16 Home Remedies for Incontinence

Have you stopped taking an aerobics class because you're afraid you might have an "accident"? Do you identify all the restroom locations in a mall before you dare to begin shopping? Do you dread sneezing, coughing, even laughing, because you're not sure if you'll stay dry?

Rest assured, you're not alone. According to the National Institutes of Health, more than 13 million Americans suffer incontinence, oftentimes in silence. Indeed, it's a problem that's only been recognized relatively recently in America as a common, treatable condition and not an unavoidable symptom of aging.

As a matter of fact, other cultures in times past seemed to have been much more aware and accepting of the problem. The ancient Egyptians developed products for incontinence, and in Great Britain around the turn of the century, it was perfectly acceptable for a woman to hold what was called a "slipper" under her dress to relieve herself during a long church service.

The loss of bladder control is not a disease but a symptom with a host of possible causes. It can affect anyone at any age -- from children to the elderly, both women and men. Women, however, are three times more likely than men to be incontinent, due in large part to the physical stresses of childbearing and a decrease in estrogen after menopause.

There are four kinds of incontinence. Stress incontinence results from damage to or weakening of the muscles of the pelvis, especially the pelvic-floor muscles. This set of muscles at the bottom of the pelvis supports the lower internal organs and helps them maintain their shape and proper function. Childbirth, menopause, a fracture of the pelvis, and certain types of surgery, such as a hysterectomy (removal of the uterus) or prostatectomy (removal of the prostate gland), can cause these muscles to become deficient. As a result, any activity that puts a sudden stress or pressure on the bladder -- anything from sneezing to hitting a tennis ball -- can cause leakage of urine. Fortunately, pelvic-floor exercises can solve most cases of stress incontinence.

Someone who has urge incontinence, on the other hand, experiences a sudden need to urinate but is unable to get to the toilet in time. Urge incontinence (sometimes called overactive bladder) occurs when there is damage to the nerves that connect the brain and the bladder, resulting in uncontrollable bladder-muscle contractions that force urine out. The nerve damage itself may be caused by a stroke, trauma to the spinal cord, or a disease such as multiple sclerosis that causes nerve dysfunction.

Some people suffer from both urge and stress incontinence. They are said to have mixed incontinence.

And finally, some people suffer from overflow incontinence, in which the body produces more urine than the bladder can hold, causing leakage, or "dribbling" of the excess urine. It results from either an obstruction or poorly functioning bladder muscles, either of which prevents the bladder from emptying completely and causes an overflow of urine. An obstruction may be caused by a tumor or an enlarged prostate, while certain medications, diseases such as polio or multiple sclerosis, spinal-cord damage, or pelvic trauma or surgery can prevent the bladder muscles from working properly.

The NAFC estimates that approximately 80 percent of people who have urinary incontinence can find relief or even a cure. Depending on the type of incontinence, treatment may include changes in lifestyle or behavior, medication, special muscle exercises, surgery, or various devices and products to manage incontinence; often, a combination of these is used.

So while you'll need to see a doctor for proper diagnosis and a treatment plan, there are several home remedies to help you remain dry and free from embarrassment. Read the next page to learn more.

For more information about urinary tract problems and how to combat them, try the following links:

This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.

Home Remedy Treatments for Incontinence

Now that you know a little bit about the different types of incontinence, as well as what typically causes them, you're ready to learn home remedies that can help you deal with this bladder control problem.

Keep a diary. Maintaining a voiding diary, or uro-log, will create a record of when you urinated and the circumstances surrounding it. The diary should include the time of day of urination or leakage; the type and amount of fluid intake that preceded it; the amount voided in ounces (pharmacies carry measuring devices that fit right inside the toilet bowl); the amount of leakage (small, medium, or large); the activity engaged in when leakage occurred; and whether or not an urge to urinate was present. Keeping such a diary for at least four days, if not a full week, before you see a doctor can help him or her determine what type of incontinence you have and the course of treatment. When you see a doctor, take along a list or the actual bottles of any prescription or over-the-counter medicines you have been taking, because some medications can cause incontinence.

Lose weight. Carrying extra fat in the abdominal region puts pressure on the bladder and stresses the pelvic muscles.

Do not smoke. Here's another reason to give up the habit. Nicotine can irritate the bladder, and for heavy smokers, coughing can contribute to stress incontinence.

Buy yourself some insurance. There are numerous products on the market today that will absorb any accidents and, at the same time, protect your clothing or bedding from wetness. Specially made disposable or reusable briefs, diapers, liners, inserts, and linen protectors can add a measure of confidence. For some people, sanitary napkins or panty liners may be an acceptable alternative that provides enough protection. You may also want to ask your doctor about medical devices that can prevent leakage, including urethral inserts (small plugs placed in the urethra that can be removed when you need to urinate) and urine seals (tiny disposable foam pads that are placed over the urethra opening).

Be confident on the road. External collecting devices that are specially designed for use by females or males can make traveling a little more comfortable. These on-the-go urinals, which are also convenient for bedside use, are available at medical-supply stores and pharmacies and through mail order and Web sites.

Go before you go. Try to empty your bladder before you take a trip of an hour or more, whether you feel the urge to go or not.

Then go again. After voiding, stand up and sit down again. Then lean forward, which will compress the abdomen and put pressure on the bladder, to help empty the bladder completely.

Wear clothes that are easy to remove. Women's clothing, in particular, can pose a problem, especially for those with urge incontinence. Jumpsuits, unitards, and one-piece swimsuits can slow you down when you're in a hurry to go because these one-piece outfits must be removed from the top down. Skip such suits or look for ones with a snapped opening at the crotch for quick and easy removal. (You should also probably skip any skintight pants or skirts and control-top hose that put unnecessary pressure on your lower abdomen in addition to being difficult to pull down.) You might also want to carry extra clothing with you so that you can change if an accident occurs. If your clothes happen to become stained with urine, soak them for three hours in a mixture of one gallon water and one cup dishwashing detergent.

Weight for results. Resistive exercise -- when force is exerted against a weight -- can be used to strengthen the sphincter muscles of the urethra and other muscles in the pelvic region that are important to regaining continence. Cones that are about the size of a tampon and that come in varying weights are designed for use in the vagina (women) or rectum (men). When a cone is inserted, the muscles in the region must contract in order to hold the weight and not let it drop. When done properly -- and consistently -- these exercises should begin to show results within a few months. These weight sets are available from physicians, who can guide your use of the cones, or from medical-supply stores. Be sure to carefully read and follow the accompanying instructions on proper use for best results. Start by holding in the lightest weight for 15 minutes, two times a day. Once successful at that weight, try the next heaviest weight for the same amount of time. Some versions of these cones come with an electronic biofeedback system, called a perineometer, which reports on the amount of pressure you're applying to the inserted cone.

Exercise. You can keep your pelvic-floor muscles in shape by regularly doing strengthening exercises. However, you should also be wary of exercise gimmicks. Carefully investigate any exercise contraption that claims to help decrease incontinence. A company may promote the fact that its gadget will tone the pelvic-floor muscles, but the device may actually exercise an unrelated muscle group, if it does anything at all. An exerciser for use between the thighs, for instance, will not strengthen the pelvic-floor muscles. If you're not sure if a certain exerciser will benefit your incontinence problem, ask your doctor about it before you spend your time or money.

Here are a few simple exercises recommended by the NAFC that should be done on a daily basis for best results. If you need additional instruction, the NAFC can help you obtain more information, or you can consult your doctor. In addition, your doctor may recommend exercises of increasing difficulty, depending on your specific case.

  • Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet slightly apart. Contract all the openings in the pelvic-floor -- the rectum, urethra, and, in women, the vagina, too. To help you isolate the muscles, first squeeze as if trying to keep from passing gas. Then (for women) contract the vagina as if trying not to lose a tampon. Then, proceed forward as if trying to stop urinating. Hold the tension while slowly counting to three. Then slowly release the tension. Repeat five to ten times. You should feel a "lift" inside you. Be sure to breathe smoothly and comfortably and do not tense your stomach, thigh, or buttocks muscles; otherwise, you may be exercising the wrong muscles. Check your abdomen with your hand to make sure the stomach area is relaxed.
  • Repeat the first exercise while using a low stool to support the lower part of your legs. Raising your legs will help further relax the pelvic-floor muscles for the exercise.
  • Repeat the first exercise while kneeling on the floor with your elbows resting on a cushion. In this position, the stomach muscles are completely relaxed. If you are unable to kneel, roll up a blanket and place it under your groin while you lie on your stomach, then perform the exercise.

Make a phone call. Call 1-800-BLADDER, NAFC's toll-free number, for details on how to receive a free packet of information on services and products for people with incontinence; you can also order the packet from the NAFC's Web site at www.nafc.org.

For more information about urinary tract problems and how to combat them, try the following links:

This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.

Natural Home Remedies for Incontinence

©2007 Publications International, Ltd. Those suffering from incontinence should still drink plenty of water.

Your diet can be a very important part of your battle with incontinence. Here are some tips on choosing the right foods, and some home remedies you can find in your kitchen.

Home Remedies From the Refrigerator

Juice and other drinks. Grape, cranberry, cherry, and apple juices are not irritating to the bladder and may help control the odor of your urine. They may also help diminish urinary tract infections. However, some beverages seem to irritate the bladder lining and, as a result, cause bladder leakage. You may want to eliminate certain substances from your diet or at least decrease your intake of them to see if your urine control improves. The caffeine in coffee, for instance, may irritate the bladder, and the ingredients that give coffee its distinct aroma (also found in decaffeinated varieties) can be irritating too. Tea, another favorite breakfast drink, is not only a diuretic, which promotes fluid loss through urination, but also a bladder irritant. (As a substitute for your morning cup of coffee or tea, try one of the hot grain beverages found in your grocer's coffee and tea aisle.) Citrus fruits and juices, such as grapefruit and tomato, can be a problem. Carbonated sodas may be irritating, too (although you might be able to tolerate seltzer water, because it's not as highly carbonated as sodas). And, finally, alcoholic beverages should be avoided. Your safest beverage bet is water, perhaps with a twist of lemon for flavor (a few drops of lemon should not be enough citrus to cause or aggravate an incontinence problem).

Home Remedies From the Cupboard

Vinegar. A person prone to leakage is also at risk for developing irritated skin from the wetness. Always clean damp areas with plain soap and water, followed by a rinse of diluted vinegar to disinfect and control odors. For a quick clean-up, keep a bottle of diluted vinegar and cotton balls close to the toilet.

Foods to avoid. Experts don't know what it is about certain foods that seems to aggravate the bladder, but you may want to try cutting back on the following foods to see if your bladder control problem improves: hot spices and the food they're in, such as curry powder and chili; tomato-based foods; sugars, such as honey and corn syrup; and chocolate.

Try a recipe for success. If constipation is contributing to your urinary incontinence problem, adding fiber to your diet may relieve the constipation, and in turn, the incontinence. Here's an easy-to-make snack from the National Association for Continence (previously known as Help for Incontinent People, or HIP) that may help. Combine one cup of applesauce, one cup of oat bran, and a quarter cup of prune juice. Store the mixture in your refrigerator, or freeze premeasured servings in sectioned ice-cube trays. Begin with two tablespoons every evening, followed by a six- to eight-ounce glass of water or juice (one of the acceptable varieties mentioned previously). After seven to ten days, increase this to three tablespoons. Then, at the end of the second or third week, increase your intake to four tablespoons. You should begin to see an improvement in your bowel habits in about two weeks. The extra fiber may cause increased gas or bloating, but this should decrease after a few weeks as your body adjusts. Be sure to keep up your daily fluid intake in addition to using this fiber recipe.

Home Remedies From the Sink

Water. Drink to your bladder! Cozy on up to the sink and down a glass of water. Sounds strange, considering the bladder is leaking, but being well hydrated actually helps. If you cut back on fluid intake, you may become dehydrated, resulting in constipation. This, in turn, irritates nerves that may trigger the bladder to let loose. Schedule water consumption so you can regulate the fullness of your bladder. Stick to the recommended eight, 8-ounce glasses of water each day.

Don't be controlled by incontinence any longer. Get in control by following the home remedies listed in this article.

For more information about urinary tract problems and how to combat them, try the following links:

David J. Hufford, Ph.D., is university professor and chair of the Medical Humanities Department at Pennsylvania State University's College of Medicine. He also is a professor in the departments of Neural and Behavioral Sciences and Family and Community Medicine. Dr. Hufford serves on the editorial boards of several journals, including Alternative Therapies in Health & Medicine and Explore.

This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.