Urinary incontinence can be described as the inability to control urination, leading to urine leakage or involuntary loss of urine.
It is a very common, and at times debilitating, urological disorder. According to the National Association for Continence (NAFC), it affects about 25 million Americans.
Urinary incontinence can be divided into three main types:
- Urge incontinence– occurs when an overactive or hyperactive bladder causes a sudden and intense urge to urinate causing involuntary loss of urine
- Stress incontinence– occurs when physical activities like vigorous exercise, jumping, coughing, sneezing or even laughing put pressure on the bladder and it releases urine
- Overflow incontinence– inability to completely empty the bladder, leading to frequent or constant dribbling of urine
Incontinence can be caused by a number of factors like age (the bladder muscles become weaker with increasing age), weakened pelvic floor muscles due to surgery or childbirth, enlarged prostate, menopause, an overactive bladder, nerve damage, urinary stones, urinary tract infections and constipation.
Plus, certain foods, drinks and medications may stimulate your bladder and cause temporary incontinence.
It not only can cause discomfort and embarrassment, but can also be harmful if urine is left in the bladder creating a breeding ground for bacteria. Incontinence is not a disease in itself, but a symptom of an underlying condition or disorder.
Thus, to get rid of this problem, you need to address its underlying cause. In addition to your doctor’s advice and treatment, you can try some natural home remedies and adopt lifestyle changes to control incontinence.
Make sure you get your problem properly diagnosed to rule out the possibility that it is a symptom of a more serious condition, such as cancer.
Here are the top 10 home remedies for urinary incontinence.
1. Pelvic Floor (Kegel) Exercises
Exercising your pelvic floor muscles can be a useful way to treat urinary incontinence, particularly in the early stages. It helps improve bladder control and reduce urine leakage in both men and women. It is beneficial for reducing stress and urge incontinence.
- Tighten your pelvic floor muscles and hold for a count of 8. If you cannot hold for 8 counts, just hold as long as you can.
- Now, relax the muscles for a count of 8.
- Do 8 to 12 repetitions of this exercise, 3 times a day.
Here’s a simple way to help locate your pelvic floor muscles: When emptying your bladder, stop urinating in midstream and then start again. The muscles you used during this task are your pelvic floor muscles.
You may want to seek the help of a physical therapist so that you do not end up practicing the wrong technique. Your physical therapist can also give you further advice specific to your case.
Note: While doing pelvic floor exercises, keep the muscles in your abdomen, thighs and buttocks relaxed. Avoid holding your breath during the exercises; instead, breathe freely. Make sure to empty your bladder before you begin the exercises.
You can also consider taking magnesium to help treat incontinence, especially if you experience other signs of magnesium deficiency like leg cramps at night. Magnesium is important for muscle relaxation throughout the body. Thus, it can help reduce bladder muscle spasms and allow complete emptying of the bladder.
A 1998 study published in the British Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology found that taking magnesium hydroxide helped treat women with urge incontinence due to detrusor overactivity.
- Take 350 mg of magnesium hydroxide supplements twice daily for several weeks. Make sure to consult your doctor before starting this or any other supplement regimen.
- Include magnesium-rich foods like nuts, seeds, bananas and yogurt in your diet.
- You can also soak in an Epsom salt bath for 15 to 20 minutes, a few times a week. Epsom salt is made of magnesium sulfate. Soaking in an Epsom salt bath allows the body to absorb magnesium through the skin. To prepare this bath, stir 1 to 2 cups of Epsom salt in a bathtub filled with warm water.
3. Vitamin D
Vitamin D can also be used to control urinary incontinence because it helps maintain muscle strength. According to a 2010 study published in Obstetrics and Gynecology, women with higher levels of vitamin D have a lower risk of developing pelvic floor disorders, including urinary incontinence.
- Soak up the early morning sunlight for about 10 minutes daily. It helps the body make vitamin D.
- Eat more foods rich in vitamin D, such as fish, oysters, egg yolks, fortified milk and other dairy products.
- You can also take vitamin D supplements, after consulting your doctor.
Yoga helps tighten the muscles that control the urethral sphincter and provides benefits similar to that of Kegel exercises. Moreover, yoga is good for relaxation and helps relieve anxiety and depression related to urinary incontinence.
A 2014 study published in the journal Female Pelvic Medicine & Reconstructive Surgery found that a 6-week yoga therapy program helped control urinary incontinence in women with stress incontinence. The women who took part in the yoga program experienced an overall 70 percent reduction in the frequency of urine leakage.
To help control incontinence, you can try yoga poses like Root Lock (Mula bandha), Chair Pose (Utkatasana), Triangle Pose (Trikonasana) and Squat Pose (Malasana). Seek the help of a yoga trainer with knowledge on pelvic floor health, or join a yoga class to practice yoga properly.
Gosha-jinki-gan is a Chinese traditional herbal medicine that can be used to treat an overactive bladder and urinary incontinence. It is a combination of several different herbs.
Two small studies by Japanese researchers found that this herbal supplement can help improve urinary urgency, frequency and nighttime urination in people with an overactive bladder.
Take this herbal supplement after consulting your doctor, who can advise you on the proper dosage for your condition.
Short-leaf buchu (Agathosma betulina) is a great urinary tract tonic to improve the health of the urinary system. It is particularly beneficial for incontinence caused by a bladder infection because of its anti-inflammatory, antibacterial and diuretic properties. Plus, it strengthens the tissues associated with urination and eases systemic irritation.
- Steep 1 teaspoon of this herb in a cup of hot water for 5 to 10 minutes.
- Strain and drink this tea a few times daily until you get positive results.
Note: Do not use this herb if you have pain and swelling in the urinary tract. Consult your doctor before trying this or any other herbal remedies.