Urine is a liquid waste product excreted by the kidneys. Urine is made up of 96 percent water and 4 percent waste products, such as urea and salts. When we urinate, this waste liquid is passed from the kidneys and is temporarily stored in the bladder. The bladder is a hollow elastic organ that can stretch to accommodate up to two cups of urine at a time. As our bladder fills, our nervous system will alert us of our need to urinate and when the time is right, we will then release it from the bladder, where it will flow through the urethra and out of the body.
To experience normal urination, two key elements need to take place. First is the ability of the body to hold urine, which is dependent on having a normally functioning urinary tract and nervous system. The second element is that our body must be able to recognize the need or urge to urinate and be able to physically and psychologically respond. If there are issues in either of these key processes, we will experience incontinence.
Incontinence can be temporary or long-term, each with their own set of causes. For example, temporary incontinence can be caused by a urinary tract infection, severe constipation, pregnancy, weight gain or as a side-effect of some medications. Causes for chronic or long-term incontinence can include spinal cord injuries or other neurological conditions, abnormalities of the urinary tract, weakness of the bladder’s sphincter muscle, enlarged prostate in men or a prolapsed pelvis in women who have had multiple pregnancies.
A more common complaint in women than men, there are several distinct types of incontinence, which include stress incontinence, urge incontinence, mixed and overflow incontinence. As the name implies, stress incontinence occurs when simple body movements, such as coughing, exercising, sneezing or laughing puts pressure on the bladder causing urine to leak out. This form of incontinence is often seen in women who are pregnant, have had children and after menopause.
Another form of incontinence is called Urge Incontinence. People with urge incontinence have difficulty holding their urine until they are able to get to the toilet. Here individuals experience a sudden need to urinate often accompanied by bladder contractions and urine loss. It can occur during sleep, after drinking small amounts of water or even when they touch, hear or think about water running.
Someone with Mixed Incontinence is doubly blessed, because they experience symptoms of both urge and stress incontinence combined.
Overflow Incontinence is more often seen in men. It is characterized by a constant dribbling of urine or the feeling of the bladder never completely emptying. It can be caused by weak bladder muscles, a blocked urethra, or issues of the nervous system. It is commonly seen in men who suffer from benign prostate hyperplasia-an enlarged prostate.
For many, there are a number of natural and alternative health methods and remedies that can be employed to help reduce or eliminate incontinence from our lives.
Recommendations for wellness
Bladder retraining is one method you can try to help strengthen the pelvic muscles. Bladder retraining involves urinating on a schedule. Whether you feel the need to go, or not, start by going to the rest room at hourly intervals. Gradually increase the scheduled time in half hour increments until you are only urinating every 3-4 hours without leakage.
Another method is to do Kegel exercises. Kegel exercises involve contracting the muscles of the pelvic floor, holding them for 10 seconds and then releasing them. Repeat this activity 10 times at least 3 times per day. Vaginal cones can also be used by women to enhance the performance of Kegel exercises.
If incontinence is an issue during the night, limit your consumption of all liquids after 6 p.m.
Look for hidden food allergies. Keep a food diary and compare your periods of incontinence with the foods you are eating to see if there is a pattern.
Avoid alcohol or caffeinated beverages which can over-stimulate the bladder.
An astringent such as yarrow, agrimony or lady’s mantle can help to tighten up loose membranes in the pelvic area.
Horsetail can help to strengthen the urinary system. Its soothing, astringent and diuretic actions contribute to healing urinary tract infections that may cause incontinence.