The urinary tract performs many functions in the body. It controls levels of fluids and electrolytes, filters toxins from the blood, regulates blood pressure, and provides an internal storage space for urine. People who use catheters live with conditions that impact the urinary tract system. Keeping the bladder healthy is especially important in these situations. In this article, we will discuss 12 things you can do to promote bladder health and keep your urinary tract in good condition.
Adhere to your cathing schedule. Holding urine in for too long can overextend the bladder. Overextension weakens the bladder tissue and can increase your risk of a urinary tract infection (UTI).
Allow enough time to fully empty the bladder when cathing. Rushing when you self-cath may not allow the bladder to fully drain. Ensure your bladder has fully emptied before removing the catheter. Pull the catheter out slowly and pause each time urine begins to flow until the flow stops completely. This will help remove residual urine, which can be a incubator for organisms that cause UTI.
Drink enough fluids, especially water. Staying hydrated keeps your kidneys healthy and can also reduce the risk of UTI. Drinking water throughout the day keeps urine flowing through your urinary tract. This can help flush out UTI-causing organisms before they cause problems. Some people need to drink less water because of certain conditions, such as kidney or heart disease. Ask your healthcare provider how much fluid is healthy for you.
Wipe from front to back after having a bowel movement. Many of the organisms that cause urinary tract infections are found in feces. These organisms naturally live in your gut, where they are harmless. However, they can cause problems if they get in the urinary system. Practicing good hygiene after bowel movements can help prevent these organisms from getting into the bladder.
Choose cotton underwear and other loose, breathable clothing. Tight-fitting pants and nylon underwear can trap moisture and help bacteria grow in the urethral area. Airflow is your friend.
Exercise regularly and keep a healthy weight. Obesity is associated with pelvic floor and urethral function disorders, likely due to increased abdominal pressure. Physical activity can help people maintain a healthy body weight, strengthen abdominal muscles, and reduce the risk of constipation. In addition to exercise, making healthy food choices helps maintain a healthy body weight. If you struggle with obesity, talk to your doctor. There may be treatments available to help you lose weight. Working closely with a dietician or physical therapist can also help with making better food choices and safely increasing physical activity.
If diabetic, keep your blood sugar under control. Chronically high blood sugar can damage your bladder nerves, contributing to urinary incontinence and urinary retention. It can also increase your risk for UTI, as extra sugar is excreted in the urine, creating an ideal environment for bacterial growth. If you struggle to keep your blood sugar down, talk to your doctor about your diabetes management plan.
Avoid constipation. Hard stool in the colon can put pressure on the bladder and keep it from expanding properly. This can contribute to UTI. Constipation can also worsen urinary frequency, urgency and incontinence. Drinking enough water, eating foods rich in fiber, and getting physical activity can help prevent constipation. If constipation is an ongoing issue for you, talk to your doctor. There may be medications or other interventions that can help resolve chronic constipation.
Limit bladder-irritating foods and drinks. Certain foods and drinks contain chemical compounds that can irritate the bladder, leading to increased lower urinary tract symptoms. Certain artificial sweeteners (e.g., sodium saccharin, acesulfame K, and aspartame) are best avoided entirely, as they cause bladder inflammation. Some people are also sensitive to stevia products. Some people experience increased bladder irritation when consuming carbonated beverages, spicy foods, citrus fruits and juices, and tomato-based foods, as these are acidic and can irritate the bladder tissue. Caffeine and alcohol can also worsen bladder symptoms. It can be helpful to reduce your intake of these items or consume only moderate amounts followed by plenty of water to dilute it once it reaches the bladder.
Quit smoking. Bladder problems are more common among people who smoke. Smoking can also significantly increase the risk of bladder cancer. If you are ready to quit, talk to your doctor. Many insurances will cover medications to help you quit smoking.
Visit your urologist regularly. All catheter users should undergo regular exams to make sure the urinary tract is staying healthy. Urologists are doctors that specialize in the care of the urinary tract. Establishing care with a urologist is a great way to make sure your bladder is getting the best care. Many catheter users see their urologist yearly for a checkup. If you experience changes with urinating, such as blood in the urine or difficulty inserting the catheter, report it to your urologist right away.
Find a high-quality catheter supply company. Many individuals accept poor service from their medical supply company, such as inaccurate product shipments, inconsistent and unreliable shipment deliveries, and unsatisfactory customer assistance. Service inconsistencies raise the potential for individuals using catheters to find themselves without critical supplies and can contribute to poor outcomes. Even bad customer service can lead to stress around this area of life. A catheter supply company that consistently provides reliable and accurate service in a stress-free environment is a helpful step in an individual’s plan to maintain bladder health. Excellent catheter supply companies will also offer free access to nurses and insurance experts to help answer questions and ensure you have the information you need to make informed choices and stay on top of your health.
Please note this information is intended to provide general guidance from the resources listed to maintain bladder health and should not be considered medical advice. This content is not intended to replace a visit, call, or consultation with your healthcare provider. It is imperative that you discuss your specific health needs with your healthcare provider.
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- Pomian A, Lisik W, Kosieradzki M, Barcz E. Obesity and Pelvic Floor Disorders: A Review of the Literature. Med Sci Monit. 2016 Jun 3;22:1880-6. doi: 10.12659/msm.896331. PMID: 27255341; PMCID: PMC4907402.
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- Wittig L, Carlson KV, Andrews JM, Crump RT, Baverstock RJ. Diabetic Bladder Dysfunction: A Review. Urology. 2019 Jan;123:1-6. doi: 10.1016/j.urology.2018.10.010. Epub 2018 Oct 21. PMID: 30352207.
Disclaimer: This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. For medical advice, please speak with your healthcare provider.