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.