TO LEAK OR NOT TO LEAK….CAFFEINE IS THE QUESTION

May 2nd, 2012

Women are twice as likely as men to suffer with urinary incontinence. It is estimated that as many as 45% of women have suffered urinary leakage at least once in the past year and up to 50% of women over 50 have repeated experiences with urinary leakage.

Urinary leakage can start at any age and especially after giving birth or entering menopause laughing, exercise, stress, and coughing can all put pressure on the bladder and cause small leakages.

For younger women and teens, high impact sports, even running, can damage bladder muscles and weaken the support structures of the bladder.

Certain foods have been associated with causing urinary leakage in some women:

  • Alcohol is dehydrating and causes excessive urine output
  • Spicy foods can irritate the bladder , i.e. wasabi, salsa mustard, vinegar, and raw onions
  • Citrus fruits that are acidic, like oranges, pineapples, tomatoes, lemon, and limes can also be irritating
  • Too much or too little fluid intake can cause leakage (6-8 cups a day recommended)

What about caffeine, which has been at the top of most list of ingredients to avoid for people with urinary incontinence or over-active-bladders (OAB).

It seems that caffeine may NOT be the culprit most healthcare professionals thought it was, relating to urinary leakage.

A recent study done at Harvard Medical School and published in the journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology, found that in 21,500 women with moderate incontinence (1-3 times per month)  who were tracked for 24 months, intake of caffeine did not worsen the condition in 80% of them.  Whether or not caffeine would make urinary symptoms worse if studied for longer than 24 months, was not addressed in this study.

Possible non-drug solutions for correcting urinary incontinence and over-active-bladder:

  • Kegel exercises to enhance bladder muscle control
  • Using a tampon during times when leakage tends to occur
  • Resisting the urge by breathing deeply and slowly when it occurs
  • Being aware that certain medications like diuretics, muscle relaxants, and sleeping pills can lead to urinary leakage

Some of you may be curious as to whether or not there are any natural products or dietary supplements that may help with urinary incontinence and/or over active bladder?  Though there are many products that make claims in these areas, I have seen no well-structured, randomized, placebo-controlled trials supporting such claims.

 

Curt Hendrix, M.S. C.C.N. C.N.S.