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Your urinary bladder is the hollow, muscular reservoir for your urine that sits in your lower pelvis. You may not consider it to be an important organ and in fact, you may not spend much time pondering its use at all. However, if your bladder does not work properly, as in conditions such as urinary incontinence or a bladder infection, it would certainly be on your mind.

To maintain a healthy bladder, there are behaviors to be encouraged and some that should be avoided.

Drink Enough Water

To drink enough water on a daily basis is like exercise for your bladder. Your bladder stretches when it is full and it shrinks when it is not. Maintaining adequate fluid intake will ensure that your bladder will be accustomed to holding urine and overtime, possibly reduce frequent trips to the washroom; it is will also aid your kidneys to eliminate waste. The typical recommendation is to drink 6 to 8 cups of water or non-caffeinated beverages each day.

Urinate After Intercourse

More women than men develop urinary tract and bladder infections, especially after sex. It is possible for bacteria to be introduced into the urethra (the tube that delivers urine from your bladder out of your body), and urinating after sex helps to cleanse your urethra to prevent bacteria from getting into your bladder. If you are prone to urinary tract infections, consider cleaning your genitals and anal areas before sex to help prevent introducing bacteria from the area into your bladder.

Enjoy Some Cranberry

Cranberry is a natural urinary tract and bladder cleanser. It is hypothesized that the plant chemicals in cranberry, proanthocyanidins, tighten the bladder muscles. Cranberry has been shown in studies to prevent E. Coli from sticking to the walls of your bladder which can reduce the likelihood of infection.

A tart fruit, cranberry is not a typical staple in the everyday diet, however it may be helpful to consume cranberry juice or to incorporate cranberry into your diet on a regular basis if you are prone to bladder incontinence or to help prevent recurring bladder infections.

Incorporate Kegel Exercises

Kegel exercises help to strengthen the muscles of your pelvic floor which in turn will help with bladder control. A strong pelvic floor will also keep your uterus and rectum well supported. The easiest way to find the muscles of your pelvic floor is to stop your urination midstream. Once you get accustomed to where and how to control these muscles, practice squeezing, holding and releasing them a few times each day.

You can perform these exercises discreetly anytime. If you have trouble identifying your kegel muscles, see your doctor or a pelvic physiotherapist who can guide you through the process.

Take it Easy on the Caffeine

Caffeine is an irritant to your bladder muscles and since it is a diuretic, it can also encourage more frequent urination. If you find yourself waking up frequently in the night to urinate, try reducing your caffeine intake, it may make a difference.

Do Not Hold Your Urine

There may be the occasional need to hold your urine however; this is a behavior that you may not want to make into a habit.

When you hold urine, the urine can put pressure on your kidneys. The concentrated urine can crystallize and form bladder stones and it can also lead to a urinary tract infection or a bladder infection.

Prevent Constipation

Constipation occurs when you have to strain to pass your stool, when your stool is hard or when stool is not passed on a regular basis. A full bowel can put unnecessary pressure on your bladder which can prevent your bladder from completely emptying and lead to urinary tract infections. To avoid constipation, stay active by moving your body daily and eat a diet that is high in fiber from whole grains, fruits and vegetables. Be sure to drink non-carbonated and non-caffeinated fluids to encourage healthy waste removal from your body.

The health of your bladder and urinary tract is important to keep in mind especially as you age. The exercise, healthy eating and lifestyle tips featured here can serve as a starting point to help you prevent bladder-related health issues. If you have questions about the health of your bladder consult with your health care practitioner.

Dr. Olivia Rose
About the Author

Dr. Olivia Rose graduated from the University of Guelph with a Bachelor of Science Honours degree in Nutritional and Nutraceutical Sciences and in 2006, she graduated from the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine.

In addition to her private practice, Dr. Rose is the director of Fertility Acupuncture Services, a mobile service that brings acupuncture to couples undergoing in vitro fertilization and intrauterine insemination at Toronto fertility clinics. Her special areas of interest include infertility; children and teen health; stress management; weight loss; heart disease; digestive and immune health; skin rejuvenation and pain management. She is a birth doula and has additional training in cosmetic acupuncture and needle-less therapies for skin rejuvenation and joint pain.

Dr. Rose is a sought-after lecturer for community organizations; a freelance writer and mentor to new graduates. She has been interviewed by various media outlets including Global Toronto’s, “The Morning Show”, “News at Noon” and “News Hour”. In her free time, she unplugs at the spa and she enjoys spending quality time with her husband, son and tea-cup Yorkie. For more information on Dr. Rose's practice and special events, please visit - www.oroseND.com