don’t be too ashamed to seek help from your doctor – incontinence is a common problem, particularly as we get older – and it needn’t ruin your life.

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*All individuals are unique. Your results can and will vary.

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Dr. Keith Kantor

Dr. Kantor has been an advocate of natural food and healthy living for 30 years. He is also on the Board of Directors for NAMI.org in G

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