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Jane’s Blog Overactive Bladder OAB

Posted by Jane Jansen on

Overactive bladder (OAB) is the name for a group of urinary symptoms. It is not a disease. The Urology Care Foundation estimate that at least 33 million people in the United States have overactive bladder and as many as 40 percent of women live with OAB symptoms.

Urgency is the key word and major symptom of OAB. It is a sudden, strong urge to urinate that you can't ignore. This "gotta go" feeling makes you fear you will leak if you don't get to a bathroom right away. Some people will leak urine when they feel this urge. Another symptom is the need to pass urine many times during the day and night.

Leaking urine is called "incontinence”. Stress urinary incontinence, is another common bladder problem and is different from OAB as urine leakage occurs while sneezing, laughing, or doing other physical activities.

OAB can have many causes, including aging-related changes, medical conditions like, diabetes, weak urethra (bladder) sphincter muscles and pelvic floor muscles, frequent urinary tract infections, Multiple Sclerosis and Parkinson’s Disease. Constipation and a sagging uterus can put pressure on the bladder increasing OAB symptoms.

Certain medications can contribute to an overactive bladder. In a cross-sectional study that involved 390 patients aged 60 years and older seeking care for urinary symptoms, specifically incontinence, 60.5 percent of them were taking medications that were potentially contributing to their conditions such as calcium channel blockers, benzodiazepines, ACE inhibitors and estrogens. Drugs that may cause frequent urination and other urinary symptoms include diuretics, antibiotics, antidepressants, antipsychotics, allergy medications, antihistamines, and anticonvulsants.

The kidneys work around the clock to filter your blood and produce urine which is transported to the bladder to dispose of waste, toxins and extra fluid. The bladder stores urine until it becomes full and you feel the urge to urinate. At the bottom of the bladder is the urethra, a muscle group that keeps the urine in the bladder until the brain signals the muscular bladder wall to tighten and push the urine out.

With a healthy bladder, signals in your brain let you know that your bladder is getting full or is full, but you can wait to go to the bathroom. If the nerve signals between your bladder and brain don’t work properly, OAB can result. The signals might tell your bladder to empty, even when it isn't full. OAB can also be caused when muscles in your bladder are irritated and or too active. This means that the bladder muscles contract to pass urine before your bladder is full. In turn, this causes a sudden, strong need to urinate.

Certain food and beverages can contribute to OAB symptoms, include: alcoholic beverages particularly wine and beer, caffeinated beverages, artificial sweeteners, chocolate, citrus fruits, coffee, soda, spicy foods, black tea, and tomato-based foods. Cranberry juice helps fight off bladder infections, but it can stimulate overactive bladder symptoms. The berries' acidity  and sugar in juice can irritate the bladder, and  make you go more frequently.

Water plays a significant role in your daily diet, too little water will lead to constipation and concentrated urine – which may irritate your bladder and increase the feeling of urgency. A paper published in a 2016 journal Research and Reports in Urology, recommends up to 6 to 8 glasses of water daily, and avoiding liquids for 2 to 3 hours before bedtime.

Supplements that can help tone down the urgency!

Corn silk : According to the International Continence Society the herb Corn silk helps with strengthening and restoring mucous membranes in the urinary tract.

Buchu is an herb which improves the overall health of the urinary system by reducing irritation and strengthening the bladder tissue.

Red Raspberry Leaf Tea helps to tone lax sphincter muscles and is safe during pregnancy.

Bladder Tonic (Wise Woman Herbals) Promotes normal healthy muscle tone and function in the bladder and pelvic area.* Ingredients: Alchemilla xanthochlora (lady's mantle), Centella asiatica (gotu kola), Hypericum perf. (St. John's wort), Mitchella repens (partridge berry), Hamamelis virginiana (witch hazel), and Zea mays (cornsilk) in a base of organic alcohol, spring water, and vegetable glycerin. *Not recommended during pregnancy.

Baking soda ¼ tsp added to 3 oz water 1-2 x day helps to make the bladder more alkaline and decreases bladder wall irritation.

Kegel exercises: can strengthen your urethra and pelvic floor muscles to improve your bladder control. Regularly pushing the urine out forcefully will super strengthen the bladder muscles and weaken the pelvic floor muscles that help hold urine inside the bladder and prevent leakage.

You can feel your pelvic floor muscles if you try to stop the flow of urine when you go to the toilet. These are the same ones you tighten during Kegel exercises which you can do anytime, anywhere, when you are not urinating. It is not recommended to regularly stop flow of urine midstream as it can be harmful to the bladder.

Just pretend you're trying to stop the flow of urine, pull in and squeeze those muscles. Hold the squeeze for about 10 seconds, then rest for 10 seconds. It is common for most people not to take the time to relax between squeezes. You must allow the muscles to relax between squeezes so that they can rest before squeezing again. Try for three or four sets of 10 contractions every day when in your car, at your desk, or while you watch TV. Doing them consistently every day is extremely important. As with any muscle in the body it takes time to strengthen pelvic floor muscles, too. Give it at least 3 to 6 weeks to start seeing improvement.

When practicing Kegel exercises it is best to relax your body as much as possible and concentrate on your pelvic floor muscles. Avoid using your stomach muscles and if you find yourself holding your breath then relax and keep breathing normally.

Double voiding: Immediately after you urinate, try leaning forward and gently rocking back and forth, then standing, then sitting again while keeping the pelvic floor muscles relaxed. This will help empty the bladder better and reduce urine loss after you leave the bathroom.

There are many different Pelvic floor exercises you can do and are available online. Also, pelvic floor physical therapy with a specially trained physical therapist is helpful to improve pelvic floor muscle coordination, create better bladder habits, and to improve/resolve symptoms of urinary urgency, frequency, and leakage. Pelvic floor physical therapy can also help those who experience pelvic pain, constipation, and difficulty emptying the bladder completely.

Go to the toilet only when you need to. If you go to the toilet too often the bladder becomes used to holding less urine. The bladder may then become even more sensitive and overactive at times when it is stretched even just a little.

Get your life back! With a little help OAB is treatable!

In-office and telephone appointments are available at the Tree of Life Wellness Center call 508-336-4242 for more information.

Jane Jansen  Holistic Practitioner  Tree of Life Wellness Center

Host Holistic Healthline Radio


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