Eight Tips for Bladder Health

Brooke Phillips, CWCMS
Editor | Shield HealthCare
10/31/23  3:52 PM PST
bladder conditions and tips for bladder health

What is the Bladder?

The bladder is a ballon-like hollow organ that collects and holds urine created by our kidneys. Urine contains the waste and fluids that remain after our body takes what it needs from what we eat and drink.

The bladder is one of those body parts that we often don’t think about until it stops working properly. In a healthy adult urinary tract, the bladder holds up to 16 ounces (2 cups) of urine comfortably for 2 to 5 hours. Each day, a healthy adult passes approximately a quart and a half of urine through the bladder and out of the body. However, various conditions can intefere with healthy bladder function and lead to changes in quality of life unless those conditions are well-managed.

Common Bladder Conditions

Bladder conditions are extremely common, affecting one in three Americans and frequently impacting quality of life. Approximately 13 million Americans have incontinence; 33 million Americans are dealing with overactive bladder; more than 81,000 Americans are diagnosed with bladder cancer each year; and up to 12 million Americans may have interstitial cystitis.

What Causes Bladder Conditions?

A wide variety of conditions and diseases can contribute to bladder conditions, including:

  • Health changes or problems such as infections, blocked urinary tracts (tumors or kidney stones), fistulas, constipation, birth defects and aging.
  • Nerve damage from diseases or conditions such as diabetes, vaginal childbirth, cancer, stroke, Parkinson’s, MS, Alzheimer’s, and brain or spinal cord injury.
  • Lifestyle factors such as eating and drinking habits, certain medicines, physical inactivity, and smoking.

How Does Age Affect the Bladder?

While age alone does not cause bladder conditions such as incontinence or overactive bladder (OB), the changes in our bodies that come with aging can contribute to the conditions that bring incontinence and OB.

As we age, our bladders change. The balloon-like stretchy tissue can become less flexible over time, as some of the muscle fibers in the bladder are replaced with stiffer, fibrotic tissue. This results in our bladder stretching less and holding less urine. The bladder wall and pelvic floor muscles can weaken with age, leading to a less forceful bladder contraction and affecting our ability to fully empty our bladder. And the neurological responses that we rely on to maintain normal urinary function decline slightly.

In practical terms, this means that as we age:

  • The bladder becomes fuller before triggering the sensation that the bladder needs to be emptied
  • The bladder muscle contracts less forcefully
  • The urethral sphincter (valve at the bladder outlet) loosens
  • A larger prostate gland can obstruct the urethra
  • There’s a more frequent need to pass urine


8 Tips to Improve Bladder Health

Although we can’t reverse aging, there are many steps we can take to improve bladder health. Here are eight lifestyle tips to help keep your bladder healthy:

1. Drink Plenty of Fluids.

It may seem counterintuitive, especially if you are struggling with incontinence or overactive bladder, but consuming enough daily fluids – especially water – is essential to bladder health. Approximately eight 8-ounce glasses of fluid per day are generally recommended, with at least half being water. A good indicator that you are drinking enough fluids is that you urinate at least once every three to four hours. Fluids are necessary to flush out bacteria, keep your organs hydrated, and to strengthen your bladder muscles with regular use. If you have health issues that affect fluid consumption, check with your healthcare provider about the right amount for you.

2. Exercise Regularly (Including Walking).

Physical activity is beneficial in multiple ways. Some people, like those who are sedentary or have heart disease, may develop fluid buildup in their legs during the day. Our kidneys process this fluid overnight, which can drive frequent nighttime urination. If you have fluid retention in your legs that’s causing an active bladder overnight, try moving around more throughout the day. Physical activity that gets your blood flowing will also assist with constipation and maintaining an optimal weight. Being overweight can increase our risk of developing bladder conditions. Likewise, constipation in the digestive tract can put pressure on the bladder and prevent it from expanding properly, impacting its ability to function normally. No matter how you slice it, physical activity is good for both bladder health and overall health.

3. Eat Healthy Foods.

The foods and beverages we consume impact every area of our body, including our bladders. Some foods are beneficial for the bladder, while others are bladder irritants. Common bladder irritants include alcohol, caffeine, fruits, lactose, and spicy foods. Beneficial foods include those that are high in fiber (promoting regular defecation and helping prevent constipation), low in acid, high in antioxidants, and high in water content. A diet rich in berries, cruciferous vegetables and lean protein provides healthy nutrients for urinary tract health. Irritant foods and beverages, such as alcohol and caffeine, can negatively affect the bladder in a variety of ways. Explore more articles on nutrition and bladder health from Shield HealthCare’s Registered Dietitians.

4. Practice Good Hygiene.

Good hygiene in your genital area is one of the most effective measures you can take to prevent a urinary tract infection (UTI). Loose-fitting undergarments  allow fabric to breathe, avoiding trapped moisture and the buildup of bacteria. The direction you wipe after urinating or defecating can also impact your UTI risk; wipe from front to back to limit contact between feces and your urethra (the opening to your urinary tract). If you are sexually active, urinate after sex to flush out any bacteria that your urinary tract may have been exposed to. These practices can prevent a buildup of bacteria in or near the urethra. However, it’s important to note that some types of bacteria which normally live in and around our reproductive systems are healthy, and your skin pH is also critical for skin integrity. Douching and harsh soaps can kill normal, healthy bacteria and disrupt skin pH, and those should be avoided.

5. Quit Smoking.

While we know that smoking is bad for overall health, bladder conditions are also more common in people that smoke. Among other benefits, giving up this habit will lessen your chances of developing bladder cancer, which is two to five times more likely among smokers. Every year, more than 50,000 people are diagnosed with bladder cancer, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine, and tobacco use is a major risk factor.

6. Perform Kegel Exercises.

Pelvic floor exercises—also known as Kegel exercises—strengthen the muscles that help to hold urine in the bladder. The pelvic floor is a muscle, and like any muscle, it must be used regularly to build strenth. Kegel exercises, when performed regularly, strengthen the muscles that allow for better bladder control. Weak or damaged pelvic floor muscles can contribute to urine leakage. Learn more about Kegel exercises and how to do them here.

7. Urinate Regularly and Empty Fully.

Have you ever been told “Don’t hold your pee”? Holding urine in your bladder for too long can weaken bladder muscles and contribute to bladder infections. Regular urination, which happens naturally every 3-4 hours when appropriately hydrated, strenthens the bladder muscles with use and flushes out bacteria. It’s also important not to rush going to the bathroom. Take your time and relax when urinating to allow your bladder to fully empty. Sit down and allow your bladder muscles to relax. You may find after the initial, highly-pressured stream ends that relaxing and shifting your position allows more urine to pass. If you tighten your muscles too soon to stop the urine stream, the urine returning to your bladder can bring bacteria from your urethral tract deeper into your system.

8. Carefully Manage Health Conditions and Medications.

Chronic conditions such as diabetes, frequent infections (UTIs), vascular diseases, and neurological diseases can all affect bladder function and health. Diabetes, for example, can damage nerves around your bladder, while a urinary tract infection involves bacteria invading your bladder and weakening the urethra muscles. If you are already managing bladder conditions such as interstitial cystitis, overactive bladder, urinary incontinence, or bladder cancer, following medical recommendations and staying on top of treatment will help keep your bladder as healthy as possible.

Medications that operate as a depressant can also cause incontinence as the bladder is involuntarily relaxed. Any medication that affects your central nervous system can cause incontinence, including some medications that induce sleep or dull nerves. It is possible to be so relaxed under depressant medications that you don’t experience the urge to urinate at all. Talk to your doctor about how any medications you are taking might impact your bladder health.


For more information about bladder health and related conditions, visit our Incontinence and Urological communities.


Sources include:


Recent Incontinence

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