Incontinence is a common condition that affects more than five million Australians. If you don’t already know, incontinence means involuntary leakage of urine or faeces due to a loss of bladder or bowel control. While it can happen to anyone, incontinence is more common in older people, especially women. According to the Continence Foundation, 80 per cent of people living with urinary incontinence are women.
The good news is that in many cases, incontinence can be prevented. So, in line with World Continence Week, which traditionally runs during the third week of June, nd raises awareness about incontinence-related issues, we’ve looked at some of the best ways to prevent incontinence.
You already know that exercise is good for you — from weight loss to strengthening your bones and even reducing the risk of chronic diseases. But did you know that regular exercise is also good for your bladder and bowel health? Yep, that’s correct, physical activity can help prevent bladder and bowel problems. And the best part is, you don’t have to slog through an intense workout to reap the benefits — a 30-minute brisk walk is all you need. If you can’t hit that number every day, activities like gardening, cleaning, playing with the grandkids and taking the stairs all add up.
It’s super important to include fibre-rich foods in your diet. A poor diet — such as not getting enough fibre in your diet — can cause chronic constipation, which can lead to faecal incontinence. Fibre is found in foods such as multigrain or wholegrain breads, cereal products, fruit, vegetables, legumes, and nuts and seeds. Aim to eat two servings of fruit, five servings of vegetables and five servings of cereals and bread each day.
When increasing your daily fibre intake, it’s important to drink more fluids. Try to drink up to two litres of fluid each day. Soft drinks, alcohol, tea and coffee can irritate your bladder, so water is the best choice.
Strengthening your pelvic floor muscles helps prevent incontinence. The Continence Foundation advises speaking to a continence health professional who can recommend some at-home pelvic floor exercises. Try to do your pelvic floor exercises every day, three times a day. Low-intensity activities like Pilates, yoga and swimming are also great for strengthening your pelvic floor.
Good toilet habits can help to prevent bladder and bowel problems. Do you have a habit of going to the toilet when you don’t need to? If you keep emptying your bladder ‘just in case’ too often, then the bladder may never fill up properly. This may give the feeling of needing to go to the toilet more frequently. While holding in your bowel movements can lead to constipation, which we all know may lead to further problems down the track.
IMPORTANT LEGAL INFO This article is of a general nature and FYI only, because it doesn’t take into account your personal health requirements or existing medical conditions. That means it’s not personalised health advice and shouldn’t be relied upon as if it is. Before making a health-related decision, you should work out if the info is appropriate for your situation and get professional medical advice.