Top Tips for Tackling Overactive Bladders

Overactive Bladder Syndrome, (OAB) itself is not a disease, it is a term used to describe a group of urinary symptoms. The following article provides a few top tips to help tackle your overactive bladder.

Of this group of symptoms, the most common is the frequent and sudden urge to urinate. Often times this urge is described as uncontrollable. Some might lose control of their bladder or experience leaking if they do not make it to the bathroom in time.

The following points are merely suggestions one can try to implement in an attempt to improve their symptoms.

Whole coffee beans


Unfortunately, caffeine is one of the biggest OAB instigators.

One of the main instigators of OAB, is unfortunately, caffeine.

Caffeine is a known diuretic, this means that it encourages the body to produce urine; found mainly in coffee, certain teas and even some supplements and medications.

To determine whether or not caffeine is your main culprit, it is suggested that for a week you cut out all drinks and food that contain caffeine. If you notice an improvement in your OAB symptoms after this period, but do not want to eliminate caffeine from your diet completely, it may simply be a matter of limiting your caffeine intake to discern what works best for you.

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Another unfortunate culprit

The same rule that applies to caffeine, applies to alcoholic beverages.

Alcohol is also a known diuretic; if you find that alcohol makes symptoms of OAB worse, it is suggested that you limit or eradicate alcohol intake from your diet.

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Fluid Intake

Regulate your fluid intake

In the context of OAB, it is important to regulate your fluid intake; a higher than necessary intake of fluid will most assuredly worsen any OAB symptoms.

The aim is to drink “normal” quantities of water/fluid throughout the day. Normal, being the amount that is required by your body specifically. It is paramount that your body is adequately hydrated.

The more fluid you supply your body with, the more urine your system is required produce. This urine tends to be more concentrated, which will irritate the detrusor muscle of the bladder, thus making symptoms of OAB worse.

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Access to the toilet

Make sure to eliminate any hurdles in your path

Make getting to the bathroom as simple as possible. 

A swift and simple route to the bathroom can eliminate potential accidents and increased stress. 

Should you have limited mobility or other restrictions, some changes could make your life a lot easier; such as a portable commode in the bedroom. 

Commode Example

Photograph of a portable commode
Example of a portable commode

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Certain foods and spices have the ability to aggravate OAB symptoms

Sadly, for some, spicy-hot foods are known to intensify symptoms of OAB. Highly spiced cuisines such as Mexican, curries and spicy Asian dishes should be avoided if you fall into this category. 

The same goes for spicy food types such as wasabi, chilli, chilli peppers, cayenne peppers, mustard and radish etc.

Avoid citrus fruits and drinks, especially those that are highly acidic. 

Fizzy drinks are another perpetrator; the carbon dioxide found in fizzy drinks can irritate an already sensitive bladder. Consider eliminating or restricting your consumption of carbonated drinks.

Close up of a burning Cigarette


Aside from being overall bad for your health, smoking can irritate the bladder

Aside from the fact that smoking harms your overall health; the act of smoking can lead to irritation of the bladder, which will worsen any symptoms of OAB. Subsequent coughing from smoking can cause bladder spasms and leakage.

Even if you don’t suffer from OAB, it is advised that you quit smoking.

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Straining on a bowel movement can irritate symptoms of OAB

Make sure you are including an adequate amount of fibre in your diet.

Constipation can intensify your OAB symptoms; when one is straining during a bowel movement, increased force and pressure will be placed on your bladder and pelvic floor which will lead to further bladder irritation. 

If you already have an adequate amount of fibre in your diet, increasing your fibre intake will simply make the problem much worse. Instead of consuming more fibre, consider going to your preferred pharmacy and asking for an over the counter stool softener.

Photo of a urinating cherub statue

Go Only When You Need to

Don’t get into the habit of going before you need to

Go to the toilet only when the need arises. Some get into the habit of frequenting the bathroom far more than they should in an attempt to avoid the possibility of an accident.

By consistently going to the bathroom before the urge to urinate arises, your bladder becomes accustomed to holder smaller and smaller amounts of urine. Subsequently, the urge to urinate will occur when the bladder is not appropriately full. This will compound any symptoms of OAB.

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Kegal Exercises

Strengthening the pelvic floor has many benefits

Ladies, if you haven’t already heard about kegal exercises, now is as good a time as any.

“Kegals”, also known as a means of “vaginal rejuvenation”, are an exercise that help to strengthen and tighten the muscles that make up the pelvic floor; these muscles provide support for the following organs, the uterus, bladder, small intestine and rectum.

A stronger pelvic floor can help alleviate symptoms of OAB and incontinence (urinary and faecal). The exercise is performed by repeatedly tightening and relaxing the pelvic floor muscles. .

Men are capable of performing kegal exercises too; however due to anatomical differences they may need to seek the help of a professional in order to learn how to identify and isolate the pelvic floor muscles. 

How to get started with kegals

Getting started…

(1) Identify the pelvic floor muscles: A quick and simple way for ladies to do this, is to stop urinating midstream.

When doing so, concentrate on the sensation and which exact muscles you can feel are being used in your pelvis to halt urination. The muscles you feel contracting are what make up your pelvic floor.

Once you have identified and isolated your pelvic floor muscles, your “kegalling” career can officially take off. The repetitive contraction and relaxation of the muscles is essentially all there is to it; this discreet exercise can be done anywhere and at anytime without anyone knowing. 

At first you may find it easier to perform the exercise whilst laying down.

(2) Perfect your technique: Practise, practise, practise. As with any exercise, it’s the execution that matters most. 

Imagine that you are sitting on top of a tiny ball or marble, try picking up the imaginary ball using the contraction of the muscles in your pelvic floor. As you get to the tightest point of contraction, hold for three seconds and then relax, pause for another three seconds before beginning the next contraction.

(3) Focus on the exercise: Do your best to focus on the movement of each contraction of the pelvic floor. Make sure you aren’t using your thighs, buttocks or abdominal muscles to complete the contraction. Keep breathing steadily and consistently throughout.

(4) Three is the magic number: Try aim to perform three sets of 10-15 kegals in a day.

Man jogging on the road

Bladder Training

Train your bladder to hold larger amounts of urine

The goal of bladder training is to essentially stretch the bladder over a period of time. 

The increase in volume will enable the bladder to hold larger amounts of urine; if done successfully, this should afford someone with OAB more control over their bladder and additional time to make it to the bathroom when they first feel the urge to urinate arise. 

To learn how to properly perform bladder training exercises, seek help from a qualified physiotherapist or a urologist.

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Medical Treatment

There are various options available today to treat OAB

There are various medical treatments available today that those battling with OAB can investigate. 

Ranging from oral medications, botox therapy, sacral neurostimulation and in some cases, surgery.

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Maintain a Healthy Weight

Additional weight places additional strain on ones bladder

The more one weighs, the more overall strain the body has to endure; more pressure will be placed on important bodily structures such as, muscles, bones and organs.

By maintaining a healthy weight, one can drastically reduce their chances of developing OAB and other weight related medical complications; those who already have OAB and are overweight could see a vast improvement in their symptoms following weight loss. 

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Prepare for Bedtime

Make sure your bladder is as ready as you are for a good nights sleep

Those with OAB often battle with interrupted sleep, caused by having to wake up in the middle of the night to make one or many trips to the bathroom (Known as nocturia).

Broken and inadequate sleep will obviously negatively affect ones ability to function optimally during the day, and ultimately impact their overall quality of life.

If this is an aspect of OAB that you struggle with, make a conscious effort to plan and prepare for bed time. Avoid drinking fluids an hour or two before you intend to go to bed. 

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Talk to Your Doctor

When in doubt, do not hesitate to speak to your doctor

If you find that you are experiencing incontinence symptoms, be sure to consult with a urologist or your physician; to try ascertain the root cause of your symptoms.

Once that is done, an informed and effective decision can be made regarding the best course of treatment specifically for you.

The above article has been compiled using medical research and study outcomes, it is intended to be taken as guidance only. This article should not replace the advice or instruction of a medical practitioner.

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