A weak bladder is a common phrase that indicates urinary diagnosis such as an overactive bladder (OAB) or urinary incontinence (UI). These issues affect the daily lives of as many as 40% of American women, but it is treatable.
If you’re tired of leaking when laughing, dancing, or coughing, and frustrated about planning your life around bathroom trips, read on. In this article, you’ll find the best tips on how to treat a weak bladder at home.
It is important to note that “weak bladder” issues commonly stem from pelvic floor muscle issues- often not the bladder itself. The pelvic floor muscles may be weak, or lack coordination to maintain continence.
Symptoms of A Weak Bladder
The most common symptoms of a weak bladder, overactive bladder, or urinary incontinence include the following:
- Urinating more than eight times per day
- Experiencing a sudden or urgent need to pee
- Unable to hold urine when the need to pee arises
- Leaking urine during sexual intercourse
- Getting up to urinate several times during the night
What Causes A Weak Bladder?
Bladder control problems can be caused by several factors including age-related changes, weak pelvic floor muscles, pregnancy, childbirth, underlying medical conditions, nerve damage, lifestyle, and sometimes the cause is unknown.
Age-related changes to the bladder are usually due to the elastic tissue of the bladder becoming more solid and less flexible as we age, resulting in a loss of bladder control, leakage, and issues emptying the bladder.
Weak Pelvic Floor Muscles
Life experiences such as pregnancy, childbirth, and pelvic injuries can weaken the pelvic floor muscles, which essentially act as a supportive sling for the pelvic organs, like the bladder. When support from the pelvic floor muscles is lacking, the urge to be emptied becomes more frequent.
Health-wise, causes of an overactive or weak bladder can be traced to bladder infections, urinary tract infections, or interstitial cystitis (IC). Kidney stones, chronic coughing, obesity, diabetes, and bladder cancer can also cause bladder control problems.
Neurological diseases, such as multiple sclerosis, Parkinson's disease, a stroke, or spinal cord lesions can cause damage to the nervous system. And damaged nerves can result in a weak bladder due to the brain receiving mixed messages from the urinary tract and bladder muscles.
Several lifestyle habits can also affect how your bladder functions. Alcohol, smoking, and eating certain foods, for example, can irritate the bladder and increase your need to pee.
Drinking too many fluids or too little fluids at certain times of the day will also have an impact on how the bladder works, as well as how often you include regular exercise in your weekly routine.
How To Treat a Weak Bladder At Home
According to updated research from the American College of Physicians, medication-free methods, such as; pelvic floor exercises, bladder training, avoiding certain foods, and regular exercise, can successfully treat a weak bladder at home and significantly reduce trips to the bathroom.
It is important to see a pelvic floor physical therapist or occupational therapist for a complete evaluation to determine what is driving your urinary symptoms. They will work with you and create a plan of care to address your issues.
A Kegel is an intended squeeze, lift and hold of the pelvic floor muscles, which act like a hammock to support the pelvic organs such as; the bladder, bowel, womb, and vagina.
Also known as pelvic floor strengthening exercises, Kegels are performed in repetitive intervals for best results and are considered one of the safest behavioral therapies for a weak bladder.
Practicing regular Kegels not only strengthens the pelvic floor muscles but also ensures more support for the pelvic organs, like the bladder. This increase of muscular support in the pelvis can improve bladder control, and result in fewer leaks, we well as fewer trips to the bathroom.
For added strengthening of the pelvic floor muscles in a shorter amount of time, women’s health experts recommend using Kegel weights. For instance, Intimate Rose Kegel Exercise Weights, which are the only FDA-approved Kegel weights on the market and regularly used in the Academy of Pelvic Health for training courses, come in 6 progressive weights to track your progression and gradually build pelvic strength. Customers have reported feeling a difference after three weeks of using Kegel weights for just 15 minutes per day.
Bladder training is essentially teaching the bladder to hold urine for a longer amount of time when the need to pee emerges. By delaying urination for just a few minutes to begin with, and working up to holding it for longer as time passes, the bladder muscles strengthen and the frequent urge to pee lessens.
The ultimate goal is to retrain the bladder, and its connection to the brain, to be able to wait three to four hours between trips to the bathroom. This can take approximately six to eight weeks of training to achieve.
Following these steps will help you to train your bladder at home:
- Begin by keeping a journal for 1-2 days to record how many times you urinate per day, and the volume of urine. You can measure in a plastic measuring cup.
- On the third day, each time you feel the urge to pee try to delay urinating by five minutes. If that is not possible, hold it for as long as you can and work your way up to five minutes.
- Continue to track how many times you pee per day in your journal, adding a note for how long you managed to hold off each time the urge arose.
- Slowly, and with patience, work your way up to comfortably holding off on using the bathroom until you can wait one and half to two hours between each trip.
Carrying excess weight can put extra pressure on the bladder and pelvic muscles, leading to what is called stress incontinence – when urine leaks due to increased pressure on the bladder from coughing, laughing or sneezing. However, this type of incontinence is easily remedied with regular exercise and weight loss.
In fact, studies revealed that women of menopausal age who regularly exercise are far less likely to suffer from a weak bladder or incontinence as they age. Another study found that women with obesity who lost 10% of their body weight reported a 50% improvement in bladder control.
If you smoke, quit. As well as irritating the bladder, smoking also increases the likelihood of coughing, which puts additional pressure on the bladder.
Be aware of your fluid intake. Naturally, it is vital to drink water when you are thirsty, and maintaining proper hydration is important to overall urinary tract health.
Drinking approximately eight 8-ounce cups of fluids per day, including soups and smoothies. Lack of hydration leads to concentrated urine, which can equally irritate the bladder and also lead to more frequent urination.
Refrain from consuming any fluids three hours before bed to avoid urinating during the night.
Diet & Nutrition– Foods & Drinks to Avoid
Certain food and drinks, like the ones listed below, can irritate the bladder and increase the frequent urge to pee. And maintaining a food diary can help you to determine whether the food and drinks you consume are contributing to your incontinence.
Start by eliminating one food or drink from the list below from your daily consumption then re-introduce them one at a time to your diet and track the results. If you notice more frequent urges to urinate when consuming certain foods or drinks, consider removing or significantly reducing it from your diet.
The following food and drinks are known to irritate the bladder:
- Spicy foods
- Citrus Fruits
- Artificial Sweeteners
- Soda drinks
Symptoms of a weak bladder can be embarrassing, and frustrating, and cause women to alter their lives around trips to the bathroom, but bladder control problems are usually easy to fix. If your weak bladder is interfering with your life, check out our tips above for treating a weak bladder at home and retrain your bladder with some easy exercises and lifestyle changes.
National Institute of Diabetes & Digestive & Kidney Diseases – Symptoms & Causes of Bladder Control Problems (Urinary Incontinence) -https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/urologic-diseases/bladder-control-problems/symptoms-causes
National Library of Medicine - Overactive Bladder Symptoms Within Nervous System: A Focus on Etiology - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8703002/
Mayo Clinic - Bladder control: Lifestyle strategies ease problems - https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/urinary-incontinence/in-depth/bladder-control-problem/art-20046597
American College of Physicians - Nonsurgical Management of Urinary Incontinence in Women: A Clinical Practice Guideline From the American College of Physicians - https://www.acpjournals.org/doi/10.7326/M13-2410?articleid=1905131
Cleveland Clinic – Kegel Exercises - https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/14611-kegel-exercises
Intimate Rose – 7 Benefits of Kegels For Women - https://www.intimaterose.com/blogs/kegel-exercise/7-benefits-of-kegels-for-women