6 Tips for Managing Overactive Bladder
- Before medication, start with healthy habits.While not necessarily physically harmful or life threatening, overactive bladder (OAB) can be embarrassing and limit your work and social life. There are certain medications and procedures that can treat OAB, but because some come with a fairly hefty price tag, I will always start by recommending changes to lifestyle habits that may be causing--and even exacerbating--the issue. I’ve been at Mayo Clinic for 22 years, and in my experience, these six tips are most effective for improving overactive bladder.
- Stay away from caffeine, nicotine and teas.Occasionally, a patient will walk into my office carrying a 36-ounce of soda or big bottle of water and ask me how they can treat their overactive bladder. When that happens, I’ll point to the drink in their hand and tell them getting rid of it is a good start. Not only can drinking too much fluid contribute to OAB, but dietary irritants like caffeine and nicotine also make it worse.
- Be active.Sedentary lifestyles and obesity are associated with having an overactive bladder, because carrying around excess weight can weaken the muscles supporting the bladder and lead to some leaking. I recommend any exercise that strengthens your legs and gets your heart rate up (such as the bicycle, elliptical or treadmill). With OAB, it’s a good idea to urinate just before or maybe midway through your workout.
- Avoid stress.Stress and overactive bladder often go hand in hand. It’s a vicious cycle: You’re stressed and worried about always having to go in social situations, and your stress makes your overactive bladder worse. Practice stress-relieving habits like meditation, deep breathing, and listening to soothing music.
- Try “timed voiding.”Pick certain times throughout the day to use the restroom to retrain your bladder. Slowly, you can increase the amount of time in between bathroom breaks and improve your bladder’s capacity.
- Don’t drink before bedtime.Restrict the amount of fluids you drink before you go to bed to avoid those middle-of-the-night trips to the toilet. Try not to drink any liquid after 5 or 6 p.m.--even if it means skipping your bedtime tea. Of course, using the restroom right before you go to sleep is also a good idea.
- Do Kegel exercises.Kegel exercises, also known as pelvic floor training, can help strengthen your pelvic floor muscles, retrain your bladder muscles and minimize issues of incontinence. Your pelvic floor muscles are the ones that allow you to suddenly stop urinating midstream. To do a Kegel, lie down, tighten these muscles, hold for 5 to 10 seconds, and then relax. I usually recommend doing this at least 10 times a day, but the more you work those muscles out, the stronger they will get, and the less likely you are to have issues.