Overactive bladder--strong, frequent, sudden urges to urinate--can be uncomfortable, inconvenient, and embarrassing, forcing people to limit or even abandon favorite activities. Postmenopausal women are disproportionately affected, probably due to decreased estrogen levels, but men suffer from overactive bladder too. There are several distinct ways that overactive bladder can manifest itself. Stress incontinence involves involuntary release of urine, usually after a sneeze or laugh. With urge incontinence, the urge comes on suddenly and increases so swiftly that the person may not be able to hold the urine in. Some people have both stress and urge incontinence. In overflow incontinence, the bladder contains more urine than it can hold, and dribbling results. Most people can achieve significant improvement in their condition, and drugs are not always necessary. Mother Nature has an arsenal of herbs, foods, and techniques to help you regain control.
Evaluate your medications, both prescription and over-the-counter, to see if they could be contributing to your overactive bladder. Diuretics are the most obvious culprit, but narcotic pain relievers and sedatives can contribute to urge incontinence. Consult with your doctor about modifying or changing any medications.
Keep a record in your notebook of how many times a day you urinate. Do this for three days, then identify the shortest length of time between bathroom visits. This will be your starting interval in your strategy of scheduled voiding, a method to help you retrain your pelvic-floor muscles.
Start scheduled voiding. Try to make yourself wait at least the length of your starting interval. Do this for a week. At the end of the week, add 15 minutes to the interval. Continue to make the intervals longer and longer with each passing week. After a few weeks, you should be seeing an increase in the length of time between bathroom visits.
Drink to your health with cranberry juice. According to Dr. Raul Raz, an infectious diseases specialist from Israel, the cranberries in the juice have anti-adhesive properties that prevent E.coli bacteria, a common cause of urinary tract infections, from clinging to bladder cell walls.
Take herbs in order to soothe irritation and relax bladder muscles. Alpina oxyphylla, a member of the ginger family, has anti-inflammatory properties. Panax ginseng helps to reduce contractions and urges. Valerian is a natural muscle relaxant and antispasmodic, as is passiflora incarnata and magnesium. Pumpkin seeds are rich in both essential fatty acids and phytoesterol, which promote muscle strength. Before embarking on any regimen of vitamins or herbal supplements, however, you should discuss it with your doctor, as these substances can interfere with medications you are taking. To learn about possible side effects of herbs, visit the U.S. Library of Medicine resource below.
Use Kegel exercises to strengthen pelvic-floor muscles. Contrary to popular belief, Kegels are not for women only; both sexes can use them. To do Kegels, squeeze your muscles as if you were trying to prevent urination, hold for three seconds, then release. Repeat the sequence ten times.
Avoid alcohol and caffeine, at least while you're trying to regain bladder control. They are diuretics.
Overactive bladder can be caused by many conditions, among them stroke, injury, multiple sclerosis, diabetes, obesity, Parkinson's disease, and tumors. See your doctor to rule out dangerous diagnoses.