When it comes to discussing the health of any internal organ, we often keep our conversations centered on those that don’t concern “bathroom functions.” You see lots of articles on heart health, for example. But you don’t see nearly as many on how to keep other vital organs healthy, like your bladder. Even though the bladder is an organ that deals with the urinary waste produced by our kidneys, it isn’t just some garbage pale to be ignored. Staying focused on keeping it healthy now can help you stave off a variety of painful, debilitating and even some life-threatening conditions down the road. Here are five simple tips:
1. Drink water. When you hear the advice to “drink more fluids,” recognize that they aren’t all created equal. A 10-ounce can of soda isn’t going to offer the same health benefits that a straight glass of water will, even though they’re both technically considered “drinkable liquids.” Even if you don’t love the taste of plain water, do try to make it a more consistent feature among the beverages you drink – aiming for six to eight cups a day. If you do have a preexisting health condition, like kidney or heart failure, for example, that can be affected by your fluid intake, be sure to clear it with your health care provider first.
2. When you gotta go, go! One of the worst things we can do for our bladder health over time is holding in urine when our brain is telling our bodies that we’ve got to go. In fact, holding urine in for too long can cause the muscles of the bladder to weaken over time, which can cause the bladder to lose its muscle tone and become floppy, and lead to incomplete bladder emptying. Remember, any type of fluid that stays for too long in any hollow organ in our body has an increased risk of becoming infected. Although urine is sterile and cleaner than many other bodily secretions, like saliva or tears, urinary tract infections occurs very commonly in patients who do not empty their bladder in time or are incapable of complete bladder emptying. So when you feel the urge, go with it and find the nearest restroom.
3. For “smooth moves,” eat right and exercise. This is really a three-in-one tip, but they’re all tied so closely together. Did you know that chronic constipation can also sabotage your bladder health? It’s true – all that pushing to produce a bowel movement also places a lot of stress and strain on the bladder, which can weaken it over time. Maintaining a diet that’s rich in fiber and a variety of healthy, whole foods can help keep constipation under control, as can exercise. When you exercise regularly, it “moves you,” so to speak.
4. Exercise your pelvic floor. We talk a lot about the things one can do that might weaken bladder muscles, but this is one way you can actually keep them strong. Daily Kegel exercises are simple, and you can do them anywhere. Simply “squeeze” the muscles you use to urinate for a few seconds, then release them. Repeat this a few times at intervals throughout the day, and you won’t even realize how much stronger your bladder is becoming in the process.
5. Keep it clean. Especially for women, keeping the area around the vagina clean and dry can help avoid unwanted bacteria from making its way into the urinary tract and into the bladder. Some ways to do this are to keep underwear dry (even after a vigorous workout) and wear loose fitting clothing when possible. It’s also important for both men and women to urinate after intercourse, as this can help flush away bacteria that may have entered the urinary tract.
If you’re under age 40, focusing on your bladder health may not seem of great importance. But as you age, your bladder changes, and with these changes can come some issues that are unpleasant, to say the least. Focusing today on what you can do to improve your bladder health can help set you up for success and protection later in life.