February 04th 2012 - STEP 0. DO NOTHING
As the majority of cases of urge incontinence are idiopathic, that is, they have no known cause, even after extensive testing, spare yourself the health risks of invasive tests.
STEP 1. COLLECT INFORMATION
It is estimated that 34 million Americans deal with overactive bladder, defined as an urgent and frequent need to urinate, or urinating more than 10 times in 24 hours. Most are older than 40, and one-third to one-half are men.
Urge incontinence comes on so quickly and so powerfully that there is no time to get to a toilet, even if you are standing right next to one! For some women, even the thought or sight of a toilet causes leakage.
There are many causes of urge incontinence. Invasive diagnostic tests requiring catheterizations are best refused, however, as the results are often inconclusive. In general - unless there is a known cause such as an enlarged prostate, a bladder infection, vaginal yeast overgrowth, interstitial cystitis, fibromyalgia, or multiple sclerosis - urge incontinence/overactive bladder is thought to be caused by abnormal nerve signals to the bladder, which initiate spastic muscle contractions and an often uncontrollable need to urinate, even when the bladder is not full.
A bladder diary lists the times of day you urinate (including leaks), the amount of urine you void, what you drink and eat and when, and medicines you took. Over a period of a week or two, patterns emerge that can help you retrain your bladder.
“About 30% of women [with overactive bladders] get better simply by understanding what’s happening and thinking about it.”
STEP 2. ENGAGE THE ENERGY
A powerful visualization coupled with a physical trigger can put you in control of your bladder, fast. Choose an image, visualize it repeatedly, then use it to help prevent leaks and urgency. If you visualize for even two minutes a day, you will get results faster than if you take drugs. If you use the physical trigger while you visualize, eventually it, alone, will be enough to control your urge incontinence, you won’t need the visualization any more.
Sitting alone, in a tranquil environment (a bathtub is fine), close your eyes and imagine vividly, using all your senses: see the scene, taste it, smell it, feel its texture, listen to it. As in a dream, you can create whatever you want. Take many quiet sessions to make your visualization real; don’t try to do it all at once. Create your own visualization or try one of these.
Visualize the nerve message between your bladder and your brain as a stream of water; in your imagination, install dams and locks to slow it down. When you visualize, squeeze your fist in a slow rhythm.
Visualize the nerve pathway as a road; set up gates or toll booths all along it, starting at the bladder and working your way up to the brain. When you visualize this, gently bite your lower lip.
Imagine a large, strong hand gently pushing up between your legs and comforting you. When you do so, smile.
Homeopathic remedies for urge incontinence include:
Belladonna: if there are chronic spasms
Eupatorium pur.: bladder always feels full Sulphura: urge is sudden and intense
Nux vomica: urge accompanied by pain
Uranium nitricum: burning pain
Biofeedback using electrical or pressure-sensing devices can increase awareness of the bladder, foiling urge incontinence. It is so well-studied, and so effective in relieving incontinence, that Medicare covers the cost.
Everyone who is incontinent has weak muscles. Those with stress incontinence “deny the problem, pay little attention to bladder signals, and are surprised when a slight physical exertion forces urine out. The urge patient, on the other hand, is preoccupied with bladder signals … and rushes to the toilet at the first signals. … the brain learns to stop inhibiting the reflexive contractions of the bladder …”
Leslie Talcott, director Perineometer Research Institute
STEP 3. NOURISH AND TONIFY
Retrain your bladder to relieve urge incontinence. Since the bladder is only half full when urge begins, countering the urge to urinate, and gradually lengthening the time between visits to the toilet can work wonders. With practice, the threshold of urge is raised and the nerves no longer signal so frequently.
Food additives such as MSG, potassium sorbate, aspartame, and food colorings aggravate urge incontinence.
Vitamin B12 deficiency - common among vegetarians and epidemic among vegans - can mimic MS, including causing uncontrollable bladder spasms or urge incontinence. Vitamin B12, in its usable form, is available only from milk, eggs, fish, and meat.
Including at least 25 grams of real fiber from whole grains, beans, and nuts in the daily diet may significantly ease urinary overactivity and urge incontinence.
STEP 4. STIMULATE/SEDATE
For men with overactive bladders, herbalist Terry Willard uses a tea of parsley leaf, corn silk, and dandelion leaf to reduce urine acidity and bladder irritability. When needed, he adds wild yam root to soothe or valerian to calm.
To counter the heat and reduce the inflammation that underlies an overactive bladder, herbalists in India suggest infusions of soothing herbs like marshmallow root (Althea off.), plantain leaf (Plantago species), or mullein leaf (Verbascum thapsus). For those with severe problems, 1-4 tablespoons of powdered turmeric (Cucurma longa) are added to the daily quart of infusion.
Saw palmetto berries, in tincture or tea, relax the smooth muscle in the bladder neck and help reduce overactivity.
Herbal nurse Martha Libster reminds us of the usefulness of Chinese ephedra (ma huang) - to reduce mucus surface swelling and relax spastic muscles - when treating an overactive bladder.
Acupuncture can bring significant relief from urgency, urge incontinence, and overactive bladder say researchers at the Oregon Department of Health and Science University. Four weekly bladder-specific acupuncture treatments improved bladder capacity, reduced urgency and frequency, and improved the quality of life as well as drug or behavioral therapies.
If you can’t get the knack of doing pelvic floor exercises (Kegels), don’t despair. Physical therapists, personal trainers for your bladder, can help you with these critically important exercises.
STEP 5A. USE SUPPLEMENTS
A deficiency of magnesium triggers muscles spasms and incontinence. Supplements of 200-600mg daily may help.
Vegans and vegetarians bothered by overactive bladders probably lack vitamin B12 - a critical nutrient found only in animal foods. Supplements or, better yet, a healthier diet that includes organic dairy and meat, are indicated. You may wish to be tested for methylmalonic acid level, a better indicator of deficiency than tests for vitamin B12 itself.
Wise Woman Herbal Studies -
PO Box 64
Woodstock, NY 12498