For many, the delights, late nights and overindulgences of this time of year can lead to the discomfort of bladder difficulties. 

Dehydration, constipation, burning and general discomfort can all stem from our seasonal indulgences of high sugar, high salt, high fat foods, along with extra caffeine and alcoholic beverages. 

Mitrofanoff Support Australia's Ambassador Lisa Cornish has put together the Top Tips to help everyone navigate the holiday season and summer festivities with a healthy bladder. 

Drink water 

Water should be your preferred beverage. Added ingredients in sodas and energy drinks, and caffeine in coffee, may aggravate a bladder. 
Staying hydrated is important for everyone’s overall health. For people with an overactive bladder or strong urges, choosing how much and when to drink is very important to maintaining a healthy bladder. The old saying about drinking eight 8-ounce (236.6 ml) glasses of water a day is a great habit. A healthy adult may not need that much. A good habit is to drink water when you are thirsty.

Tips for staying hydrated daily:

  • Spread out your fluid intake throughout the day, sipping at water between meals.
  • Unless exercising, don’t carry a large water bottle with you.
  • Fill your cup or glass half-way or use a smaller cup. Having smaller amounts more frequently during the day is a more effective means of hydrating than having large drinks in single sittings.
  • Sip, don’t gulp.
  • If you’re drinking enough water, your urine should be light yellow or almost colourless.
  • Remember other foods, such as fruits, vegetables, and soups contain fluid.
  • Reducing fluids might seem like a good way to control the urge to go. But drinking too little results in more highly concentrated urine, which can irritate the bladder and can increase the risk for a urinary tract infection. 

Avoid or limit bladder aggravating substances. 

The biggest culprit for aggravating your bladder is everyone’s late night and silly season helper – caffeine. Caffeine can also make you urinate more.

Studies have shown that reducing caffeine intake to below 100 milligrams per day —the amount in one cup of drip coffee— may help reduce urge incontinence symptoms.

It’s a good idea to reduce your intake or avoid these problem drinks:

  • Caffeinated drinks such as coffee, colas, energy drinks and teas
  • Acidic fruit juices, especially orange, grapefruit and tomato 
  • Alcoholic drinks 
  • Carbonated beverages, sodas, or seltzers.  
  • Drinks with artificial sweeteners, such as aspartame and saccharin, can irritate the bladder

If you can’t imagine starting your day without a morning cup of coffee, try to lower the amount of caffeine you have during the day.

Avoid or limit bladder aggravating foods

Some foods can make bladder urge symptoms worse. If your bladder is starting to struggle this holiday season, try avoiding or limiting these foods:

Citrus fruits (lemons, limes, oranges, and grapefruit), tomatoes and tomato products like tomato sauce or salsa are among the chief reported offenders.

Spicy Foods such as Four-alarm chilli, Fiery salsa and Wasabi. Spicy foods like these may do more than tingle your taste buds or make your eyes water. They can also be irritating for the bladder. Dialling down the spiciness may help keep you out of the bathroom. But that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re headed for a bland diet. Try tinkering with how much heat you can take without affecting your bathroom habits — everyone is different, so finding your spice tolerance may be a matter of trial and error.

>Onions can irritate a sensitive bladder and may be best avoided by some people. If you can’t bear to be without onions in your sandwich and recipe arsenal. Try cooking them, this may make them easier on your bladder. Otherwise try switching to a milder, onion-like shallot instead. Sometimes just eating a smaller amount can help.

Prunes can be a blessing and a curse. These sweet, dried fruits can be a bladder irritant. On the plus side if you’re taking treatments for an overactive bladder, prunes can help you with the constipation that goes along with it. One way to help handle constipation without prunes is to boost the fibre in your diet. Try adding bladder-friendly, fibre-rich produce, such as carrots, cabbage (slaw), nuts etc.

Rein in your sweet tooth and cut back on the sugar. If you have an overactive bladder, try cutting out sugar and see if this leads to an improvement. Sugar can encourage bacteria to grow, and bacteria can cause urinary tract or bladder infections. Artificial sweeteners can be just as irritating.

Milk and milk products can make the symptoms of an overactive bladder worse. This doesn't mean everyone with bladder problems will have a reaction to dairy. If you keep a food diary, you can figure out which foods bother you, and whether you should limit or totally avoid dairy products.

Moderation

It is the season to celebrate and catch up with friends, so if you have to indulge make sure you don’t overdo things and make sure you give yourself and your bladder a break from celebrating.

Work your Pelvic Floor Muscles

Pelvic Floor Muscle exercises, also called Kegel exercises, have been the best friend for a strong urinary system for a long time. Kegel exercises strengthen the pelvic floor muscles, which support the uterus, bladder, small intestine and rectum.

It takes practice to identify your pelvic floor muscles and to learn how to contract and relax them. Here are some pointers. Consult your GP if you need assistance or guidance:

Find the right muscles. To identify your pelvic floor muscles, stop urination in midstream. If you succeed, you've got the right muscles. Don’t make this a habit, as it will actually weaken the muscles as well as lead to incomplete emptying of the bladder — which increases the risk of a urinary tract infection.

Work those muscles. Once you've identified your pelvic floor muscles, empty your bladder and lie on your back. Tighten your pelvic floor muscles, hold the contraction for five seconds, then relax for five seconds. Try it four or five times in a row. Work up to keeping the muscles contracted for 10 seconds at a time, relaxing for 10 seconds between contractions.

Focus on tightening only your pelvic floor muscles. Be careful not to flex the muscles in your abdomen, thighs or buttocks. Avoid holding your breath. Instead, breathe freely during the exercises.

Repeat 3 times a day. Aim for at least three sets of 10 repetitions a day.

Strengthen Your Core Muscles to Keep Your Bladder Healthy

Core stability exercises train the muscles surrounding the trunk of the body; these include the muscles of the abdomen, back, pelvic floor and even muscles we use to breathe (the diaphragm). Research shows that a strong back and core muscles are key to bladder health too. 

Core stability exercises can help to

  • Reduce back pain
  • Improve pelvic stability
  • Reduce the likelihood of repeat back or pelvic injury
  • Improve general posture
  • Improve abdominal muscle tone

Key Points for Core Stability Exercises

  • Core muscles are the muscles surrounding the trunk
  • Your core muscles should work together in a well balanced and coordinated manner
  • Core exercises train the strength and control of the core muscles
  • Core stability exercises can help women rehabilitate their core muscles after injury and with core muscle dysfunction

Now is a great time to learn some workout moves you need to help control urine leaks.

These 3 stability ball exercises will help to achieve good core and pelvic strength and stability.

Core Stability Exercise 1: Seated Knee Lift

The seated knee lift ball exercise trains the deep abdominal muscles to promote lower back, hip and pelvic stability.

Starting Position:

  • Sit on the exercise ball with both feet flat on the ground. 
  • Position your knees about fist width apart. 
  • Lift the crown of your head towards the ceiling

Action:

  • Correctly activate your core abdominal muscles by gently drawing the area below your briefs in towards your spine
  • Maintain this deep abdominal muscle contraction as you raise one foot just off the ground
  • Keep your body movements controlled and the ball stable throughout this exercise
  • Lower your foot back down to the ground
  • Relax your deep abdominal muscles and repeat this same action on the same leg for up to 10 repetitions at a time
  • Repeat this core stability exercise using the other leg

Core Stability Exercise 2: Alternate Arm and Leg Raise

Alternate arm and leg raise exercise (i.e. superman exercise) trains the spinal and deep abdominal muscles to promote spinal stability.

Starting Position:

  • Start prone over the exercise ball with both hands and feet in contact with the ground
  • Keep your spine straight with your chin tucked rather than neck extended position to reduce the strain on your neck. *This exercise can also be performed kneeling as an alternative since positioning the ball under the abdomen can be uncomfortable for some women.

Action:

  • Gently activate your lower abdominal muscles by gently drawing the area below your briefs in towards your spine
  • Maintain this deep abdominal muscle contraction as you raise one leg backwards off the ground no higher than your buttocks
  • Keep the action slow and the ball controlled as you move your limbs
  • Lower your foot back to the ground

Progress this exercise if you felt stable and controlled during with the leg raise exercise:

  • raise your opposite arm and leg off the ground
  • Lower your limbs back to the ground and relax
  • Repeat this action up to 10 times using the same arm and leg before repeating using the opposite arm and leg

Core Stability Exercise 3: Ball Bridge

Ball bridge exercise promotes spinal and pelvic stability.

Starting Position:

  • Start lying down on the ground with the exercise ball placed under your legs or specifically the lower part of your calves and your heels
  • Commence with your feet apart – the closer your feet are together, the greater the challenge for your core muscles to work hard
  • Your arms should be by your sides

Action:

  • Slowly raise your body from the ground using your buttock muscles rather than the back of your thighs
  • Try to keep the ball and your body movement controlled as you move your trunk
  • Lower your body back down to the ground
  • Rest briefly before repeating this exercise up to 10 times in a row