Urinary Incontinence: Prevention

The factors that cause urinary incontinence are often ambiguous, so recommending preventive steps can be challenging. Pelvic floor exercises – also known as Kegel exercises – are probably the best way to prevent stress incontinence. Because some foods and fluids can irritate the bladder, often causing or aggravating incontinence, you should also avoid eating or drinking specific foods.          

Kegel Exercises

The pelvic floor muscles are like a hammock, stretching from the pubic bone to the lower back. These muscles support the pelvic organs, including the bladder. Incontinence can develop if pelvic floor muscles become weak or damaged due to childbirth, surgery, excess straining, or genetics.

Urinary incontinence can be improved in some patients by exercising and strengthening these muscles. Learning to squeeze them when the urge to urinate becomes strong is an important way to control leaking urine. Daily exercise with these muscles is also very helpful for women with stress incontinence (leakage with coughing, sneezing, or movement).

Although some patients may have tried pelvic floor muscle exercises in the past, they may have found them ineffective for several reasons. Many patients may try Kegel exercises for a brief time but abandon them before improvement can be noticed. Also, most people are unaware of their pelvic floor muscles, and as a result may not be exercising and strengthening the proper muscles.

Foods to Avoid – Bladder Irritants

For some people, certain foods may irritate the bladder, causing or worsening bladder symptoms. If symptoms are related to diet, avoiding highly acidic or spicy foods, caffeine, alcohol, and carbonated drinks should bring significant relief after approximately 10 days. 

This dietary link can be confirmed when you resume your original diet. If problems return, then diet is a factor. Once symptoms have improved on the restricted diet, you can gradually add these foods back into the diet, one item at a time. If one specific food does cause symptoms, it can be easily identified and avoided.

As foods are added back into the diet, it is crucial that you maintain a significant water intake. Water should be the majority of what you drink every day.

Irritants
Alcohol Chocolate NutraSweet Sweet'N Low
Apples Citrus Fruits Peaches Tea
Apple Juice Coffee (including decaffeinated) Pineapples Tofu
Bananas Cranberries Plums Tomatoes
Cantaloupes Grapes Processed Meats and Fish Vinegar
Carbonation Guava Soy Sauce Vitamin B Complex
Chilies/Spicy Foods Mayonnaise Strawberries Yogurt

Substitutions

  • Coffee – kava (low-acid instant), cold brew
  • Low-Acid Fruits – pears, apricots, papaya, watermelon
  • Tea – noncitrus, herbal, sun-brewed tea
  • Vitamin C Substitute – calcium carbonate buffered with calcium ascorbate