OAB can cause a loss of bladder control and urinary leakage, also known as incontinence. Having weak or excessively constrictive pelvic muscles is a risk factor. Exercising these muscles may help reduce OAB symptoms.

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Overactive bladder (OAB) causes a frequent and urgent need to urinate. For people with OAB, the urinary bladder’s muscle contracts and tries to squeeze out urine at the wrong time. This can cause a loss of bladder control and urinary leakage, or incontinence.

In this article, get some tips for managing a weak bladder.

When the smooth muscle within the bladder becomes overactive, it can lead to improper contraction and relaxation of the muscle. Problems in the nerves that stimulate the bladder, as well as some neurological conditions, may lead to OAB.

According to the Urology Care Foundation, as many as 30% of men and 40% of women in the United States have OAB symptoms.

The muscles in the lower abdomen that support the bladder and urethra are known as the pelvic muscles. For women, these muscles often stretch and weaken during pregnancy and childbirth, which can cause organs in the abdomen to shift.

A lack of muscle support around the bladder can cause sagging, which can lead to leakage. This can lead to stress incontinence, which often results from a mix of OAB and urge incontinence.

If a person is experiencing frequent urination or having urine leakage after a sudden urge to urinate, it may be time to talk with a doctor about treatment options to help with OAB.

However, there are also several lifestyle changes that a person can make to help to calm the bladder muscle, which may help improve OAB symptoms. Read on to learn more.

The sections below provide suggestions for ways to help manage a weak bladder, which may also improve OAB symptoms.

1. Do daily pelvic floor exercises

The pelvic floor muscles are responsible for supporting the bladder, and they help control the flow of urine through the urethra. When they become weakened or damaged, it can cause stress incontinence.

Performing pelvic floor exercises — including Kegels, squats, and the bridge — can help strengthen the muscles around and within the bladder to prevent urinary incontinence.

According to the results of two clinical trials, women who participate in pelvic floor muscle training are twice as likely to see an improvement in their urinary incontinence than those receiving symptomatic care alone. They are also five times more likely to have their symptoms completely resolve.

Those who have had recent surgery, have given birth recently, or have other health concerns should talk with a doctor before beginning any exercise regimen.

2. Stop smoking cigarettes

Symptoms of OAB are more common in people who currently smoke or who have smoked than in people who do not smoke or who have never smoked. Smoking can reduce vascular health, which may lead to a loss of oxygen to the bladder muscles.

Some research suggests that quitting smoking can help reduce some of the symptoms of OAB, including the urgency associated with it. This is particularly the case for people aged 20–49 years who used to smoke.

Some doctors have also proposed that chronic coughing associated with smoking can weaken the pelvic floor muscles that control the flow of urine, which can cause stress incontinence.

3. Avoid lifting heavy objects

Lifting heavy objects puts strain not only on the back and knees but also on the pelvic floor muscles. Without proper support from pelvic muscles, stress incontinence and OAB with or without urge incontinence can occur.

For this reason, people should avoid lifting heavy objects if they can. If they do need to lift something, they should practice their pelvic floor exercises before and during the lift to help support the muscles in and around their bladder.

4. Eat a bladder-healthy diet

Urine contains the liquid waste products from the food that people eat. Some foods can cause irritation and muscle spasms in the bladder, leading to an urgent need to urinate.

There is no single diet that is best for everybody with OAB, as everyone reacts differently to different foods.

In general, the National Association for Continence recommends avoiding acidic or citrusy foods, which can be especially irritating to the bladder. Dairy and gluten may also be problematic for people with intolerances.

However, it is important to eat a balanced diet that features a variety of foods. Some important foods to incorporate into the diet include:

  • lean proteins, such as fish, chicken breast, turkey, low fat beef and pork, and eggs
  • fiber-rich foods, including almonds, oats, pears, raspberries, lentils, and beans
  • non-citrus fruits, such as bananas, apples, grapes, coconut, and watermelon
  • vegetables, including kale, lettuce, cucumber, squash, potatoes, broccoli, carrots, celery, and bell peppers
  • nuts
  • whole grains, including oats, barley, farro, and quinoa

To find out what diet works best for them, a person may consider keeping a bladder diary to determine what foods trigger their symptoms.

5. Lose excess weight

Having excess weight increases the likelihood of developing OAB.

According to one 2020 study, young women with a body fat percentage over 32% were 95% more likely to have OAB than those with a lower body fat percentage.

According to a review from the American Urogynecologic Society, losing weight can decrease the prevalence of urinary incontinence by up to 17% in overweight women or those with obesity.

6. Exercise regularly

Exercise, coupled with a healthy diet, can help promote the loss of excess weight.

The results of one 2019 study revealed that 3 months of high intensity exercise improved weight loss in women with OAB who were overweight. This was also associated with reductions in the frequency and severity of mild OAB symptoms.

However, it is important for people to make sure that they are exercising the right muscles. High impact exercises, such as those involving jumping or jogging, can put pressure on the urinary bladder or pelvic muscles and increase bladder leakage.

Instead, try to opt for less jarring exercises that strengthen the core and pelvic floor muscles. These exercises include Pilates and yoga.

7. Try to prevent constipation

Constipation causes the colon to swell and strain because of increased abdominal muscle pressure. This can adversely affect the bladder muscles and may also increase the frequency and severity of OAB symptoms.

Eating more fiber, getting regular exercise, and staying hydrated can help prevent constipation. In addition, there are certain yoga poses — including the Crescent Lunge, Cobra, and Legs up the Wall — that can help relieve constipation and promote healthy bowel movements.

Those who experience chronic constipation should talk with a doctor to learn more about other ways to help manage their constipation more effectively, such as by taking medications or trying physical therapy.

8. Avoid excess caffeine intake

The effects of caffeine on the bladder are twofold. Caffeine irritates the muscles of the bladder, which can cause muscle spasms that increase the frequency and urgency of urination. Caffeine is also a mild diuretic, which means that it increases the amount of water released in urine.

It may be worth avoiding beverages that are high in caffeine, such as coffee, energy drinks, or green teas. Instead, opt for beverages that are decaffeinated or contain no caffeine, such as water or herbal teas.

9. Limit alcohol intake

Like caffeine, alcohol is a mild diuretic, and it can also irritate the bladder.

Reducing one’s alcohol intake, particularly within a few hours before bedtime, may reduce the frequency of urination and limit nighttime bathroom trips.

10. Stay well hydrated

It may seem counterintuitive to drink water to prevent OAB, but proper hydration is important. Lowering fluid intake can reduce the amount of urine the bladder can hold, which may mean taking more trips to the bathroom.

Inadequate hydration can also lead to constipation, which can lead to straining of the pelvic muscles. This may also adversely affect the bladder muscle.

Overactive bladder muscles can lead to OAB and urinary incontinence. Making some simple lifestyle changes can help strengthen the bladder and pelvic muscles and reduce bladder irritation to help improve OAB symptoms.

If symptoms persist despite making these changes, a person may wish to talk with a doctor to determine whether or not additional treatment may be necessary to help strengthen the bladder muscles and reduce bladder leakage.