Toilet habits usually fall under the umbrella of ‘things you should keep to yourself’, but bladder incontinence is an issue that impacts many people in the older community. More than five million Australians live with bladder and bowel control problems, and up to 37 per cent of women and 13 per cent of men experience incontinence – urine leakage from a loss of bladder control.
Bladder incontinence is often an embarrassing problem, but as of today, a new product is on the market which could drastically improve the quality of life for people who live with the unsettling condition.
The TGA-approved product, Happy Bladder, is a combination of three herbal medicines – crataeva nurvala, horsetail and lindera – which are known to improve bladder function, tone and control, Jeff Butterworth, naturopath and co-founder of Happy Healthy You (the organisation launching Happy Bladder) explained.
To put Happy Bladder to the test, The University of Queensland (UQ) and Endeavour College of Natural Health conducted a randomised trial with 150 participants who had at least two symptoms of an overactive bladder, including frequent urination, nocturia and incontinence.
The study results showed that the herbal medication improved bladder control within a few weeks. For example, after eight weeks of use almost one in four (23 per cent) participants reported improved bladder control and 84 per cent said their quality of life had improved dramatically, Butterworth said. Meanwhile, half of those with nocturia experienced improvements, while “there was a noticeable reduction in incontinence pad usage among participants and fewer accidents and reduced visits to the toilet”.
Lisa Curry, co-founder of Happy Healthy You, added: “Our goal at Happy Healthy You is to develop natural solutions for women and men with conditions which are impacting on their quality of life. I believe this new product will change women’s lives for the better and allow them to feel more confident and be more active.”
Stress and urge incontinence are the two most common types of bladder leakage. Stress incontinence refers to leakage triggered by a cough, sneeze or a strain, while urge incontinence is where people experience a sudden and uncontrollable urge to urinate.
When women become menopausal, there are several hormonal shifts which can affect the bladder, while the growth of the prostate can cause problems in men. Other people can develop bladder weakness through heavy lifting, a history of pregnancy or vaginal birth, pelvic surgeries, hysterectomies or operations on the prostate.
According to the Continence Foundation Australia, a healthy bladder is one that empties between four and six times a day, can hold between 400ml and 600ml of urine, wakes you up no more than twice a night if you’re over 65, doesn’t leak urine and empties completely when a person goes to the bathroom. If this doesn’t sound like your bathroom habits, practicing pelvic floor exercises may assist.
Apart from medication, one of the most effective ways to treat incontinence is with pelvic floor exercises (PFE). Women can strengthen the pelvic floor muscles by imagining they’re holding the flow of urine, holding in wind and trying to squeeze, pull up and hold the muscles in that area.
Those who experience leakage with coughing or sneezing should typically start seeing improvements after six weeks of pelvic floor exercises. Having said that, it can take longer to notice significant strength changes and this can take anywhere from three months to 12 months.
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