When we think about keeping our bodies healthy, the focus tends to be on the heart, lungs, and brain. Of course, these are all vital to life, so their priority is understandable, but it’s also important to take care of our other organs and bodily systems. The bladder, an essential piece of our urinary system, is often rarely thought of unless there’s an issue, but it deserves our attention as it helps our body get rid of liquid waste.
The Function of a Healthy Bladder
The urinary system creates and helps rid our bodies of liquid waste, or urine. Urine is first created by the kidneys, then it travels down tubes called ureters into the bladder where it is stored until we are ready to release it. When ready, the bladder muscles contract and two valves then open to allow the urine to exit through the urethra and out of the body. The typical, healthy bladder can hold 400-600 mL of liquid.
When it’s healthy, having urine in the bladder is not painful and we are easily able to hold it with no leakage until we are able to use the restroom. It typically does become an afterthought because we are able to go about our lives without worrying about where the nearest restroom is. Of course, the more we drink and what we drink can increase the need to urinate.
Potential Bladder Problems
As with any organ, the bladder is prone to issues, sometimes whether you properly care for it or not. Some of the most common issues include:
- Cystitis: This is an infection or inflammation of the bladder itself that can cause pain, discomfort, urinary frequency, or even hesitancy. This is also referred to as painful bladder syndrome.
- Urinary Stones: Also known as kidney stones, these are first formed within the kidneys due to too much of certain minerals and not enough liquid. They will usually travel down into the bladder and may eventually pass naturally, although severe pain may occur if a stone blocks urine flow to or from the bladder.
- Urinary Incontinence: More simply referred to as uncontrolled urination, it can stem from various causes including pregnancy and childbirth, overactive bladder, dementia, and more.
Keeping Your Bladder Healthy
Luckily, there are simple ways to help keep your bladder healthy – and they’re good for your overall health, too.
- Drink plenty of water. Water is the best liquid you can put into your body for bladder health, and healthy individuals should aim for six to eight 8-ounce glasses daily. While other beverages are okay from time-to-time, keep your alcohol and caffeine intake limited.
- Exercise your pelvic floor muscles. These exercises are also known as Kegel exercises and they help strengthen the muscles around the bladder to hold urine in better. Performing this daily can help stop leakage when you sneeze, cough, lift, laugh, or feel the sudden urge to go.
- Use the restroom often. It’s easy to get busy and almost forget to use the restroom for ages, but try to go at least every 3 to 4 hours. Holding it for too long weakens the muscles and can lead to bladder infections.
- Women should wipe from front to back. Because of the short length of the urethra in women, it is much easier for bacteria to get into the bladder and cause infection. There is a lot of bacteria around the anus that could be easily transferred when wiping from back to front.
- Urinate after sex. During sex, bacteria can easily find its way into the urethra, working its way towards the bladder. Urinating shortly after sex can help flush away the bacteria and prevent infection.
- Wear cotton underwear and loose-fitting clothes. Allowing air flow around the urethra keeps the area dry, preventing the growth of unwanted bacteria.
- Eat a healthy diet full of bladder-friendly foods. There are many delicious foods to choose from that pack vital nutrients to keep your bladder healthy including pears, bananas, green beans, winter squash, potatoes, lean meats, whole grains, nuts, and eggs.
Even when you try to do everything right, there is always a risk of developing an infection or other bladder condition that may require medical treatment. At Decatur County Memorial Hospital, our urology department provides comprehensive care for both adult and pediatric patients for everything from urinary tract infections to prostate cancer. If you or your child are experiencing bladder or urinary system problems, contact our office today.