Each month, we ask our expert panel to answer one of our reader's questions. To learn more about the NAFC Expert Panel, and how to submit your own question, see below.
Question: I am overweight and my doctor told me that if I lose some extra pounds it would help with my bladder leakage. Is this true?
Answer: Your doctor is right. Carrying around extra weight puts extra pressure on the bladder, making incontinence more likely, especially if it’s already something you struggle with. One study that looked at weight loss intervention among incontinent women showed that women who lost weight were able to reduce the frequency of their stress urinary incontinence episodes through 12 months, and saw improved patient satisfaction with changes in incontinence through 18 months. (Click here to read the study on weight loss and incontinence.)
Losing weight may not stop the leaks completely, but it can definitely help, and is probably a good idea anyway, since obesity carries all sorts of extra health risks (on top of incontinence).
If you’re overweight, small changes can make a big difference. Below are a few things you can do to get the process started.
Watch your diet and try to work in more fruits and vegetables while cutting out sugary foods.
It may help to keep a food journal so that you see exactly what’s going into your body. Many of us eat mindlessly and sometimes as a result of our emotions. Learn to recognize your emotions when you reach for that extra cookie or bag of chips. Are you bored, sad, angry? Try dealing with it in different way – call a friend, take a walk around the block, watch a movie. You may find that the reasons you eat don’t always have to do with hunger.
See a nutritionist.
There are so many fad diets these days that it’s hard to know what you should and shouldn’t eat. A nutritionist can teach you about food and the different foods that are good for you body. They can also help devise a meal plan for you to make it easier for you to stay on track.
Start adding more exercise into your daily routine.
Not sure where to begin? Walking is a great exercise that requires no equipment. Biking is another great option that gets you outside. Most gyms have lots of great classes you can try that will help guide you through different workout routines, and some even offer personal trainers, providing you with a more custom and individual approach. If you’re just not ready to venture outside of the house yet, try a workout video, or subscribe to online video classes.
Make it a social affair and invite a friend to join you.
You’ll pass the time more quickly and also have an ally who can help motivate you to keep going.
Sneak in extra movements throughout your day.
Park your car a little bit further from the entry of your office/grocery store, etc. Do short bouts of weight bearing exercises like lunges, squats or pushups when you’re waiting for dinner to warm up. Take a 5-minute break every hour at work to just walk around the office. Every movement counts – your body doesn’t know if you’re in the gym or not and it doesn’t always have to be during a designated workout time. You’ll still be burning extra calories.
We’re all motivated by progress so tracking your stats somewhere where you can see your improvements can help. Get a pedometer to track the steps you take and try to set a goal of reaching a certain number each day. Weigh yourself every week and mark down your progress in a journal. Stay motivated by celebrating your victories!
Weight loss can be hard, but with some motivation and perseverance, you can do it. Keep at it and not only will your incontinence symptoms be improved, but you’ll find yourself much healthier too.
The NAFC Expert Panel is made up of some of the top medical professionals in the fields of urology, urogynecology, physical therapy, and surgery. Each month, the experts weigh in on important topics and answers to your questions. To have one of your questions featured in our Ask an Expert series, send it to us here.