In honor of Bladder Health Month, we asked Dr. Angel Marie Johnson, the director of our Women's Health Center in Dedham, to provide some insights regarding optimal bladder function. This applies to women and men.
As with all content on Greater Boston Urology's blog, the following information is educational in nature, not medical advice. Always talk to your physician about your specific health care questions and conditions.
[Editor's note: This article was reviewed and updated on 5/18/21 with additional links and media.]
Fluid intake for optimal bladder health.
Dr. Johnson says 42-64 ounces per day is the normal range (on an average temperature day) for a person not performing strenuous activity. This range covers total fluid intake, which includes the food you eat. What you drink matters as well. Water is your best choice.
Be aware of bladder irritants.
Caffeine, alcohol, chocolate, acid foods (e.g. tomato sauce), and fruits are common bladder irritants. If you're experiencing bladder pain or you notice you're going to the bathroom more after eating or drinking certain foods, try eliminating these items from your diet and see if you notice a difference. As always, see your doctor if symptoms persist.
If there's blood in your urine, see your doctor right away.
While there are numerous reasons why you might see blood in the urine (and the reasons vary in the level of seriousness), you'll want to see your doctor as soon as possible to find out what is wrong.
Smoking adversely affects your overall health, as you already know, but smoking also puts you at an increased risk for bladder cancer.
Understand the difference between "common" and "normal" bladder function.
It's common to notice that you're going to the bathroom more often as you age, but it's not necessarily normal. Plenty of people age and retain normal bladder function.
If you find you're going to the bathroom more during the day—and it's inconveniencing your life or limiting your activities—then you should visit a urologist or urogynecologist. This is especially true if you're older and you're getting up more than once a night to urinate. Studies suggest that the more often people get up at night to use the bathroom, the higher their risk of falling, which can start a negative cascade for their overall health.
Practice proper toileting habits.
Normal voiding behavior works like this: you sit down on the commode (or stand, if you're male and more comfortable doing so), relax, and empty.
Some other tips:
- Don't rush; try to relax. There are typically two ways to void—you can push or you can relax. Relaxing is the better option. Simply relax your muscles, and your bladder should easily empty.
- Break bad habits. For example, do you need to have water running in order to empty your bladder? Work on breaking this habit.
- Consider using a step stool. The best anatomical position for emptying your bladder (if you're a woman) and your bowels (if you're male or female) is a squatting position. This can be a challenging position to achieve, especially given the trend towards taller toilets. In order to achieve this position, you can use a step stool (the "Squatty Potty" is one of the commercially available items on the market). This will allow you to lift your feet and get into a squatting position while still effectively "sitting" on the toilet. Just be careful that you don't trip over the stool (or whatever you end up using) during the middle of the night (or any other time of the day for that matter).
Remember: See your doctor if anything changes.
As Dr. Johnson says, "If it bothers you, it bothers me." So if you're getting up more during the night to use the bathroom, consider seeing your doctor. Or if you experience any other changes—blood in the urine, painful urination, etc.—see your physician. Better to know what you're dealing with than to let it linger.
Interested in seeing a GBU physician? Go here to schedule an appointment.