Incontinence symptoms: 10 tips to help you avoid unexpected leaks

This Morning: Ferne McCann opens up about incontinence

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Millions of Britons experience some form of urinary incontinence: this could be the odd leak of wee from laughing too hard, or for others a more serious condition. Incontinence might feel slightly embarrassing to address, but it’s very common and there are some simple tips you can do at home to avoid any leaks.

Incontinence can refer to not being able to control your bladder (urinary incontinence) or your bowels (faecal incontinence): in other words, it’s when you can’t hold it in.

Urinary incontinence is far more common than faecal incontinence.

The NHS estimates between three and six million UK adults have urinary incontinence to some degree.

This means you might leak a bit of urine from time to time.

However, there are different types of urinary incontinence, these are:

  • Stress incontinence
  • Urge incontinence
  • Mixed incontinence
  • Overflow incontinence
  • Total incontinence

The two most common types of urinary incontinence are stress incontinence and urge incontinence.

Stress incontinence is when you might pee yourself a little when your bladder is under stress, meaning when you cough, sneeze, laugh or exercise.

This type of incontinence is most common after having a baby, increased pressure on your tummy as a result of being pregnant or overweight, or due to other muscular conditions.

Urge incontinence is when you very suddenly get the urge to go to the toilet, and can’t make it in time: usually only having seconds to dash to the loo.

This type of incontinence is usually due to a problem with muscles in your bladder called the detrusor muscles contracting too often, creating a sudden urge to go to the toilet.

This can be caused by drinking too much alcohol, constipation or not drinking enough fluids, amongst other causes.

If you experience incontinence from time to time, you might be tempted to write it off as “just one of those things”, but you should speak to your doctor about it.

The doctor will want to rule out anything more serious going on causing your incontinence.

However, many people can remedy their urinary incontinence themselves.

The following ten tips are recommended by the NHS for people who have urinary incontinence.

1 – Do your pelvic floor exercises

Pelvic floor exercises are designed to squeeze and strengthen the muscles around your bladder, bum and genitals.

You may have to practice these for a while to get them right and to see results, but they are recommended for everyone who experiences incontinence.

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2 – Stop smoking

There are plenty more reasons to give up this unhealthy habit, but smoker’s cough can put further pressure on your bladder.

3 – Change your exercise routine

Some exercises you do in the gym, including sit-ups and other high-impact moves, can put pressure on your pelvic floor muscles.

So, here’s the excuse to give up sit-ups you’ve been looking for!

Pilates is recommended instead, as it is low impact and strengthens your core muscles.

4 – Avoid weightlifting

Lifting heavy weights puts strain on your pelvic floor muscles, so it’s best to be avoided.

5 – Maintain a healthy weight

Being overweight can put more pressure on your tummy and causes more fatty tissue to grow around your bladder.

Losing a few pounds could help with your incontinence.

6 – Don’t ignore constipation

Constipation leads to straining your pelvic floor muscles, which will weaken them over time.

If you often experience constipation, speak to your doctor about how you might change your diet, such as eating more fibre.

7 – Drink less caffeine

Caffeine can irritate your bladder and cause you to wee a lot, making incontinence worse.

8 – Cut down on alcohol

Alcohol also makes you wee more often – it is what’s known as a diuretic – which will make incontinence worse.

9 – Drink more water

In contrast to the previous two steps, you should not cut back on your water intake.

Drinking plenty of water is important for keeping your bladder healthy, and drinking too little water will reduce your bladder’s capacity.

10 – Avoid spicy or sour foods

Spicy foods and citrus fruits have both been found to make incontinence worse, so try to avoid them or cut down where possible.

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