Starting a pelvic floor muscle training program is highly encouraged to benefit individuals with incontinence issues and is supported by the scientific community. But, what happens when incorporating an exercise program at home is not enough?
Often, people quit their prescribed pelvic floor muscle training program prematurely for many reasons:
- Incontinence severity
- Unhealthy behaviors
- Lack of professional supervision
Are lifestyle changes enough to keep you dry?
Unfortunately, there is not enough evidence to support if any of these behavior modifications work. But, it doesn’t mean that changing your patterns won’t help. Sometimes there is not enough research or unreliable research to support what many in the industry see as no-brainer incontinence hacks.
There are many factors in play and types of people and lifestyles that make completing quality studies difficult. Still, a few lifestyle changes are worth mentioning, and future research is encouraged in these areas.
Benefits are potentially life-altering, and the low costs associated with these lifestyle changes can benefit people with limited resources.
- Community exercise and education programs. Often organized within the community, participating in exercise programs and support groups is relatively low-cost and accessible to more people. Group programs can be fun and motivating for the participants, which will keep them coming back for more.
- Weight loss programs. Research has shown that losing weight can reduce or prevent pelvic floor disorders. Women with a high BMI have more body weight pushing down on their bladders. Extra weight may not be as significant as previously thought since some women with high BMI are incontinence free. It may have more to do with mechanics and poor body control as they can create higher intra-abdominal pressure during activity.
- Diet changes. Certain foods irritate the bladder, causing it to contract and place more work and pressure on the pelvic floor. They can include:
- Highly acidic fruits and vegetables
- Artificial sugars and sweeteners
- Spicy foods
- Fluid intake. Water hydrates and helps remove toxins from the body, allowing the body to function correctly and avoid the detrimental effects of dehydration. In general, a person should drink about half an ounce to an ounce of water for each pound they weigh. If you weigh 100 pounds, you should drink 50 to 100 ounces of water daily. An adult bladder can hold about 16 ounces of urine at a time. You should pee about 6-8 times a day.
- Reduction in caffeine and carbonated drinks. Caffeine is a diuretic, so your bladder will make more urine than usual. It is also an irritant, so your bladder will become overused over time and become sensitive. Carbonated drinks typically contain caffeine and artificial sweeteners.
- Smoking cessation. Smoking can cause chronic coughing, which adds prolonged repetitive strain across the pelvic floor. Nicotine smoke is a bladder irritant that can lead to urinary frequency, incontinence, and an overactive bladder. Smoking causes other urologic diseases, including bladder cancer, prostate cancer, kidney cancer, kidney stones, and Interstitial Cystitis (IC).
Evidence is most significant for and supports weight loss programs, including diet and fluid intake changes.
Although the literature does not provide strong support for these lifestyle changes, there is positive consideration for participating in multi-faceted lifestyle interventions. Meaning – you should do everything within your power and abilities to change all aspects of your life that are unhealthy.
Incorporating all these changes into your life can be very beneficial overall in relieving your pelvic floor symptoms as well as improving your pelvic health. Our pelvic floor physical therapists can help you develop a plan that will work for you. Contact us today to schedule an appointment.