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5 Ways to Protect Your Pelvic Floor

Wednesday, 25 July 2018

The pelvic floor muscle is incredibly important for both men and women, and yet we know very little about it or how to protect it. There are thought to be between 3 and 6 million people in the UK, suffering from some kind of urinary incontinence. For too long, it has remained a hidden problem, something that is both embarrassing and incurable.

Photo by Yoann Boyer on Unsplash
Thankfully, attitudes are changing and treatments are becoming more effective too. But when it comes to protecting your pelvic floor, there is no denying that prevention is better than cure. So what ways can you protect your pelvic floor and reduce reliance on incontinence pads?

Specific Pelvic Floor Exercises
The pelvic floor muscle stretches across the body, from the front by the pubic bone to the base of the spine. It is a sling-like muscle and one that is unlike any other muscle in the body. But it works in similar ways by contracting and expanding to allow the muscle the bladder to open and close. Keeping it toned and strong can be done through exercise, just like we do with other muscles in the body.

Clench and release exercises are simple and effective. Performing two or three sets each and every day, as well as extending the time you clench your pelvic floor muscle, is effective at keeping it strong and toned. Although a lot of advice relating to the pelvic floor muscle relates to pregnancy, these exercises can be done by men and women, no matter how old or young they are.

Diet
Your choice of foods and drinks can also make incontinence worse? Looking after your pelvic floor is a balance of helping it to remain healthy, whilst minimising foods and drinks that can irritate it;

  • Acidic foods, such as citrus fruits, tomatoes and the like can irritate the bladder making it harder for your pelvic floor muscle to remain in control. If you eat a lot of these kinds of foods, you may need to consider cutting back.
  • Caffeine and sugary drinks can also affect the bladder, reducing your intake of both of these kinds of drinks, including alcohol, can help with pelvic floor and bladder health.
  • Not drinking enough water can also lead to an irritated bladder. Although we may think reducing the amount of water we drink will help incontinence, it can actually make it worse.

Lifestyle
We all know by now that our lifestyle impacts our health, and this is certainly true when it comes to the bladder and the pelvic floor.

  • Smoking - causing smoker’s cough, it may be possible that your pelvic floor is weakened by coughing fits leading to urinary incontinence.
  • Alcohol - consuming a lot of alcohol leads to the body making more urine and this can lead to problems with incontinence.
  • Lack of exercise and excess weight - can also lead to problems with incontinence. Staying active, balancing your diet and maintaining a healthy weight all help your pelvic floor.

Bad Habits
Over the years, we can pick up poor toilet habits too, some of which may impact on your pelvic floor. For example, it is not uncommon for people to wait until the last minute to go to the toilet. This places stress on the bladder as well as the muscles and the pelvic floor muscle that control it.

Holding on to urine can also lead to other problems. Urinary tract infections or UTIs happen for all kinds of reasons but holding on to your urine or not allowing yourself time to empty your bladder properly could be one of them. Make sure you allow yourself time to go to the bathroom and when you do feel the urge, you don’t put it off.

Seek Help
For too long incontinence was seen as something that happened as the body aged. Or that it was a female-only problem and a side effect of pregnancy and giving birth. There is help available for all people suffering from incontinence though;
  • Information and help with exercise and lifestyle is something your doctor and practice nurse can help with.
  • Some GPs will refer patients to a specialist continence nurse to help with longer-term incontinence issues.
  • There are medications that can help.
  • For when the pelvic floor is damaged, surgery may be an option. 

Protect your pelvic floor by looking after it with exercise and a healthy lifestyle but if you need to, seek medical help too.
This is a collaborative post.

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