Urinary Health

Don't let your bladder control your life! The NorthStar blog on urinary and bladder health brings you the latest news and best options for natural urinary and bladder support.

  1. Are There Different Types of Urinary Incontinence?

    urinary incontinence typesHaving a type urinary incontinence isn’t something most people like talking about.

    At best, it’s embarrassing. At worst, it can lead to social and professional isolation.

    But it shouldn’t be shameful, or a source of embarrassment, because it’s a medical condition, just like so many other medical conditions.

    In fact, nearly 13 million people are affected by some type of urinary incontinence – which is why we’re willing to demystify it and talk about it.

    Talk about the types of urinary incontinence and what, if anything, can be done about them.

    The 8 Types of Urinary Incontinence

    While it may seem like all bladder conditions are the same, there are really several types of urinary incontinence – and they’re caused by different conditions.

    Total incontinence. This is the rarest type of urinary incontinence, so we’ll touch on it and then get it out of the way. This is when a person loses all control over bladder functions. It’s only caused by injury or severe physical debilitation.

    Urge incontinence. This type of urinary incontinence is characterized by a sudden urge to urinate – thus its name – followed by losing urine, often before you can get to the bathroom. Part of what makes urge incontinence so frustrating is you don’t even have to have a full bladder to experience the urge to go – but it can still create urgency and cause leaking. More than 12 million people struggle with this type of urinary incontinence, and it occurs more often the older you get.

    Stress incontinence. If you leak when you laugh, sneeze, or cough, you are one of the millions of people who have this type of urinary incontinence. Weakening of the pelvic floor is the primary cause of stress incontinence, so make sure you work on your Kegels!

    Mixed incontinence. This is the most common type of incontinence, and includes symptoms of both urge and stress incontinences. With mixed incontinence, you may feel sudden, uncontrollable urges and have to deal with leaks whenever you put any pressure on the bladder at all.

    Overflow incontinence. In some cases, another medical condition can prevent your bladder from emptying completely. When that happens, you might leak because you have more urine in your bladder than room – and that’s called overflow incontinence. It’s sometimes referred to as the opposite of urge incontinence, because you probably won’t feel any indication that you have to go to the bathroom. While it can happen in women, it occurs more often in men.

    Transient or temporary incontinence. This type of incontinence is caused by some other medical condition, such as a urinary tract infection, a surgical side effect, or a medication. Once the primary condition has been resolved, the incontinence goes away as well.

    Functional incontinence. In this instance, the bladder is functioning properly, but some other part of the body isn’t. For some reason, the person with functional incontinence cannot get to the bathroom in time. Frequent sufferers of this type of incontinence may have a form of dementia or other physical ailment that keeps them from registering that they have to urinate or from moving fast enough to get there in time.

    So What Can Be Done About Urinary Incontinence?

    The good news is that most types of urinary incontinence can be resolved without much effort.

    Start with the Kegel exercises mentioned earlier. These help strengthen the muscles in the pelvic floor, which in turn helps reduce, and sometimes even eliminate, leaks. While most women know about them, men can benefit from Kegels as well!

    To perform a Kegel properly, start with figuring out which muscles to flex. When you’re urinating next, try to stop the flow. Those muscles are the ones you’ll use for Kegels – just be certain not to do Kegels while you’re going to the bathroom! Instead, try lying or sitting in a comfortable position and flex those muscles. Hold the flex for a count of ten and relax.

    Do this as often as you think to do it. The best part about Kegels is that once you get good at them, you can do them anywhere and no one will notice.

    If Kegels aren’t enough to resolve your type of urinary incontinence, consider bladder and muscle retraining. Start by scheduling bathroom breaks. Maybe you need to go every hour, or every two hours. The key is to go on schedule, even if you don’t feel like you need to. Once your body understands the schedule, start adding time between bathroom breaks.

    This will teach your body to hold it longer and has been found to be particularly effective with urge and mixed types of incontinence.

    Remember, there’s nothing to be embarrassed about having any of these types of urinary incontinence – but there’s plenty you can do about them.

  2. 4 Ways to Help With a Leaky Bladder

    bladder leakyA leaky bladder can mean different things to different people.

    Maybe it’s as minor as a leak when you sneeze.

    Or maybe it’s as major as waking up in the middle of the night needing to change the sheets.

    Either way, know that you’re not alone.

    Since 2011, about 33 million Americans have been dealing with a leaky bladder.

    That’s only so much comfort, though. If your leaky bladder is just an annoyance – or a source of embarrassment – it’s not something you want to live with.

    What Exactly are We Talking About?

    The good news is that a leaky bladder isn’t necessarily a cause for alarm. Often, simple changes in your body caused by aging can increase your risk of those leaks and dribbles.

    You should talk to your doctor if you are concerned, of course, or if bladder changes have come on quickly.

    Generally, though, leaky bladders usually fall into one of four major categories:

    • urinary urgency (inability to postpone urination)
    • frequency (having to go at least eight times a day)
    • urge incontinence (leakage of urine)
    • nocturia (too many night-time trips to the bathroom)

    If any of these sound familiar, read on to learn four ways to help a leaky bladder.

    1. Kegel exercises. These exercises, commonly known as “Kegels” help strengthen the floor of your pelvis, which helps decrease leaks. Plus, they’re easy to do and, unlike most exercises, can be done anywhere without anyone even knowing. Simply contract the muscles you use to stop the flow of urination. Hold for three seconds then relax. Make sure you aren’t contracting your thigh or stomach muscles, just the muscles in your pelvis. Repeat 10-15 times, three times per day. Add a second every week until you are holding the contraction for ten seconds at a time. Note: While you are using the muscles you would use to stop the flow of urination, you should not do Kegels while you’re urinating. And men, in case you think Kegels are only for women, think again. You can benefit from Kegels too. Follow the same instructions to help with your leaky bladder as well!

    2. Avoid artificial sweeteners. Add leaky bladder to the many reasons to rethink using artificial sweeteners. Research indicates that they may increase both how badly you need to go and how often you feel the need to go. In this context, it would seem better to just drink a beverage with sugar in it. Try switching to water or seltzer for an even healthier option.

    3. Limit caffeine. Caffeine can be problematic on a couple levels. First, it’s a stimulant – only that doesn’t just mean for your brain. That means your muscles too, including your bladder muscle, so it gets overactive. But then caffeine is also a diuretic, which means it makes you have to urinate more often. If you’re dealing with leaky bladder, it’s best to limit your caffeine, in any form.

    4. Lose weight. It seems that, no matter the health concern, it often comes down to maintaining a healthy weight – and leaky bladder is no different. The more weight you’re carrying, the more pressure it puts on every organ and joint in your body, including your bladder. The more pressure on your bladder, the more urgent the need to go becomes. If you maintain a healthy weight, you reduce the pressure – and the urgency.

    A leaky bladder is, unfortunately, often part of aging. But it doesn’t have to be. Not with a little effort on your part – and a boost from these four tips!

  3. Urinary tract infections / superbug threat continues to grow

    The superbug problem didn’t exactly sneak up on us. The writing has been on the wall for years. In fact, I first started warning Guide to Good Health readers about antibiotic resistance at least six years ago. Heck, even the mainstream media began to catch on a couple of years back. So, you’d think we’d be starting to get a handle on the issue by now. Sadly, that’s not the case. Not by a long shot, according to a recent study published in the journal Antimicrobial Resistance and Infection Control. According to researchers antibiotic resistant infections, such as urinary tract infections (UTIs), are actually on the RISE. It’s yet another case of mainstream medicine doing too little and doing it too late. Instead of dialing back on their overprescribing, many docs’ reaction to the superbug news was to simply switch from their now mostly-useless go-to antibiotics to different antibiotics. And I’m sure you can guess what happened next. These bad bugs, many of them forms of E. coli, are now becoming resistant to even more commonly prescribed antibiotics. Urinary tract infections are the second most common type of infection here in the U.S., with about 8.1 million people visiting the doctor every year looking for some relief. But these misery-causing bugs are now not only resistant to most antibiotics in the penicillin and cephalosporin families, they’ve also become highly resistant to some of the most commonly used drugs for treating urinary infections Ciprofloxacin and Trimethoprim-Sulfamethoxazole. The best way to deal with a urinary tract infection is, obviously, to not get one in the first place. I shared some specific advice on how to UTI-proof yourself a few years back, including some dietary guidelines and supplement tips. If you missed that issue, click here to catch up on the NorthStar Blog. And if you’re already suffering with one of these nasty infections, don’t turn to antibiotics first. They likely won’t knock out your infection anymore anyway, but they CAN destroy your good gut bugs, leaving you wide open for secondary infections.  Instead, consider giving D-mannose a try. D-mannose is the ingredient found in cranberries that naturally fights off infections. And while you may have heard some conflicting reports over the years about cranberries and UTIs, I can assure you that this powerhouse can knock out just about any bladder infection that’s caused by E. coli. You‘ll find D-mannose online and in most natural food stores. Drink a half to a full teaspoonful dissolved in water every half an hour or so for two days.  If you don’t see an improvement after forty-eight hours, THEN make an appointment to see your doc.
  4. Avoid botox bladder injections and try traditional herbs

    Turning gotta go into let's go

    It's one of the worst ideas I've heard in a long time. And believe me when I tell you I've run across some real doozies. I'm talking about botox bladder injections. Injecting your bladder wall with the neurotoxin botulinum toxin to resolve your overactive bladder problems. You probably know it by its trade name Botox. And yes, this is the same stuff that women (ok, to be fair, some guys too...hello Hollywood) inject into their faces to freeze their smiles into place. I'll have more on this cockamamie idea in just a moment, but first let's talk about your bladder. Urinary urgency issues are a fact of life for many of us as we age. It's a common problem. And when it comes to feeling like your bladder might burst and doing the potty shuffle, it doesn't matter if you're a man or woman. This is an equal opportunity problem. But, if you sometimes feel like it's your bladder...and not you... that's in control I have some great news. You can do something about it.

    Botox in your bladder breakdown

    Let's face it living with an overactive bladder can be a nightmare. You feel chained to your toilet and you end up missing out on activities you love for fear of getting too far away from a bathroom. So I can understand why even something as extreme as botox bladder injections might sound worth it. But, as is so often the case, the truth (or the devil) lies in the details. The truth is only one out of three women got any relief from the botox bladder injections. But one in six of them ended up jumping out of the frying pan into the fire when, suddenly, they went from having an overactive bladder to having difficulty urinating at all. In fact, some of the ladies had such trouble urinating that they had to resort to occasional self-catheterization just to get some relief! The rate of urinary infections shot up in the women receiving the botox. In fact, UTIs occurred in three times as many women who received the toxin as the placebo. And of course there were the standard side effects of the drug to deal with, which include constipation, dry mouth, and blurred vision. Sure, in the end 31 percent of the women reported a positive outcome. But the way I read the study that leaves a whole lot of other women with unwanted side effects, and still living with the problem. And who knows what it will do for guys experiencing this same problem. I can't imagine the outcomes would be much better. Trying something much less drastic... and all natural... first just makes sense. Wouldn't you agree?

    Natural remedies put YOU in control

    Ancient healers understood one important thing about medicine that many of today's docs don't seem to have ever learned, and that's if it works it works. What do I mean? Simple, if you give a remedy to someone who is suffering from a problem and his problem goes away then that remedy works. Now don't get me wrong. I'm a man of science and I believe research and studies are vitally important. But I'm also a man of logic and if something has worked for thousands of years, but we don't yet have a study proving it works, that doesn't mean that it doesn't work. It just means the science hasn't caught up with the practice yet. That's why I often recommend trying a traditional medicine method before resorting to extreme measures like... well... shooting botox bladder injections into your body. And there are three ancient remedies that time has taught us can tame that gotta go feeling, putting you back in control.
    • Buchu -- South Africans use preparations made from this plant to improve the health of the urinary system and as a remedy for bladder and kidney problems.
    • Crateva -- an ancient herb used for centuries in Indian Ayurvedic medicine to balance and support the urinary tract and bladder tone.
    • Corn silk -- this herb, used to soothe the urinary tract and as a natural diuretic, is a part of the maize plant grown for more than 7,000 years in North America.
    • Horsetail -- this prehistoric plant is often used by healers to help with urinary control and function.
    • Devil's claw -- this herb, native to the desert of southern Africa, is used by traditional healers to support the bladder so it can hold urine until it can be emptied.
    • Bromelain -- extracted from the stems of pineapples, this herb is used in folk medicine to treat bladder inflammation and urinary tract issues.
    • Lindera -- grows throughout East Asia and is used in Traditional Chinese medicine to help relieve frequent urination.
    If you're just living with your overactive bladder because you feel like there's nothing you can do about it... don't! Why not give one, or all of these, proven traditional remedies a try instead? And before you know it you may be turning that gotta go feeling into a "let's go!" as you head out the door for your favorite activity. Dancing anyone?
  5. Mainstream press misses link between diabetes drug Actos and cancer

    I hate to say I told you so. But every time I come down tough on drugs, it turns out they really deserve it. Take for example, the diabetes drug Actos. A few weeks back, I slammed Actos, despite new research (covered in TIME and The New York Times) that it decreases your risk of developing diabetes. Turns out, I should have come down harder on that darned drug. In fact, this week researchers published a report that found an association between Actos and a certain form of cancer. Plus, this isn‘t the first study to uncover a link between Actos and increased cancer risk. I‘ll give you all the grisly details in a moment. But first, let‘s back up a few months...

    Proof that mainstream reporters eat whatever‘s fed to them

    A month ago, Actos sounded like a wonder drug. Everywhere you looked the mainstream press kept repeating the same statistic...men and women with pre- diabetes who took Actos lowered their risk of developing full-blown diabetes by 72 percent. Sounds impressive, right? Actos may prevent diabetes! But remember the key flaw I told you about (and the mainstream press conveniently omitted)? The study was exceptionally small. In the end, we‘re talking talking about a total difference of 35 people! Considering that 300 million pre-diabetics live in the U.S., how could any doctor give Actos to just one of them based on such slim evidence? And here‘s the icing on the cake... Takeda Pharmaceuticals, the makers of Actos, actually conducted this shaky study. In my book, it was purely a PR scheme to boost sales. Actos‘s patent expired in January of this year. But Takeda Pharmaceuticals struck a deal to delay entry of generic versions of the drug until August 2012. Was this their last-ditch effort to boost sales before the generics hit the market? Or maybe... Was it their last-ditch effort to boost sales before something far worse hit the fan...?

    Researchers link Actos to cancer

    The FDA tries to keep tabs on all prescription and OTC drugs once they hit the market. So when you take a drug, even a drug like Tylenol, and have a bad reaction, you‘re supposed to report it to the FDA. Similarly, when you go to see your doctor and talk about your bad reaction to a drug, your doc should report it to the FDA. The FDA keeps track of all these "adverse reactions" -- no matter how small -- in a massive database. This is called the FDA‘s Adverse Event Reporting Program. The FDA compiles and publishes the data annually. But in the case of Actos... A group of Italian researchers analyzed all the adverse events reported to the FDA between 2004 and 2009 for 15 diabetes drugs on the market, including Actos and metformin. When they analyzed the reporting odds ratio (ROR), they found a "definite risk" linking Actos and bladder cancer. The risk of bladder cancer and the other diabetes drugs was "much weaker." The researchers aren‘t sure why Actos may increase your risk of developing bladder cancer. But they think it may have to do with certain receptor cells in your body. You see, Actos works by opening receptor cells so they will become more responsive to insulin. But this may also encourage them to turn cancerous. Now here‘s what troubles even more...

    Actos may be linked to even more problems

    The FDA‘s Adverse Event Reporting System isn‘t perfect. (I know. It‘s shocking, right?) You see, it‘s completely voluntary. It stands to reason there could be more cases of bladder cancer that we don‘t know about. For example, say Joe Smith from Indiana began taking Actos in 2004 for diabetes. Then, out of the blue, he got bladder cancer in 2008. Maybe his doctor never thought to connect Actos to his bladder cancer. None of this business about bladder cancer had hit the press yet. Now, let‘s say Joe is one of the lucky ones and went on to survive bladder cancer. He‘s no longer in treatment. Now we know about the cancer link. But his doctor never reported it to the FDA back in 2008 because back then, no one did. Hopefully, this new study will start to spread some awareness. Just don‘t count on the FDA to move quickly. They have known about the possible link between Actos and bladder cancer for at least a year. In fact, last year the FDA began to take a closer look at Actos after receiving early results from a long-term study by Takeda Pharmaceuticals. That study showed patients with the longest exposure (or highest cumulative dose) to Actos had in increased risk of developing bladder cancer. It will be interesting to see if TIME or The New York Times follows up on their Actos report, won‘t it? (I‘m not holding my breath. Before sending this week‘s GUIDE TO GOOD HEALTH off to my editor, I ran a quick Google search. At that point, The NYT still hadn‘t run anything about the new data linking Actos to bladder cancer. That‘s a full three days after the research hit the newswire. I‘m betting they just let it slip on by.) Well, maybe TIME Magazine will run something in its next issue. After all, the mainstream press is our last unbiased bastion of truth. (Yeah right.)
  6. Vitamin D and cancer: What you need to know

    Over the years, I've talked a lot about vitamin D and cancer. In fact, recent estimates suggest that vitamin D protects against 22 different types of malignancies including breast, colon and prostate cancer. Well, it may be time to add another type of cancer to the list. Two months ago, researchers found that vitamin D also protects you against bladder cancer. For the vitamin D and cancer study, published in the journal Cancer Research, scientists recruited 500 men to take part in the study. Each of them were cancer-free at the beginning of the study. Researchers took blood samples of the men between 1985 and 1988 to check for levels of 25-hydroxyvitamin D. This is what vitamin D converts into in the body. Then, they compared men diagnosed with bladder cancer against men who did not have the disease. They found that men with less than 25 nanomoles per liter of 25-hydroxyvitamin D were 73 percent more likely to develop bladder cancer compared to men with at least 50 nanomoles per liter. And though the study was conducted with male smokers, I'm certain they will get the same results with nonsmokers and women. You see, scientists believe vitamin D helps to flush toxins out of your bladder. It also promotes the healthy turnover of cells in the bladder. So even if you're a woman or a nonsmoker, continue taking your vitamin D every day. Go for up to 5,000 IU per day, especially if you live in the northern part of the country.
  7. Benefits of cranberries for men may include better prostate function

    Cranberry juice isn‘t just for women anymore. A new study finds that cranberries also help men improve their prostate and urinary function. For the study, Czech researchers recruited 42 men with lower urinary tract symptoms (LUTS). LUTS is a common problem that affects about 40 percent of older men. Symptoms include slow flow, dribbling, hesitancy, and incomplete voiding. The men in the study also had benign prostatic hyperplasia (or BPH), elevated PSA levels, and non-bacterial prostatitis. The researchers wanted to see if taking a cranberry extract would improve urinary function in men with these pre-existing conditions. So they gave half of the men 1,500 mg per day of dried cranberry extract for six months. The other men received a placebo during the same timeframe. According to published research, the men taking the cranberry supplement showed significant improvements in six different areas:
    • Healthier scores on the International Prostate Symptom test
    • Increased urinary flow
    • Decrease in the amount of urine left in bladder after voiding
    • Increase in total volume of urine
    • Reduced PSA levels
    • Overall improvement in quality of life
    In addition, the men taking the cranberry extract reported zero side effects. (That‘s an important factor, when you consider the serious side effects associated with most prescription drugs used to treat BPH.) On the other hand, the men taking the placebo experienced no improvements in urinary or prostate function.

    Seven steps to a healthier prostate

    Last May, I talked about six steps to follow for a healthier prostate. And based on the results of the Czech research, you may want to consider adding a seventh step and take some cranberry extract every day...especially if you‘re over 50 and suffer from BPH or urinary problems. Dried cranberry extract is pretty easy to find. It comes in capsule form. Just make sure to give it some time before you expect to see any results. It may even take six months of steady supplementation before you experience any improvements in urinary flow.
  8. Forget about incontinence

    Despite the title of this article, I wish I had better news to share. It seems that several mainstream drug treatments for incontinence have been found to cause significant mental decline. U.S. Navy neurologist, Dr. Jack Tsao, decided to research these side effects after meeting with a 73 year old patient who’d started having memory problems and conversations with dead relatives shortly after adding an incontinence drug to her daily regimen. The incontinence drugs fall into a class of drugs called anticholinergics, which also include drugs for high blood pressure, asthma and Parkinson’s. They work by altering a chemical messenger called acetylcholine—a chemical responsible for nerve impulses (including those related to bladder control)…it’s also closely associated with memory and focus. In an analysis of 870 men and women with a mean age of 75 over the course of eight years, annual cognitive exams showed those who were using this particular class of drug had a mental decline rate that was 50 percent faster than those who weren’t using the drugs. Although the problems seemed to disappear once the drugs are discontinued, it begs the question, would it be better to control your bladder and give up memory and sharpness? Or wear a diaper and maintain your mental facilities? Prime time television ads for prescription drugs rattle off their potential side effects at the end. And it’s almost laughable how often the side effects are far worse than the problem they’re designed to treat. Obviously, I’m biased. But it’s been my experience that for just about every illness or ailment, nature has provided us with a remedy that comes with no side effects. A track record the mainstream would be hard-pressed to beat. But if you find yourself in a situation where your only option is a prescription drug, be sure to read the fine print…all of the fine print. And be sure to ask questions about anything that jumps out at you. Getting back to the topic of urinary incontinence, remember that the bladder is a muscle like any other muscle in the body. And that means there are both exercises and powerful muscle and nerve-supporting nutrients that have been shown to help strengthen the bladder and urinary tract. The herbs horsetail and crateva nurvala have an ancient history of use for toning and soothing the bladder. While minerals like calcium and magnesium play important roles in healthy nerve and muscle function. None of which have any known side effects! So, contrary to what the mainstream might have you believe…you can have the best of both worlds.

8 Item(s)