Friday 21 December 2018

How to avoid incontinence as you age

The comfort of our customers is all important to us at HARTMANN Direct. Although incontinence is a normal part of the ageing process, it is never natural, there is always an underlying mechanical reason for the malfunction. Therefore, we would like to do all we can to help you avoid the discomfort and potential embarrassment of incontinence as you age. There are ways that you can look after yourself bladder and your bowel, and we have collected together all the best advice we could find.

What is a healthy bladder and bowel?
Before we consider how to avoid incontinence, we should tell you what a healthy bladder and bowel should be doing. You should be urinating between four and six times per day. Ideally, you shouldn't need to urinate during the night, but most people need to go once. Our urine should be a light yellow colour, the same colour as straw. If you have dark yellow or brown urine, it is a sign of dehydration.

You should experience bowel movement between three times a day, and at the other extreme, three times a week. The general rule is that you should go once a day. Passing faeces should be easy, and the stool should be soft.

You should not be experiencing any accidental leaks of urine or faeces.

Drink lots of fluids
Dehydration can be the cause of both constipation and irritation of the bladder. It can make your stools hard and painful to pass, and you might experience burning as you urinate. Therefore, one way to maintain good toilet habits as you age is to drink plenty of water. Did you realise that thirst is a sign of dehydration, so drink regularly before this happens. You should be aiming to avoid thirst.

You should drink around two litres of water – or equivalent (which does not mean tea or coffee). This is the equivalent of about 8 glasses of water. However, if you are exercising, or it is hot outside, then you should aim to drink more. Ideally, you will take sips all through the day, which is why it is essential to carry a bottle of water with you.

Drinking tea, coffee and alcohol can lead to increased chance of bladder infection, so it is best to avoid these if possible.

Eat lots of fibre
A high-fibre diet is essential to a healthy bowel. It will keep you regular and prevent you from having to strain. A poor diet can lead to constipation, which in turn can lead to faecal incontinence.

Adding more fibre to your diet couldn't be easier. Eating porridge or wholegrain cereal for breakfast is an essential start to your day. You should also use wholemeal rice and pasta, rather than white grains. If you eat a lot of lentils and beans, this will help too. Try to avoid too much processed or refined food, which tends to irritate our digestive system, as well as including a high glycaemic load, which is bad for weight management.

Eating fruit is another meaningful way of putting fibre in your diet, and vegetables. As you age, it is becomes more important to have at least five different fruit and veg – preferably as many as 10.

If you do eat a lot of fibre but still suffer from hard stools, it is likely that you are not drinking enough.

Stay active
Maintaining your general health is obviously going to help your bladder and bowel health. Doing exercise will also preserve muscle strength, which again is essential for control. Keeping your weight down reduces pressure on the pelvic floor, and undertaking core exercises strengthen these areas. All this is a reason to keep yourself active. If you don't want to break a sweat, you should consider some yoga. This will work on critical muscles and on your digestion without the worry that your body cannot cope with the exertion.

As a female, it is particularly important to maintain a healthy pelvic floor during and after pregnancy. The exercises you will be given by the midwife might not seem important at that moment in time, but you will thank them in thirty years from now.

If you haven’t exercised for a while, go see a doctor to check your health before doing anything too extreme. Start gently and build up your confidence and strength in your body, and help prevent incontinence at the same time.

* Guest post *

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