While we cannot control everything that affects our bladder health, there are a few things we can do to help optimise it:
1. Drink plenty of water
Water is the best fluid for bladder health. Staying hydrated is important to prevent conditions such as kidney stones, urinary tract infections and constipation. Aim to drink 6 to 8 glasses of water every day (1 glass = 200ml), you may need to drink more in hot weather or if you are very active, unless advised otherwise by your consultant.
2. Limit intake of alcohol, caffeine, herbal teas, fizzy drinks and fruit juices
Alcohol can increase the acidity of your urine and irritate the lining of your bladder. Reducing alcohol intake may help if you have regular urinary tract infections or experience urge incontinence.
Caffeine is found in tea, coffee, coca-cola and other fizzy drinks. It can make symptoms of urgency or frequency worse because it relaxes the muscles in your pelvis and urethra. It can also disturb your sleep meaning that you are more likely to wake up in the night to go to the toilet.
Some herbal teas have a diuretic effect which means they increase your urge to go to the toilet.
Many fizzy drinks are high in sugar which encourages bacteria growth. It is advised to avoid these drinks if you regularly have urinary tract infections.
Fruit juices are acidic, which means they can irritate your bladder. It is advised to avoid fruit juices is you are susceptible to urinary tract infections or have an overactive bladder.
3. Stay away from foods that bother your bladder
Some people find that certain foods irritate their bladders, such as tomatoes, citrus fruits, spicy foods and foods containing artificial sweeteners. You may find it useful to reduce the amount of ‘free sugar’ in your diet which can increase your risk of urinary tract infections. ‘Free sugars’ are sugars added to foods such as biscuits, cakes and ready-made sauces, and those naturally present in honey and syrups.
4. Adopt good bathroom habits
Ideally, you should empty your bladder 4 to 6 times in a 24-hour period. Emptying your bladder fully is important to help prevent infections and keep your kidneys working properly. For this reason, you should take your time when on the toilet and avoid rushing.
5. Exercise your pelvic floor muscles
The pelvic floor muscles are the layers of muscle that support the pelvic organs. Their job is to give us control over our bladder and bowel, to facilitate sexual function in men and women, and to provide support for a baby during pregnancy. These muscles can weaken due to pregnancy, obesity, chronic coughing and high impact lifting. It is advised to do pelvic floor exercises to maintain strength in these muscles.
6. Stop smoking
Smoking is the single biggest risk factor for bladder cancer. Tobacco contains carcinogenic (cancer-causing) chemicals which pass through your bloodstream and are filtered by the kidneys into your urine. This means the bladder is repeatedly exposed to these harmful chemicals. People who smoke may be up to 4 times more likely to develop bladder cancer than non-smokers.
7. Don’t be embarrassed to talk about your bladder health
If you are experiencing symptoms it is important to contact your GP or urological consultant. Remember, they are used to hearing about all kinds of urological problems and they will more than likely have seen your condition before.
This article is intended to inform and give insight but not treat, diagnose or replace the advice of a doctor. Always seek medical advice with any questions regarding a medical condition.