Incontinence and Water: How Much Should You Drink?
If you frequently feel the urge to pee or leak urine when you laugh, drinking less water seems like a perfectly normal response. If I drink less water, my bladder will be less full. I’ll need to pee less often, right?
Actually, no. It sounds counterintuitive, but the truth is that dramatically cutting down your water intake may actually make bladder problems worse because:
Dehydration can irritate your bladder. When you don’t consume enough fluids, your urine becomes concentrated, which can irritate your bladder lining. This can cause an increased sense of urgency (that “gotta go” feeling) to use the restroom.
Dehydration can contribute to constipation. Your colon, where stool is stored, is located relatively close to your bladder. Being constipated can put pressure on your bladder.
Dehydration can play a role in urinary tract infections and kidney stones. And the last thing you need is more bladder drama.
What’s more, being dehydrated can make you sluggish and cause other symptoms, such as:
How Much Water Should I Drink?
There’s no hard-and-fast rule. But a general recommendation is to aim for half your body weight in ounces of water. (That means a 150-pound person should drink 75 ounces.) You may need more or less depending on weather, your activity, medications, or medical conditions. Foods (fruits and veggies) and other healthy beverages (herbal tea, seltzer, milk) also help you stay hydrated.
If you’ve cut back on water because you’re worried it’s making your urinary issues worse, try to reintroduce fluids gradually. Here are some tips to make sure you stay hydrated:
Consider the color of your urine. It should be pale yellow (kind of like lemonade). If yours is more golden or dark yellow, that’s a clue you need more water.
Spread your water intake out over the course of the day. You could start by having a small glass of water with each of your meals and then build from there.
Make it interesting. Add fresh fruit to water to give it a little more flavor. Buy a new cup to drink from to mix it up. Start a “water challenge” with family and friends to keep you accountable to your goal.
Avoid drinking close to bedtime. Many people with urinary issues also struggle to get a good night’s sleep because of waking up to pee during the night. Avoid drinking within two hours of bedtime.
Don’t let yourself get thirsty. If you’re craving water, that’s a sign you’re not drinking enough.
Stick to mostly water. Water isn’t the only healthy beverage out there. But some beverages may actually make you more dehydrated (think: caffeinated drinks like coffee, some teas, and soda). In general, try to get most of your water intake from that — water!
When you first start consuming more water, it’s normal to see an uptick in your number of bathroom breaks. This is just your kidneys processing the increase in water consumption. Don’t worry, though. Over time this should level out and you’ll see improvements in your bladder symptoms.
Managing Incontinence with Pelvic Floor Exercises
If you’re struggling with urinary issues, pelvic floor exercises can make a big difference. 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.). Be sure to reach out to your Hinge Health physical therapist or coach if you’re interested in adding pelvic floor exercises to your current routine.
It’s a myth that you should drink less water if you have urinary issues. Drinking too little water can make things worse by irritating your bladder and causing constipation.
There’s no one rule for how much water to drink each day. Start with half your body weight in ounces of water and use the color of your urine as a guide (aim for pale yellow).
You may experience an increased frequency of visits to the restroom after increasing your water consumption, but this will normalize after a few days.
Ask the Experts If I Have Incontinence, Should I Drink Less Water to Stop Leaking - Urology Care Foundation. (n.d.). Urology Care Foundation. https://www.urologyhealth.org/healthy-living/urologyhealth-extra/magazine-archives/current-issue-(fall-2021)/ask-the-experts-if-i-have-incontinence-should-i-drink-less-water-to-stop-leaking
Harvard Health Publishing. (2020, March 25). How much water should you drink? - Harvard Health. Harvard Health. https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/how-much-water-should-you-drink
Mayo Clinic. (2018). Overactive bladder - Symptoms and causes. Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/overactive-bladder/symptoms-causes/syc-20355715
National Kidney Foundation. (2017, May 10). How Your Kidneys Work. National Kidney Foundation. https://www.kidney.org/kidneydisease/howkidneyswrk