Bladder health is something we don’t spend a lot of time thinking about until something goes awry. It’s an important component in overall health that becomes increasingly crucial as we age when problems like incontinence become more prevalent. The good news is that adopting some easy lifestyle habits, from improving hygiene to simply drinking more water, can make a world of difference.
Why you should care about your urinary tract
The urinary tract is the body’s system of removing wastes and extra fluids. The kidneys filter blood to remove excess water and waste products and produce urine, which is passed to the bladder.1 The bladder stores urine until it is emptied through the urethra.2 To keep it all humming along smoothly, making good nutrition and lifestyle choices can positively impact our bladder health. Bad habits can it off.
Understanding the dreaded urinary tract infection
A urinary tract infection (UTI) is caused by bacteria in any part of the urinary tract, with the bladder being most common.3, 4,5 People of any age are at risk of UTIs; however, some individuals, including women, individuals with diabetes and older adults, due to incomplete bladder emptying5,6,7 are more likely to develop this infection.
Our bodies need water to stay healthy. As we age, its thirst mechanism decreases, so it is important that we make more of a conscious effort to consume adequate fluids. Water is the first choice, as it is important for UTI prevention. Strive to drink six to eight cups per day, which helps to dilute urine and increase the rate you urinate.3
Tips on how to increase your intake of water
- Start by gradually increasing your fluids. Try to have a glass at each meal and first thing when you wake up.
- Use sticky notes on the bathroom mirror to remind yourself to drink more water after you urinate.
- Add flavour to water to make it more appealing. Try fresh fruit or herbs for a delicious change.
Although there has been plenty of research on cranberry juice, extract and pills and their role in preventing and treating UTIs, the quality of the research is low. Counter to what many may believe, this suggests that there is not enough evidence to support the effectiveness of cranberries for addressing UTIs.8
To prevent UTIs, don’t put off urinating. Go shortly after feeling the urge.9 This helps to minimize the time that urine sits in the bladder where bacteria can grow. As a good hygiene practice, always wipe from front to back to keep bacteria from entering your urinary tract where it can cause problems.9
Tackling urinary incontinence and overactive bladder
Urinary incontinence is the loss of bladder control. It is often common in older adults and can be embarrassing, but it is not a part of normal aging.10 While there is no magical nutrition trick to cure urinary incontinence, you do have some control of nutrition and lifestyle factors that play a key role in the management of urine volume.
Having an overactive bladder is another type of bladder problem that may impact older adults. An overactive bladder causes a sudden urge to urinate, which may be difficult to stop, as the bladder can no longer hold urine normally, leading to involuntary urination.11 This is different than urinary incontinence.
These following lifestyle changes may help you manage urinary urgency:
- Manage your fluid intake.12 It is important to meet your fluid needs, but, a surplus can lead to leakage. A registered dietitian can help you understand how to prevent dehydration and avoid overconsumption of fluids.
- Limit caffeine, carbonated and alcoholic beverages, as well as artificial sweeteners as these may provoke bladder urgency or stimulate urine production.13,14,15
- Prevent constipation as this can put excess pressure on the bladder, causing it to not empty fully creating an environment for bacteria to grow. Adults need between 21-30 grams of fibre depending on their age and gender. A registered dietitian can help you meet your fibre needs. 14,16, 17, 18
- Maintaining or achieving a healthy weight.14
- Physical activity as advised by your physician14,19
- Manage chronic conditions, such as diabetes, due to high blood sugars causing frequent urination or nerve damage, which may lead to a decreased ability to hold urine in the bladder.20
How registered dietitian services can help
Registered dietitians are regulated health professionals with university degrees who can help you understand how to make personalized nutrition changes to meet your nutritional and health goals such as bladder health. You can book directly with a Shoppers Drug Mart registered dietitian for personalized nutrition services at www.shoppersdrugmart.ca/dietitians. They are available in Ontario only, including its new Wellwise locations in Etobicoke, Leaside and Sudbury.
- Lukacz, ES, et al. (2011). A healthy bladder: a consensus statement. Int J Clin Pract. 65(10): 1026-1036.
- National Institute of Diabetes and Digestion and Kidney Diseases. (2014). The Urinary Tract & How It Works. Retrieved from: https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/urologic-diseases/urinary-tract-how-it-works
- Mayo Clinic. (2018). Urinary tract infection (UTI). Retrieved from: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/urinary-tract-infection/symptoms-causes/syc-20353447
- National Institute on Aging. (2017). Bladder Health for Older Adults. Retrieved from: https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/bladder-health-older-adults
- The Kidney Foundation of Canada. Urinary tract infections. Retrieved from: https://www.kidney.ca/document.doc?id=316
- Canadian Patient Safety Institute. (2016). Hospital Harm Improvement Resource: Urinary Tract Infection. Retrieved from: http://www.patientsafetyinstitute.ca/en/toolsResources/Hospital-Harm-Measure/Documents/Resource-Library/HHIR%20UTI.pdf
- National Institute of Diabetes and Digestion and Kidney Disease. (2017). Definition and Facts: What is a bladder infection?. Retrieved from: https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/urologic-diseases/bladder-infection-uti-in-adults/definition-facts
- National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. (2016). Cranberry. Retrieved from: https://nccih.nih.gov/health/cranberry
- National Institute of Diabetes and Digestion and Kidney Disease. (2017). Treatment: How do health care professionals treat a bladder infection?. Retrieved form: https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/urologic-diseases/bladder-infection-uti-in-adults/treatment
- Mayo Clinic. (2017). Urinary Incontinence. Retrieved from: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/urinary-incontinence/symptoms-causes/syc-20352808
- Mayo Clinic. (2018). Overactive bladder. Retrieved from: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/overactive-bladder/symptoms-causes/syc-20355715
- Mayo Clinic. (2018). Diet and overactive bladder. Retrieved from: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/overactive-bladder/expert-answers/diet-and-overactive-bladder/faq-20322774
- Maserejian, NN, et al. (2013). Intake of Caffeinated, Carbonated, or Citrus Beverage Types and Development of Lower Urinary Tract Symptoms in Men and Women. AM J Epidemiol. 177(12): 1399-1410.
- (2016). When you have urinary incontinence. Retrieved from: https://medlineplus.gov/ency/patientinstructions/000138.htm
- Bradley, CS, et al. (2017). Evidence of the Impact of Diet, Fluid Intake, Caffeine, Alcohol and Tobacco on Lower Urinary Tract Symptoms: A Systematic Review. J Urol. 198(5): 1010-1020.
- Victoria State Government. (2018). Urinary tract infections (UTI). Retrieved from: https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/ConditionsAndTreatments/urinary-tract-infections-uti
- National Institute on Aging. (2017). Urinary Incontinence in Older Adults. Retrieved from: https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/urinary-incontinence-older-adults
- Dietary Reference Intakes: Definitions. (2010). Retrieved from: https://www.canada.ca/content/dam/hc-sc/migration/hc-sc/fn-an/alt_formats/hpfb-dgpsa/pdf/nutrition/dri_tables-eng.pdf
- Maserejian, NN, et al. (2012). Are physical activity, smoking and alcohol consumption associated with lower urinary tract symptoms in men or women? Results from a population based observational study. J Urol. 188(2): 490-495.
- Golbidi, S, et al. (2010). Bladder Dysfunction in Diabetes Mellitus. Front Pharmacol. 1: 136.