20 December 2018

Why you should stay hydrated when you have urinary incontinence

Your first impulse might be to limit your water intake to try and avoid accidents, but this is the worst thing you can do. Here’s why.

Urinary incontinence can be an embarrassing condition. You never know when you might have involuntarily leakage and you don't ever want to be far away from a bathroom. You actively cut down on your water intake during the day to try and avoid accidents and to decrease the number of trips to the bathroom.

But if you have urinary incontinence and you drastically cut down your water intake during the day, you could be doing yourself more harm than good.

Dehydration can trigger incontinence

Proper hydration is important for the entire body to function, and this includes the bladder, kidneys and urethra.

According to the National Association For Continence (NAFC), dehydration will cause the urine inside your bladder to become extremely concentrated. This will irritate the bladder, leading to increased urination.

It’s especially vital to continue drinking water and not allow yourself to become dehydrated during the summer. Dehydration can lead to headaches, dizziness and a lack of concentration on top of bladder irritation. Not adequately hydrating can also lead to constipation, which can indirectly cause urinary incontinence when strained bowel movements place pressure on the bladder.

Plus, the more concentrated the urine, the stronger and more noticeable the smell, which will cause more embarrassment should you leak. 

Establish good water habits

Don’t hold back on the water. Here is what you can do to still drink an adequate amount of water without overfilling your bladder.

1. Not too much, not too little

Drink as much water as your body needs. While some guidelines indicate that we need eight glasses of water a day, your body type and level of physical activity will dictate how much you really need.

The colour of your urine tells you how well hydrated you are. A dark yellow colour signifies that you need more water, while crystal clear urine means that you are overhydrated. The colour of healthy urine is a pale straw colour.

2. Keep a bladder diary

According to the NAFC, a bladder diary is a great way of tracking the relationship between your fluid intake and the frequency of urination. This will also help you keep track of the occurrence of accidents or leakages and what fluid and how much of it you were drinking at the time. This can help you time your water intake better.

3. Drink when thirsty

Cutting back on water before a big meeting or event because you are petrified of an accident, even though you are parched? Don’t do it, as dehydration does more harm than good, to your bladder and your entire body. Rather take small, frequent sips during the day to ensure that you don’t become thirsty.

4. Stick to water

Sugary and alcoholic beverages may cause bladder irritation and do not hydrate you properly. Stick to water or herbal tea during the day. Struggling to drink plain water? Flavour your water with lemon slices, strawberry slices or mint sprigs for a refreshing yet healthy drink.

5. Limit your fluid intake before bedtime

If you are prone to accidents during the night, have your last drink long before you go to bed. Avoid caffeinated drinks and alcohol before bedtime as these have an increased risk of irritating the bladder and causing accidents.

Image credit: iStock


Ask the Expert

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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