Perhaps you thought urinary leakage problems affected only women. But you have all the symptoms, and now your doctor has given you the diagnosis: you have urinary incontinence. So, now what?
One, you should know urinary incontinence in men is not uncommon; in fact, it affects more than 2 million men. Urinary incontinence also is not a disease but a symptom of a problem with the urinary tract. The most common type of incontinence men experience after treatment for prostate cancer is stress incontinence, which is when urine is accidentally released when pressure is placed on the bladder. Overflow incontinence can be associated with BPH or narrowing of the urethra and occurs when the bladder does not empty properly.
Two, regardless of the type of urinary incontinence you may have or its cause, there are immediate steps you can take to restore continence and promote urinary health. Those steps include numerous lifestyle changes and treatments you can try to regain urinary control. So in response to “now what?” here are some guidelines for you to follow.
Make an appointment to talk to your doctor about the cause(s) of your urinary incontinence and the current state of prostate health so you and your healthcare provider can develop a plan of action. You should also read and learn as much as you can about urinary incontinence and prostate health and follow any new developments on the topic in the media. Keep a file as new information about urinary incontinence is published, and contact your doctor if you have questions.
The choices you make regarding lifestyle can have a significant impact on urinary incontinence, and many of these choices are, in fact, recommended by doctors as part of a treatment program to regain bladder function. These lifestyle changes can be easily incorporated into your daily activities and yet make an important difference in your quest to correct urinary incontinence. Here are 17 lifestyle changes that can have a positive impact on bladder control.
|Maximize fruit and vegetable servings: Fruits and vegetables are excellent sources of antioxidants, polyphenols, vitamins, minerals, and fiber, which can support and promote urinary tract, prostate, and overall health. Read more about fruit and vegetable servings|
|Eat healthy fats: Healthy fats (omega-3s, monounsaturated) should be the mainstay of a low-fat diet, which promotes sexual and prostate health. Read more about healthy fats|
|Choose plant protein over animal protein: Plant protein provides all the nutrients and health benefits you need for maximum prostate health and to support urinary tract function. Read more about animal and plant protein|
|Consume green tea: The catechins present in green tea have potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that can prove helpful in promoting urinary tract health. However, limit consumption to early in the day to prevent the need to get up during the night to urinate. Read more on green tea supplements|
|Avoid foods and additives that are harmful to prostate health: Some foods, supplements, additives and nutrients are especially harmful to the prostate and therefore may impact urinary tract function. These include but are not limited to meat, calcium, chondroitin, and foods high in sugar. Read more on foods to avoid|
|Take supplements selectively: Several supplements may support the urinary tract, including cranberry and uva ursi, but others have the potential to harm the prostate and urinary tract health, such as calcium. Before you take any supplement, investigate the pros and cons of the product and make an informed choice. Read more on supplements for urinary health|
|Drink pure water: Drinking pure water and staying properly hydrated is essential for flushing out the kidneys and bladder and supporting urinary tract health. Read more about drinking pure water|
|Avoid late fluid intake: Although adequate intake of fluids, especially pure water, is important, avoid drinking fluids 2 to 3 hours before going to bed to prevent getting up during the night.|
|Achieve and maintain a healthy weight. Being overweight places excess pressure on the bladder, exacerbating urinary incontinence. Read more on weight and prostate health|
|Practice Kegel exercises. Daily practice of Kegel exercises can significantly improve bladder control. Read more on kegel exercises for incontinence|
|Manage stress: Stress can worsen urinary incontinence as well as weaken your immune system and alter your hormonal balance. Read more about managing stress|
|Practice good hygiene: Keep your penis and surrounding area clean to reduce the risk of infection.|
|Don’t smoke: Research shows that smoking is a risk factor for stress urinary incontinence. (Luber 2004)|
|Don’t hold it: Use the bathroom regularly to avoid irritating your urinary tract or possibly causing a urinary tract infection. When you do use the bathroom, do not strain to empty your bladder, as this can cause irritation as well.|
|Avoid alcohol: Although moderate intake of alcohol (1 to 2 drinks daily) may be safe for some men, alcohol increases urinary frequency and should be significantly limited or avoided completely.|
|Avoid constipation: To avoid constipation, include high-fiber foods in your diet every day, and drink plenty of water as well to facilitate movement through the intestinal tract. Constipation places excess pressure on the intestinal tract and can worsen urinary incontinence.|
|Reduce caffeine: Coffee, colas, some energy drinks, tea, and chocolate are sources of caffeine and can promote urinary frequency. Significantly limit or avoid products that contain caffeine.|
|Avoid foods that irritate the bladder: Foods and drinks such as carbonated beverages, citrus fruits and juices, and spicy foods can make urinary incontinence worse.|
|Control diabetes: If you have diabetes, keep blood sugar under good control.|
Learn all you can about your treatment options and discuss them with your healthcare provider. The list of treatment options to manage urinary incontinence include the following:
- Medications, which may include alpha-1-adrenergic blocking agents, anticholinergic agents, 5-alpha reductase inhibitors, and/or tricyclic antidepressants
- Collagen injections, which may help mild cases
- Collection devices, such as a urine collection bag
- Catheters, usually considered to be short-term treatment
- Herbal and natural remedies, which may include cranberry, rye pollen, probiotics, saw palmetto, and uva ursi, among others
- Penile clamps and rings, usually reserved for severe cases
- Pads, among the most common ways to deal with urinary incontinence
- Neuromuscular electrical stimulation, which can retrain and strengthen urinary muscles
- Behavior therapy, which can include several strategies such as bladder training
- Artificial urinary sphincter, usually reserved for severe incontinence
- Male suburethral sling, for mild to moderate incontinence
- Lifestyle and diet modifications, which are noted above
Keep copies of all your medical records both for your own knowledge and so you can provide copies for medical professionals as needed.
- Get copies of any test results
- Keep records of any treatments or devices you use to manage urinary incontinence
- Keep an up-to-date record of any medications you take, over-the-counter and prescription, as well as any supplements
Luber KM. The definition, prevalence, and risk factors for stress urinary incontinence. Rev Urol 2004; 6 (Suppl 3): S3-S9