Experiencing incontinence can be life-changing.  In order to better manage your symptoms, there are some lifestyle changes that you can make to give yourself the opportunity for better control.

The first lifestyle change is to quit smoking.  The harmful effects of cigarette smoking have been well documented.  It is the secondary effects such as incontinence that are often overlooked.  The chronic cough associated with cigarette smoking significantly increases the pressure on our pelvic floor muscles and, over time, can lead to incontinence.  Also, the poor oxygenation of muscular and connective tissue associated with cigarette smoking has a direct impact on the muscular and connective tissue of our pelvic floor.  This can cause decreased strength and endurance of our pelvic floor muscles and, ultimately, can lead to symptoms of incontinence.

The second lifestyle change is weight reduction.  Our pelvic floor muscles have the responsibility of holding up our pelvic organs against the effect of gravity throughout the day.  Every additional pound of abdominal fat that we carry is an extra pound that our pelvic floor must support.  15 to 25 to 50 additional pounds of stress on our pelvic floor muscles may eventually lead to pelvic floor dysfunction and incontinence.

A third lifestyle change is dietary changes.  It is important to avoid bladder irritants such as caffeine, carbonated beverages, spicy or acidic foods, and artificial sweeteners.  A common mistake is to restrict water intake when trying to control incontinence symptoms.  This practice can not only lead to dehydration but it can also cause further bladder irritation due to increased concentration of urine.  Another dietary change is increased fiber intake.  This will allow better bowel regulation and decreased pushing and stress on our pelvic floor muscles.

The final lifestyle change is to increase your activity level.  Quite often, people who experience incontinence tend to restrict their activity levels when, in fact, just the opposite needs to happen!  It is important to learn about the muscles of your pelvis and abdomen and how to strengthen these muscles as well as how to directly strengthen the muscles of your pelvic floor.  Continuing with recreational activities you love while working a strengthening program for your pelvic floor and surrounding musculature is important for you physically and emotionally when experiencing incontinence.

Published by Tasha

1 Comment

  1. My observation is that fiber from leafy greens and non-starchy veggies such as inulin, pectin, FOS, etc., is better for gut health and comfortable bowl movements than the insoluble fiber from bran, grains, and insoluble fiber supplements. Fermentable and soluble fiber from non-starchy produce doesn’t directly feed our bodies, but it does feed and maintain our friendly and beneficial colon bacteria, creating free fatty acids for us in the process. Probiotic supplements are beneficial for small intestine health, but do little in the large intestine. The gut flora population in the large intestine requires fermentable fiber for optimal growth and balance (therefore optimal colon health and function).

    A healthy colon bacteria population is the most important factor in gut health, healthy immune function, and healthy bowel function (stool is primarily composed of shed GI tract cells, bile salts, gut flora bacteria, not undigested food – even coma patients fed with tubes have bowel movements). If one’s colon flora is not in healthy state of balance or the bacterial population is too small, there will be some increased gassiness and an adjustment period while the fiber is slowly increased and the colon bacteria population grows to match the fiber intake. Perseverance and patience are necessary.

    Cooked veggies do provide soluble fiber, and certain nutrients become more bioavailable with cooking (like lycopene in tomatoes), but some intake of fresh, raw veggies is also important to introduce bacteria diversity to the gut. Veggies should be rinsed clean of grit and dirt and free of pathogenic bacteria, of course, but lactobacillus and other beneficial probiotic bacteria normally cling to the surface of “garden fresh” produce even after rinsing off dirt. Typical supermarket produce may be too “clean” and processed (waxed, shellacked, chlorinated, gassed, etc. for longer storage times and shelf life), however, and could fail to provide the necessary probiotic bacteria inoculation necessary for good gut flora diversity. Local and seasonal produce that is handled and processed less (perhaps from Farmer’s Markets, farm stands, CSA farm subscriptions, and backyard gardens) is more likely to provide the necessary bacteria strain diversity. Local produce sources may be identified at www dot localharvest dot org (remove the spaced and replace dot with .).

    Bran and grain fiber is insoluble and not fermentable by the colon’s bacteria population. These fibers merely bulk up (and possibly irritate the lining of the intestine) and speed motility, which may result in decreased nutrient and moisture resorption. Bulking up can actually create problems if the widened stool becomes difficult to pass, esp in the case of rectocele. Painful fissures and tears can occur from bulked up stool.

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