By Dr. Ailin Oishi-Stamatiou
Urinary incontinence is a problem that increases with age affecting 30 per cent of seniors living in the community and between 50-84 per cent living in long-term care facilities. Women are three times more likely than men to be incontinent, due to the physical stresses of childbearing and a decrease in estrogen after menopause.
A typical symptom is involuntary loss or leakage of urine. If you experience repeated episodes of urine leakage, it’s important that you see your doctor as soon as possible. Many people with incontinence may feel embarrassed due to unpleasant odors. They may avoid going out with friends or family leading to isolation and depression. Without proper diagnosis, treatment and management; rashes other skin disorders, urinary tract infections and urinary retention can result.
There are four types of urinary incontinence.
1. Stress incontinence is the most common type affecting younger postmenopausal women. Urine leakage is associated with increased abdominal pressure from laughing, sneezing, coughing, climbing stairs, or other physical stressors on the abdominal cavity and bladder.
2. Urge incontinence is the most common cause occurring in 40-70 per cent of those who present to their family doctor with complaints of incontinence.
3. Mixed incontinence is a combination of stress and urge incontinence. 3. Mixed incontinence is a combination of stress and urge incontinence.
4. Functional incontinence is the inability to hold ones urine due to reasons other than neuro-urologic and lower tract dysfunction, for i.e. delirium, psychiatric disorders, urinary infections, and reduced mobility.
Helpful tips for managing incontinence naturally:
• Reduce intake of foods or diuretic beverages that increase urination or may irritate the bladder: chocolate, coffee, tea, alcohol, artificial foods and colorings, chemicals, snack foods, and carbonated beverages.
• Avoid sugary foods: Especially those that contain honey, corn syrup, fructose and artificial sweeteners, spicy foods: Curry, chili pepper, and cayenne pepper, and acidic foods and beverages; grapefruits, oranges, limes, lemons, cranberries and tomatoes. They can irritate your bladder, and worsen incontinence symptoms. Keep a food diary to track associations.
• Give up smoking: Nicotine can irritate the bladder, and for heavy smokers, coughing can contribute to stress incontinence. And is a risk factor for developing stress urinary incontinence and pelvic organ prolapse.
• Ease pressure on the abdomen: Lose weight if overweight, avoid skintight pants or skirts and control-top hose that puts extra pressure on your lower abdomen in addition to being difficult to pull down. • Empty the bladder completely: When you urinate and try to give an extra push to get the last drops of urine out.
• Exercise: You can keep your pelvic-floor muscles in shape by doing daily specific strengthening exercises.
• Stay hydrated: Dehydration can lead to constipation and kidney stones, which can actually irritate your bladder and make symptoms worse. Doctors recommend drinking about two liters of fluid a day. The right amount depends on your lean body mass. If you’re prone to nighttime incontinence, cut back your fluid intake in the evening 2 to 3 hours before going to sleep.
• Magnesium intake: an important mineral for proper muscle and nerve function, may ease incontinence because it reduces bladder muscle spasms and allows the bladder to empty completely. Include magnesium-rich foods, such as corn, potatoes, and bananas in your diet.
• Vitamin D: the sunshine vitamin promotes calcium intake and good bone health. Research suggests that it can also reduce the risk of incontinence. Meet your daily requirement (600 IU of vitamin D a day for women) with fortified milk, eggs, and fish.
• Consider chiropractic: Spinal misalignments cause many health problems because vertebrae pinch important nerves and restrict their effectiveness.
Chiropractic seeks simply to restore normal function to the spine and nervous system. Improving nervous system functioning can help to increase overall well-being and promote healthy bladder function.
• Consider other alternative therapies like acupuncture or hypnotherapy: Acupuncture can help to correct imbalances that stems from the bladder and kidneys as well as other organs of the body like the heart and lungs. In hypnotherapy, a hypnotherapist puts the patient in a state of deep relaxation and heightened concentration. This state may help patients feel more in control of the body—in this case the bladder and muscle contractions.
• In addition, talk to your doctor about the benefits of getting a pessary, starting kegel or pelvic floor exercises and bladder behaviour modification training.
You are not alone. According to the National Institutes of Health, more than 13 million Americans suffer incontinence. It can affect anyone at any age and gender.
It is a common, treatable condition and not an unavoidable symptom of aging. Don’t be too embarrassed to get help. http://www.nafc.org is a great website for more information.
Dr. Ailin Oishi-Stamatiou, BSc Hons, DC, is a licensed and registered chiropractor who practices in Leaside, Toronto. She is bilingual in Japanese and English and can be reached at 416-425-9730.