Good Bladder Habits
Bladder problems such as urinary incontinence (leakage), urinary frequency (going to the bathroom often), and urinary urgency (feeling the sudden urge to pee) are very common. But just because it’s common doesn’t mean it’s normal. You don’t have to live with urinary issues, or assume this is just what happens after you have babies or reach a certain age. There are many simple and effective strategies to improve your bladder problems. In addition to an exercise plan that helps your pelvic floor muscles, lifestyle changes can also make a big difference.
Truth: How you use the toilet can affect your urinary symptoms. Here are some habits to avoid plus healthy toileting techniques for optimal bladder health.
Avoid: Pushing to empty your bladder. This puts stress on your pelvic floor and can lead to leaking.
Try this instead: Take a deep breath in and out, then let your urine stream flow naturally.
Avoid: Hovering while peeing. Hovering prevents your pelvic floor muscles from fully relaxing. This can lead to a disrupted stream or incomplete emptying of your bladder.
Try this instead: Sit fully on the toilet with your feet planted when you go. If you have trouble completely emptying, try making a “hula-hoop” or circular motion with your hips after you pee to help empty your bladder 100%.
Avoid: Practicing Kegels while you pee. This is common yet incorrect advice.Doing this can disrupt your natural bladder reflex and can even make it more difficult to empty your bladder.
Try this instead: Practice your Kegels outside of the bathroom. Check out our All About Kegels resource for more guidance on how to do Kegels.
Avoid: Having a "just-in-case pee". Don’t make an extra trip to the bathroom before leaving the house or before a long car ride unless you actually have to go. Trying to urinate without the urge can disrupt the natural reflex from your brain to your bladder and make you feel the need to go more often. This can lead to bladder dysfunction, including urinary urgency and overactive bladder syndrome.
Try this instead: Only go when you have the urge to, and try to space out bathroom trips to every two to three hours. This may feel challenging if you are going frequently, so this can require bladder retraining. Check out our Urinary Urgency & Frequency resource for more information.
Hydration is important to bladder health. Many people with bladder issues purposefully restrict their fluid intake, but this can make things worse. To get the fluid you need, follow these tips:
Aim to drink half your body weight in ounces of water. That means a person who weighs 150 pounds should shoot for 75 ounces a day. You may need more or less depending on the weather, your activity level, medications, or medical conditions.
Space out your water intake. Drinking too much too quickly can put stress on your kidneys and bladder. Instead, try to drink one glass of water or healthy liquid every two to three hours, and only drink more after you empty your bladder (also every two to three hours).
Avoid bladder irritants. Certain foods and beverages can irritate your bladder and trigger urinary urgency, frequency, or leakage. Not good. It’s best to reduce or eliminate bladder irritants from your diet and see how this affects you. If you want to consume foods or beverages that are bladder irritants (hello, coffee!), try having them with a small glass of water as this dilutes the irritant before it reaches your bladder.
Your Nighttime Routine
Nocturia refers to waking up in the middle of the night to empty your bladder. This can be very disruptive to your sleep, especially if it happens multiple times a night. These tips can help reduce your odds of needing to pee during the night:
Stop drinking fluids two hours before bedtime. It’s okay to drink something with medication, but try not to drink any more than that.
If you feel like you really have to go, use the toilet just before going to bed.
Use the urge suppression protocol in our Urinary Urgency and Frequency resource as needed if you wake up with urges to urinate.
Keep bladder irritants to a minimum in your diet. Try to avoid them completely after lunch.
Starting Pelvic Floor Exercises
Pelvic floor exercises may help with your bladder symptoms. Pelvic floor exercises are not just Kegels. Rather, they include a variety of moves that help strengthen and relax the muscles of your pelvic floor, which support your pelvic organs (bladder, bowels, etc.). Reach out to your Hinge Health physical therapist or coach if you’re interested in adding pelvic floor exercises to your current routine.
Proper toilet techniques can reduce stress on your pelvic floor muscles and prevent “confusing” your brain-bladder reflex.
Stay hydrated and consider limiting your intake of bladder irritants to help your bladder problems.
A nighttime routine and healthy bladder habits may help promote better sleep.
Frequent urination: Causes, treatment & when to call doctor. (n.d.). Cleveland Clinic. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/15533-urination--frequent-urination
Hulme, J. A. (2003). Beyond kegels. A clinician's guide to treatment algorithms & special populations. Phoenix Pub.
Health benefits of legs up the wall. (2021, August 6). Cleveland Clinic. https://health.clevelandclinic.org/benefits-of-legs-up-the-wall/
Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. (2020, October 14). Water: How much water do you need to stay healthy? Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/water/art-20044256