Updated 24 July 2019

Embarrassed about leaking urine? 5 lifestyle changes you can make today to improve urinary incontinence

Embarrassed about leaking urine? While there are several medical treatment options, there are also lifestyle choices you can make to reduce urinary incontinence.

Urinary incontinence, the involuntary leaking of urine, can be caused by many different factors, including vaginal births, a faulty bladder mechanism, or nerve damage in the pelvic region.

The risk of urinary incontinence increases with age. If you find yourself leaking urine, it’s important to see your doctor who will prescribe a treatment method. There are, however, a number of things you can do to improve the situation.

Here are 5 steps to improve urinary incontinence:

1. Get physical exercise

You don’t have to get an expensive gym membership or attend a taxing exercise class – the addition of 30 minutes of aerobic exercise daily (such as walking) can control your weight and relieve pressure on your pelvic muscles.

2. Limit alcoholic beverages

While alcohol itself doesn’t directly cause urinary incontinence, it can affect the bodily mechanisms which help control the bladder. This includes the production of the anti-diuretic hormone in our bodies that sends signals to the kidneys to stop producing urine when the bladder is full. Alcoholic beverages can also irritate the bladder, which can cause more leakage.

3. Quit smoking

Studies have shown that smoking increases your overall risk for urinary incontinence, as a chronic cough associated with smoking can put increased pressure on the pelvic floor. Nicotine is also an irritant to the bladder. The best word of advice? Quit! If you are not sure where to start, Health24 has some handy tips.

4. Eat a balanced, healthy diet

Not only will this help you lose the excessive weight that places pressure on the pelvic floor, but a healthy diet will also keep you in good shape.

But as much as healthy foods can contribute to the management of urinary incontinence, there are also foods that can trigger incontinence that you might want to avoid. Spicy foods can irritate the bladder, according to Dr Owen Wiese.

5. Regulate your hormones

A recent study has shown that low testosterone levels in women may be linked to urinary incontinence. According to Dr Michelle Kim from the Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, who was part of a study, testosterone levels might be a factor in the prevention of pelvic floor atrophy, which can ultimately lead to incontinence.

But it’s not only your testosterone levels that may increase your risk for urinary incontinence. According to The Simon Foundation for Continence, stress incontinence is commonly experienced as a result of loss of tissue strength caused by declining oestrogen levels. In order to find out if this is causing a problem, discuss testing with your doctor to determine whether your hormone levels are normal.

Image credit: iStock 


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Incontinence Expert

Dr 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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