Drinking less water is not exactly the answer if you have incontinence and other overactive bladder symptoms.
Here’s a cruel irony for anyone dealing with overactive bladder: Cutting back on your water may actually make your incontinence symptoms worse.
What?! It doesn’t quite seem possible, but the body is a complex machine. When you cut back on drinking water, your urine gets more concentrated (ahem, hence the darker color). This extra-concentrated urine can irritate the bladder and intensify your OAB symptoms—or at least doesn’t make them any better.
Plus, not drinking enough water can lead to constipation. That’s unpleasant on its own, but being blocked up puts extra pressure on the bladder—and that’s the last thing you need if you have overactive bladder.
Instead, staying hydrated (and keeping that urine as close to clear as possible!) and allowing bathroom breaks every two hours or so will help you maintain a “normal bladder capacity,” according to the National Association for Continence.
What counts as staying hydrated when you’re prone to overactive bladder? First of all, don’t fall for the old myth that you need to drink eight 8-ounce glasses of water a day. That’s kind of excessive for most people, TBH. Unless you’re exercising a ton or working outside in high heat all day, you don’t need to chug 64 ounces of fluids.
Another thing: You get a lot of your fluids (around 20 percent, in fact) just from your diet—think fruits, veggies, soups, and such. Instead of tracking your ounces of water every day, let thirst be your guide, says the American Urogynecologic Society. Drink when you feel thirsty, and sip your water throughout the day instead of all at once. If you’re really struggling to hold your bladder for the ideal two hours, try cutting down your water by 25 percent. (That’s like three glasses of water instead of four, FYI.)
Try these other tips to help you find the perfect amount of water with overactive bladder.
Don’t carry around a water bottle (unless you’re exercising), and use a smaller cup to fill up when you’re thirsty.
If you see the color of your urine getting too dark, you’ll want to drink a little more. Your pee should be light yellow or nearly colorless.
Dry mouth? Try sugar-free gum or candy before you drink water. This may reduce the amount of water you’d otherwise want to guzzle down.
Avoid drinking too much water close to bedtime. If you’re running to the bathroom more than twice a night, cut yourself off after dinner.
In short, it’s all about balance. Need more tips to reduce overactive bladder symptoms? Make these other lifestyle changes to manage overactive bladder.
Dr. Parikh, a board-certified pediatrician affiliated with The Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, is HealthiNation's chief medical editor.
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If you feel like you're running to
the bathroom every ten minutes,
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it makes sense to cut your water
consumption way, way down.
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While you don't want to be swigging
gallons of water every day,
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drinking too little water is
not the best idea either.
00:00:17,390 --> 00:00:21,870
By drastically cutting fluid you're able
to become more concentrated, which can
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irritate the bladder, and evidently
makes incontinence symptoms worse.
00:00:26,040 --> 00:00:30,020
Drinking too little water can
also exaggerate constipation,
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which isn't good for
overactive bladder either.
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Being constipated puts extra
pressure on the bladder.
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If you experience incontinence symptoms
there is no need to guzzle water
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every few hours.
00:00:42,940 --> 00:00:47,590
There's no scientific proof that everyone
needs eight glasses of water a day.
00:00:47,590 --> 00:00:51,980
And most people stay hydrated by
letting their thirst be their guide.
00:00:51,980 --> 00:00:55,610
You also get plenty of water and
fluids from your diet.
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A good general rule is to only
drink only when you're thirsty and
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make sure your urine is
a light yellow color.
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Don't carry a water bottle or large
container of fluid around with you and
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use a smaller cup to fill
up when you're thirsty.
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Remember what goes in must come out.
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So monitor your fluid intake to avoid
multiple trips to the bathroom.
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Lifestyle and behavioral changes: Improving urinary urgency, frequency and urge incontinence. Silver Spring, MD: American Urogynecologic Society. (Accessed on August 4, 2017 at https://www.voicesforpfd.org/assets/2/6/LIFESTYLE_CHANGES.pdf.)
Myths about urinary incontinence. Charleston, SC: National Association for Continence. (Accessed on August 4, 2017 at https://www.nafc.org/mythsabouturinaryincontinence-1.)