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Caring for your bladder and the rest of your urinary system is vital at any age. In this post, you’ll learn why bladder health is essential to overall health and how to support your urinary system while addressing symptoms of bladder issues.
Your urinary system consists of four main parts: kidneys, bladder, ureters, and urethra. Let’s take a look at each piece.
The kidneys are two bean-shaped organs in your lower back below your ribs. Blood passes through the kidneys as it circulates throughout the body. The excess fluid and waste products get mixed with urea produced by the kidneys to create urine.
The bladder is a balloon-like organ located below your kidneys. Its job is to collect urine and hold it until it’s time for it to leave your body. When your bladder gets full, nerves send a message to your brain, telling you it’s time to urinate.
Ureters are two thin tubes that connect your kidneys to the bladder. After the kidneys produce urine, the urine moves through the ureters and arrives in the bladder for storage.
The urethra is a tube that travels from your bladder to the outside of your body. In women, the urethra’s opening is in front of the vagina. In men, the opening of the urethra is at the tip of the penis.
When it’s time to go to the bathroom, you relax the muscles that support your bladder, known as the pelvic floor muscles. This process softens the bladder muscles and causes two rubber-band-like muscles (called the sphincters) to widen. Once the sphincters open up, urine flows out of the bladder through your urethra and into the toilet.
Having a healthy bladder helps your body eliminate excess fluid and waste. Plus, it supports your kidneys so they can work properly. When functioning well, your kidneys:
Understanding what can affect this organ and the rest of your urinary system is essential to keeping your bladder healthy. Let’s examine some things that can help or hurt your bladder health.
Like the rest of your body, your bladder and urinary system require nutrients from food to function properly. A healthy diet consisting of vegetables, fruits, lean proteins, and whole grains can provide the vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients needed for urinary system function.
Consuming enough fluids is vital for your urinary health, as adequate fluid intake supports urine production. Urination is essential for removing waste from your body and flushing out bacteria that can cause urinary tract infections.
If you’re dehydrated because you don't drink enough water and other fluids, you may not urinate often enough to eliminate waste efficiently. Plus, your urine can become more concentrated, opening the doors to bladder irritation.
Smoking and drinking alcohol can both cause bladder problems. There are more than 7,000 chemicals in tobacco smoke, and many can damage cells and trigger inflammation in the body. Cigarette smoke can also cause cells in the bladder to become abnormal, leading to bladder cancer. Smoking makes you three times more likely to develop bladder cancer than someone who doesn’t smoke.
Alcohol can irritate the bladder, leading to abdominal pain and increased urinary urgency. In addition, alcohol is a diuretic — a substance that increases urine production. As a result, it makes you urinate more frequently. People who suffer from one of the types of urinary incontinence may be more likely to experience urine leakage and loss of bladder control when they drink alcoholic beverages.
Being overweight or obese can negatively impact your bladder. Extra weight puts pressure on the bladder muscles, weakening them over time. This effect can also worsen symptoms of urinary problems (like overactive bladder and incontinence). One study found that women who lost just 5% to 10% of their total body fat saw a significant decrease in urine leakage.
Some chronic conditions can damage the urinary system or interfere with kidney and bladder function. Examples include:
In women, childbirth and menopause also affect the urinary system. Both can weaken the pelvic floor muscles, reducing the bladder's support and increasing the risk of incontinence. Additionally, hormonal changes after menopause can make the bladder and urethra more vulnerable to bacteria that cause urinary tract infections.
Now, it’s time to explore how to keep your urinary system healthy. Remember, these lifestyle changes may take time to produce noticeable results if you have bladder conditions like incontinence.
Alcohol isn’t the only thing that can irritate your bladder. Many other foods and drinks trigger inflammation, such as:
Not everyone is sensitive to all bladder-irritating foods. Keep a food diary to track what you eat and what symptoms you experience to identify which foods you want to avoid.
Monitoring how much fluid you consume every day is essential for urinary health. If you suffer from urinary incontinence, you’ll need to drink enough to stay hydrated — but not so much that your incontinence symptoms worsen.
Choosing the correct fluids is as important as drinking enough for all individuals. Water is generally the best option, but you can also drink herbal teas, cranberry juice, and other fruit juices with low acidity and no artificial sweeteners or sugars added.
Your healthcare provider can advise you on how much water to drink daily. Foods that contain water can also help you get the amount of fluids your doctor recommends. Examples include soup, celery, fruits like watermelon, and cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, and leafy greens.
Bladder health supplements can complete a healthy diet while supporting urinary function with vitamins, minerals, and other vital ingredients. Some are formulated for overall bladder health, while others have specific benefits. For example, you can find UTI supplements with ingredients that may help prevent a bladder infection (like cranberry extract and supplements that reduce urinary frequency and other symptoms of an overactive bladder).
As previously mentioned, your pelvic floor muscles help to support your bladder and can reduce the risk of leakage if you have urinary incontinence. Daily exercises can restore tone and strength to stretched and weakened muscles. A physical therapist can introduce you to techniques for building pelvic floor strength (like kegel exercises) and teach you how to do pelvic floor exercises at home.
If you’re overweight, losing a small amount of body fat could benefit your urinary health. For weight management:
Reducing your risk of urinary tract infections is part of promoting a healthy bladder. If you’re prone to urinary tract infections, choose cotton underwear over synthetic fabrics. The breathable material encourages drier skin to reduce the risk of bacterial growth in the genital area. Also, choose underwear that fits appropriately and avoid thongs and G-strings, which irritate the urethra and surrounding tissue.
Good hygiene and toileting habits can reduce the risk of irritation and bacterial infections. Follow these tips to support a healthy bladder and urinary tract:
If you have bladder or urinary issues, follow these tips to help manage your symptoms.
Don’t be afraid to tell your doctor about incontinence or other urinary symptoms. Many people suffer from incontinence, and health professionals can recommend treatments to help you manage symptoms.
Incontinence underwear, pads, and guards absorb urine to prevent embarrassing leaks. Choose a product with the right absorbency level in the correct size for your needs. Carry disposable waste bags when you’re out and about to make changes in public bathrooms easier.
Read more about proper disposal of incontinence products.
Incontinence can cause painful skin irritation. Proper hygiene can reduce the risk of this occurring and further lower the likelihood of diaper rashes with a barrier cream. It forms a protective layer over your skin to shield it from urine while sealing in moisture for faster healing.
Too many people see bladder and urinary issues as secrets. It’s a medical condition you don’t have to be ashamed of, and discussing your feelings and experiences with others can help you cope.
Looking for bladder supplements? Check out Because Market’s high-quality dietary supplements with products for reducing UTIs, controlling overactive bladder symptoms, and more.
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