Incontinence

Updated 23 May 2017

Less salt may lead to fewer nighttime bathroom trips

A study found that lowering your salt intake could mean fewer trips to the bathroom during the night (nocturia), which may improve your quality of life.

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Most people over age 60, and many even younger, wake up to pee one or more times a night. This is called nocturia. This interruption of sleep can lead to problems such as stress, irritability or tiredness, which can affect quality of life.

Lowering your salt intake could mean fewer trips to the bathroom in the middle of the night, a new study suggests.

There are several possible causes of nocturia, including – as this study found – the amount of salt in your diet.

First study of its kind

"This is the first study to measure how salt intake affects the frequency of going to the bathroom, so we need to confirm the work with larger studies," said study leader Tomohiro Matsuo, from Nagasaki University in Japan.

"Nighttime urination is a real problem for many people, especially as they get older. This work holds out the possibility that a simply dietary modification might significantly improve the quality of life for many people," he said in an ESU news release."

The study included more than 300 Japanese adults. They all had high salt intake and sleeping problems. They were given instructions and help to reduce their salt intake and followed for 12 weeks.

According to the Heart and Stroke Foundation of South Africa, South Africans consume too much salt, 6–11g per day, which is more than double the recommended amount. 

Fortunately, in 2013 the Minister of Health signed legislation to make salt reduction in the food industry mandatory, helping to achieve the government’s target to reduce salt intake to less than 5g a day by 2020. 

Considerable reduction in bathroom trips

More than 200 people in the study reduced their salt intake. They went from an average of 11g per day to 8g a day.

With that reduction in salt, the average number of nighttime trips to the bathroom to urinate fell from 2.3 to 1.4 times per night. The number of times people needed to urinate during the day also decreased.

The drop in nighttime bathroom visits also led to an improvement in quality of life, researchers said.

In comparison, the nearly 100 participants whose average salt intake rose – from 9.6g per night to 11g nightly – had an increase in nighttime trips to the bathroom, from 2.3 to 2.7 times a night, the study revealed.

Dr Marcus Drake is a professor at the University of Bristol in England and leader of the working group for the ESU Guidelines Office Initiative on Nocturia. "This is an important aspect of how patients potentially can help themselves to reduce the impact of frequent urination. Research generally focuses on reducing the amount of water a patient drinks, and the salt intake is generally not considered," he said.

"Here we have a useful study showing how we need to consider all influences to get the best chance of improving the symptom," Drake added.

Read More:  

5 ways to consume less salt  

Craving salt? Your genes may be the reason

High salt diet in smokers may raise RA risk

 

Ask the Expert

Incontinence Expert

Prenevin Govender completed his MBChB at the University of Cape Town in 2001. He obtained his Fellowship of the College of Urologists in 2009 and graduated with distinction for a Masters in Medicine from the University of Cape Town in 2010. His special interests include laparoscopic, pelvic organ prolapse and urinary incontinence surgery. He consults full-time at Life Kingsbury Hospital in Claremont.

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