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5 Easy, All-Natural Ways to Alleviate Overactive Bladder

Try these simple exercises, diet changes and behavioral strategies first. 

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By Kristen Sturt 

You're grocery shopping, distractedly pushing your full cart through aisle 5, when suddenly, you're seized by the need to use the bathroom—badly. Does this sound familiar? If it consistently happens eight or more times in 24 hours, you might suffer from overactive bladder (OAB), a condition defined by the frequent, pressing urge to pee, occasionally accompanied by leakage.

Don't panic. Unlike many other conditions, treating OAB often begins at home, with a combination of simple exercises, diet modifications and behavioral strategies. Here's how to get started—after seeing your healthcare provider (HCP), of course.

Do your Kegels

2 / 6 Do your Kegels

The first line of defense against OAB is exercising to strengthen your pelvic floor. Your HCP will likely prescribe Kegels, during which you:

  • Contract your pelvic muscles as if you were trying not to urinate
  • Hold that position for 10 seconds
  • Release, rest a few seconds and repeat 10 times

Do this 10 times over the course of a day, anywhere you can, to help prevent leakage. Bonus: Kegels are thought to improve your sex life and reduce the risk of female genital prolapse, during which your uterus or vagina fall out of their normal positions. 

Try bladder training and scheduled voiding

3 / 6 Try bladder training and scheduled voiding

Along with Kegels, your HCP might assign you a series of exercises meant to increase control of your urine. The first, bladder training, involves holding your urge to pee for a little longer each day. With practice, over time, you should be able to consistently reach a restroom to avoid accidents.

Your HCP may also recommend timed voiding—essentially, training yourself to go to the bathroom at certain times throughout the day. As you progress, you can extend the time between trips. This is especially helpful for those with a rigid schedule—like teachers, who must hold their urges until class is over—or office workers with frequent meetings. 

Change your diet—and watch those fluids

4 / 6 Change your diet—and watch those fluids

What you eat plays a big role in OAB, since certain foods irritate your bladder, worsening the need to urinate. To alleviate symptoms, try cutting back on:

  • Chocolate
  • Spicy foods
  • Tomatoes and tomato products
  • Artificial sweeteners like saccharin or aspartame
  • Acidic foods like citrus fruits and vinegars

Keep a record of foods that aggravate your OAB can also be helpful—you'll know what to look out for in the future.

Fluids are an issue for people with incontinence, as well. Restrict your intake before long trips, extended meetings, or any event where you'll lack bathroom access; don't dehydrate yourself, however, since it can aggravate OAB. Additionally, try to steer clear of coffee, tea, alcohol, soda, carbonated drinks like seltzer and beverages containing artificial sweeteners, all of which mean bad news for your bladder.

Drop some weight

5 / 6 Drop some weight

Researchers have found a connection between OAB and excess pounds; the more overweight you are, the higher your likelihood of developing the condition, probably because of added pressure on your bladder. Excess weight also increases the risk of leaking urine.

That means that slimming down can alleviate symptoms. In fact, one study in the Journal of Urology discovered that losing your spare tire can lead to "significant improvements" in incontinence. Get started with these 9 effortless ways to lose weight.

Keep a bladder diary

6 / 6 Keep a bladder diary

In addition to behavioral changes, you can start recording what actions, occurrences, foods or drinks seem to bring on your OAB symptoms. You'll keep your bladder diary—sometimes called a pee diary or voiding diary—for at least three days. In it, you'll record when and how much you urinate, along with what events precede each trip to the bathroom.  The diary isn't just for your own knowledge—it will also assist your HCP in identifying what triggers your OAB, which will, in turn, benefit treatment.

Curious about what further steps you can take to alleviate your OAB? Get the lowdown on treatment here.

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