Bladder problems such as cystitis and urinary incontinence cause pain and suffering for millions of women but some simple lifestyle changes and natural remedies can ease the discomfort and, in many…
Yoga has long been advocated for relaxation and to improve flexibility but studies have shown it can also have positive effects on bladder problems such as cystitis and stress incontinence. A 2014 study published in the Female Pelvic Medicine and Reconstructive Surgery journal, for example, found a six-week yoga therapy programme helped reduce the symptoms of stress incontinence by as much as 70 percent. It’s thought asanas such as root lock, chair pose and triangle can help tighten the muscles that control the urethral sphincter.
“Pelvic pain and risk of urinary tract infection can also be reduced by minimising pressure on, and increasing blood circulation to that area, so hip openers such as bound angle, cow face and frog can be very therapeutic,” says naturopathic nutritionist Mary Cotter (stellarhealth.co.uk). “Breathing exercises like alternate nostril breathing and yoga nidra can also help relax the spasms of disorders such as interstitial cystitis (IC), also referred to as painful bladder syndrome, and its related bladder and pelvic discomfort.”
If you want to alleviate and reduce cystitis flare-ups, you also need to get intimate. While the overuse of perfumed soaps and shower gels can change the delicate PH balance of the urinary tract, poor hygiene can lead to a build up of bacteria. Try naturopathic nutritionist Nadiya Kondratyeva’s (nnnutritionist.com) top tips on improving your daily wash and brush up:
• Avoid tampons; they damage good micro flora in the vagina, which make it more prone to dysbiosis and the transition of it to the uterus.
• Change sanitary pads every three to four hours, and use intimate natural wet wipes to clean the residue. Use organic pads; this investment is priceless, as most of the commercial brands contain chemicals.
• Wipe yourself from front to back at all the times, and not the other way round.
• Wash yourself twice a day, am and pm. If for any reason you cannot take a shower, take a little bit of water to wash your intimate area while sitting on the toilet.
• Urinate immediately after sexual intercourse to decrease the chances of bacteria in the uterus travelling to the bladder.
• Make sure to wash your underwear, pyjamas and bed linen separately from socks and other clothes at a high temperature. You could also iron them to destroy bacteria.
Because the gastrointestinal tract and the urinary tract are closely linked, constipation can cause extra pressure on the bladder. Regular exercise, a diet rich in fibre (around 20g a day) and plenty of water can help alleviate symptoms. Oil-rich sesame seeds and antispasmodic peppermint or ginger, in particular, can help ‘moisturise’ the intestines, and dandelion tea also acts as a gentle laxative.
“UTIs can be made worse by too much caffeine and alcohol,” says Cotter. “They are diuretics and can make your pee more acidic, making you want to go more frequently. Instead, drink plenty of water and herbal teas. I recommend at least 1.5-2 litres of water (including herbals teas) when you have an infection, and 1.2-1.5 litres when you don’t. Alkalizing fruits and vegetables such as pears, cherries, green leafy veg, parsley, watercress and cucumber are also helpful and support bladder or genito-urinary health.”
Strengthening your pelvic floor through kegel exercises can be an easy way to ease and prevent incontinence and prolapse. Sit comfortably and squeeze the muscles 10 to 15 times without holding your breath or tightening you stomach, buttocks and thighs. As you get better at them, you can add more ‘reps’.
However, Mary Cotter suggests that you should see a women’s health physiotherapist (via pelvicphysiotherapy.com) before embarking on them. “Loads of women rush to do pelvic floor exercises because they think it will help their bladder problems but for some, it might actually be doing more harm than good,” says Cotter. “The pelvic floors in some women are already tight, so to tighten it further may not be appropriate. If you go to a therapist they will be able to do a full assessment to decide what’s best for you as an individual.”
A study published in the British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology found daily magnesium supplements could ease urge incontinence. As a muscle relaxant, magnesium is thought to reduce bladder muscle spasms and allow for complete emptying of the bladder. Foods rich in magnesium include nuts, seeds and bananas, but you can also add Epsom salts to your bath a few times a week, which allows you to absorb it through the skin. Vitamin D has also been shown to control urinary incontinence, and lower the risk of pelvic floor disorders, as it aids muscle strength. In the summer, soak up the sun for 10-15 minutes a day, and in the winter stock up on fish, eggs and fortified products and supplements.
“Spices and herbs such as garlic, turmeric, thyme and ginger all have antimicrobial properties, which means they can stem the growth of micro-organisms and bacteria,” says Cotter. “Raw garlic in particular contains an enzyme called allicin (which is what makes the garlic smell), and this supports the immune system and acts as a natural antibacterial. It is also anti-fungal so it can help reduce yeast infection. Use it at the end of cooking rather than the start so you can eat it raw. Herbal remedies such as uva ursi also help prevent bacteria such as e-coli adhering to the lining of the urethra.”
Marshmallow root can soothe digestive and lung problems thanks to its high mucilage content – a gelatinous substance made up of proteins and polysaccharides that can help calm mucous membranes and dampen nerve endings. It’s thought regular consumption in the form of teas or powders can relax the muscle spasms associated with IC, due to the way it protects the bladder wall, heals tissue and cleanses the body of toxins.
Sitting for long periods, wearing nylon underwear and tights, or tight jeans, can all exacerbate symptoms of UTIs such as cystitis, because air cannot circulate freely. Nutritionist Nadiya recommends exercising this area to increase blood flow. “Use your vaginal and anus muscle to contract and relax every day, try to aim for at least 200 times a day. This will increase blood circulation to the bladder and the vagina, which will supply them with micronutrients, clear up accumulated toxins and encourage immune boosting cells which will fight bad flora and microbes,” she explains. General exercise, such as walking, can also help so try to avoid sitting at your desk all day without a break. Choose breathable, loose flowing fabrics when buying clothes too and steer clear of tight fitting pieces.
Several studies have shown these omega 3 rich seeds have anti-inflammatory properties, which can improve urinary function and reduce the symptoms of overactive bladder. Swap your usual packet of crisps for a handful of the seeds, or add them to porridge in the mornings. They also taste delicious when made into crackers with rye flour and wholemeal flour.
The uresta bladder support is a simple and easy to use reuseable that gives you back your life – it helps significantly reduce or stop urine leaks so you can start living again. It costs £179 incl VAT but patients can apply discount voucher 'iMEDUresta' to bring the net purchase price down to £139, excluding postage. Visit imedicare.co.uk
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