Incontinence Cure: Is There One & What Are Your Options?

TEAM KNIX / YOUR BODY

If you experience incontinence (or urine leakage or light bladder leaks), it’s only natural to want a cure.  

Many people believe there is no cure for incontinence and it’s just a part of aging that must be accepted. For that reason (along with embarrassment) a majority don’t even discuss urine leakage with their doctors.

But this is a mistake. While there is no “one-size-fits-all” cure for incontinence, there are a number of treatment options for different kinds of incontinence.

In this post, we’ll focus on female urinary incontinence and look at the different kinds of female incontinence, as well as the treatment options.

Urinary Incontinence: Is Prevention Better Than a Cure?

Up to 36.1% of the population will experience urinary incontinence at some stage and the chances are twice as high in women than men (source). Considering this, it’s a good idea to try to offset your risk factors as much as possible and adopt other preventative measures even if you have not experienced any bladder leaks at all.

Even if you do already experience bladder leaks, the following changes might have a positive impact on the frequency of leaks or the quantity of urine you leak.

1. Take Steps to Reduce Your Risk Factors

A lot of the risk factors of urinary incontinence (e.g. past pregnancy and childbirth trauma, or surgical history) are not things you can impact without a time-travelling machine.

However, some of the risk factors can be addressed with lifestyle changes. These include:

  • Maintaining a healthy body weight
  • Quitting smoking

If you plan on making changes to either of these things, know that there are no guarantees that incontinence will completely disappear as a result. Still, these are changes your doctor will probably encourage for many other health benefits. 

One important note: If you’re embarking on a major lifestyle change like quitting smoking or losing weight, it’s worth chatting with your doctor to ensure your approach is safe and warranted.

2. Tweak Your Diet and Beverage Intake

Ever need to pee more after an especially spicy meal? It’s not just because you drank more water. The following foods and beverages can actually irritate the bladder, causing involuntary urine leakage. If you notice patterns in your food and drink consumption that correspond with leaks, avoiding those foods will help avoid leaks.

Foods to avoid include:

  • Sweeteners, including corn syrup, honey and artificial sweeteners
  • Spicy foods
  • Acidic foods, like citrus fruits and tomatoes

Beverages to avoid include:

  • Alcohol
  • Caffeine
  • Carbonated beverages

We all have our favorite foods. So, if you’re not ready to abstain completely from these ingredients, be more mindful when and where you consume them, especially closer to bedtime.

3. Start Pelvic Floor Muscle Training to Strengthen Pelvic Floor Muscles

In our opinion, everybody should do pelvic floor exercises.

Pelvic floor exercises strengthen the pelvic floor muscles, which support the uterus, bladder, small intestine and rectum. Kegel or pelvic floor exercises can be done any time, either sitting or lying down.You can even do them when you are eating, sitting at your desk, or when you are resting.

If you’re unsure how to do Kegel exercises, your doctor, physical therapist or physiotherapist can help you. But basically it’s like pretending you have to urinate and then holding it. You relax and tighten the muscles that control urine flow. 

One way to learn the muscles you should activate is to pay attention when you pee: 

  • Start to pee and then stop. 
  • You should feel the muscles in your vagina (for women), bladder, and anus get tight and move up. These are the pelvic floor muscles. 
  • If you feel them tighten, you have done the pelvic floor muscle training right. Your thighs, buttock muscles, and abdomen should remain relaxed.

4. Take Preventative Measures Against Urinary Tract Infections

Incontinence is one symptom of urinary tract infection (UTI). Another symptom is a stinging or burning sensation when you pee and a decreased or irregular flow of urine. If you experience this, you should visit your doctor. UTIs are treated with antibiotics for 3 to 7 days. 

Ways to prevent UTIs include:

  • Drink plenty of water
  • Urinate before and after having sex
  • Wipe from front to back after you pee
  • Wear breathable, natural underwear and clothing, changing your underwear daily

5. Eat Plenty of Fibre to Avoid Constipation

Straining when you poop can weaken (or further weaken) your pelvic floor muscles. So it’s best to make sure your diet is rich in fibre to avoid constipation. Exercise (even the gentlest of walks done regularly) can also help prevent constipation.

If you find yourself straining to empty your bowels, it may also be the way you’re sitting or the muscles you’re using. Speciality physiotherapists can help with this. 

6. Try Bladder Training and/or Double Voiding

If you already experience a bladder control problem, these two practices might help reduce the frequency of urine leaks, especially at night:

Bladder training involves taking bathroom breaks at regularly timed intervals. By ensuring your bladder is emptied frequently, you minimize the chances of leakages. Over time, the duration of time between breaks can be increased. 

You can also try double voiding: Before bedtime, go to the bathroom and then wait 10 minutes (perhaps brush your teeth etc. in the interim) and then pee again. Using the bathroom several times before bed will help ensure your bladder is empty.

Treatment Options for Different Types of Incontinence

When you discuss urine leaks with your doctor, they’ll want to understand what type of incontinence you have before recommending a treatment plan. This is because different types of incontinence have different causes, and therefore treatments.

Learn more about the different types of incontinence here

The 5 Types of Urinary Incontinence


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Type of Incontinence

How / When it Manifests

Some Possible Causes

Treatment May Include

Stress Incontinence

Stress incontinence is urine loss during physical exertion, whether it be exercise or more physical reactions like coughing, sneezing, laughing etc.

  • Childbirth
  • Trauma from surgery (e.g. hysterectomy)
  • Weak bladder muscles
  • Weak pelvic floor muscles 
  • Menopause
  • Pelvic floor exercises (Kegel exercises) to strengthen the pelvic floor muscles
  • Surgery

Urge Incontinence

An impossible-to-ignore urge to urinate, even if you just went or felt fine just minutes before.

  • Neurological conditions like Parkinson’s or multiple sclerosis (MS)
  • Overactive bladder (OAB)
  • Pregnancy
  • Childbirth
  • Menopause
  • Trauma to the bladder and urethra from surgery
  • Weak bladder muscles
  • Weak pelvic floor muscles 
  • Biofeedback therapy
  • Pelvic floor exercises (Kegel exercises) to strengthen the pelvic floor muscles
  • Surgery

Mixed Incontinence

A combination of stress and urge incontinence.

  • The same causes as stress and urge incontinence
  • Lifestyle changes
  • Medication
  • Bladder botox injections

Overflow Incontinence

If the flow of urine “dribbles” or is unsteady, you may have overflow incontinence. The inability to completely empty your bladder can lead it to overflow and cause unexpected urine leaks.

  • Weak bladder muscles
  • Underactive bladder
  • Blockages in the urinary tract
  • Lifestyle changes
  • Surgery to remove blockages
  • Use of catheter

Functional Incontinence

This is when you experience urine loss, but the cause is not associated with any problems with the urinary system.

  • Neurological or psychological problems or conditions
  • Physical impairments like spinal cord injuries
  • Nursing assistance
  • Changing physical settings
  • Medications and therapies to address underlying medical condition

Of the surgical options, the sling procedure is the most  common surgical procedure performed in women with stress urinary incontinence. This procedure entails the surgeon using the person's own tissue, synthetic material, or donor tissue to create a ‘sling’ or hammock that supports the urethra. 

Surgery often offers a more long term solution to involuntary urine leaks. However, as with any surgery, there are risks to explore and you might want to try  exploring other options before you undergo surgery.


Why it’s Important to Seek Medical Advice for Urinary Incontinence

Urinary incontinence is a complex thing, with many possible explanations. While you might have an idea what kind of incontinence explains your own experience, it’s really safest to consult with your doctor and seek a medical diagnosis. 

While it’s likely that your doctor will reassure you the experience is pretty common and start by recommending some of the lifestyle changes and exercises we go into in the next section, they’ll also help with bladder control problems in 2 important ways:

  1. Ruling out more serious conditions 
  2. Guidance on medical treatments for bladder control beyond changes you can make yourself, which might be worth exploring if your condition is more persistent.

Basically: Go see your doctor, get some reassurance and support and then make an informed decision with all the facts.

While You Explore Treatment Options, Try Leakproof Underwear

Treatment options for urinary incontinence do not offer overnight cures. Indeed, you may want to try some lifestyle changes before you consider some of the more medical solutions, or surgery. 

So, while you go on that journey with your doctor, you can also explore products to help you stay active and social. Leakproof underwear comes with different absorbency levels. 

Super absorbent Knix leakproof underwear can hold up to 8 tsp of liquid (whether that’s sweat, blood or urine). Products like these can be a game changer for those experiencing female urinary incontinence, allowing them to remain active and social while exploring treatment options.

Urinary incontinence is not an easy thing to experience, but there are treatment options and lifestyle changes that can make it easier to live with incontinence.