When you think about being healthy you may think about lifting weights or running on a treadmill at a gym.  Oftentimes, we forget about important small muscles that support our internal organs and keep our bodily functions working properly. Did you know that a physical therapist can help you with bowel and bladder dysfunction such as urinary incontinence? Here are 5 tips on keeping your pelvic floor healthy!

1.    Proper nutrition and hydration

a.      Drinking water may seem daunting, especially if you are experiencing urinary leakage or if you already take frequent trips to the bathroom. In reality, drinking less water will cause the bladder to shrink which will tell the brain that it is fuller faster. In turn, this will cause you to go to the bathroom more frequently especially if urine is concentrated.  6-8 8oz glasses is recommended for a healthy lifestyle.

b.     Alcohol, caffeine, artificial sweeteners and carbonated beverages should be avoided if possible because they can irritate the lining of the bladder and stimulate the nervous system which can also increase urinary emptying.

c.      Eating a diet with lean protein, fruits, and vegetables will help promote a healthy body weight which can decrease incidence of incontinence.

2.    Regular exercise

a.      A good start to an exercise program would be walking. Not only is walking a good introductory exercise regimen for overall health, but it actually activates the internal smooth muscles of the bowel and bladder and helps to strengthen the pelvic floor.  

3.    Create healthy bladder habits

a.      A great general guideline on healthy toileting habits for the pelvic floor would be to toilet every 3-4 hours. Urine stream flow should be ~10-20 seconds and urine should be slight yellow.

b.     Urine should not be highly concentrated or have a strong odor.

4.    Proper hygiene and clothing choices

a.      Some suggestions about clothing choices when experiencing urinary incontinence include pants that are lightweight, can be easily cleaned, and can be removed easily to avoid leakage. Bringing extra change of lightweight clothes with you if you experience incontinence is suggested to promote proper hygiene.

5.    Get in contact with a physical therapist!

a.      If you are experiencing pelvic floor dysfunction, contact a physical therapist that specializes on treating incontinence and pelvic pain. She/he can give you more detailed suggestions and specialized exercises to strengthen the pelvic floor muscles to reduce incidence of bladder leaks. 

Source : Hulme JA. Beyond Kegels, Fabulous Four Exercises and More - To Prevent and Treat Incontinence. Phoenix Pub; 2002.

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About the Author: 

Alli Riddering, DPT

Women's Health, Orthopedics and Pediatrics

Alli received her Doctor of Physical Therapy degree from Governors State University and was nominated by the faculty for the Alpha Eta Honor Society (Allied Health Professionals). 

Alli first became interested in physical therapy in grade school after she witnessed her aunt graduating and becoming a PT. She honed a deeper understanding of the human body and a passion for the profession while earning a degree in biology from Purdue University.  

She has a keen interest in understanding the full nature of her patients’ injuries, then utilizing proven therapies that lead to recovery and improved function for them. Alli has a special interest in Women's Health and pelvic rehabilitation. 

She also enjoys participating in fitness and nutrition programs herself and she spends significant time each week working out.  She also loves to travel, dining out at new places, and experiencing the outdoors (especially when the weather is nice).