Several types of incontinence exist, each exhibiting its own symptoms. Stress incontinence is the involuntary release of small amounts of urine when coughing, laughing, picking up a heavy object, or engaging in excessive activity. It is very common in women, especially after childbirth when the urethral sphincter muscles are stretched.
Urge incontinence is the strong desire to urinate, accompanied by an inability to control the bladder. Urge incontinence may occur when walking or sitting, but is frequently triggered by a sudden change in position.
Total incontinence is the inability to control the bladder, resulting in loss of sphincter function.
Overflow incontinence occurs when the person is unable to empty the bladder fully due to presence of an obstruction. The bladder remains full, but is constantly dribbling small amounts from the overflow. Elimination of the obstruction restores continence.
What is Incontinence?
From Modern Western Medicine
Incontinence is a localized disorder of the urinary tract caused by an infection, bladder stones, tumors, or a prolapse of the uterus or the vagina. Other causes of incontinence include a nervous system disorder that causes the loss of bladder control and weak pelvic muscles that are unable to control the urethra sphincter. Exercises to strengthen these muscles can restore bladder control.
Special padded underwear can be purchased to reduce discomfort. A minority of people are able to pass a catheter into the bladder four or five times a day to urinate. If these measures are unsuccessful, surgery may be needed.
From Traditional Medicine
Urinary tract infection, constipation, muscle and sphincter weakness, hormonal imbalance, neurological disorders, and overweight can all cause bladder problems. In general, however, these problems all cause or arise from weak qi of the kidneys and bladder. Treatment is designed to promote the increase in qi to the kidneys and bladder. These include foods, herbs, and exercises that promote bladder qi.
Foods to Eat
- Sweet brown rice
- Wheat berries (in sourdough bread, plain cooked berries, or herb tea)
Foods to Avoid
- Acid juices and foods
- Spicy foods
- Milk products
- Sodas high in caffeine
Herbs to Treat Incontinence
- Parsley tea
- Celery seed: 5 – 30 drops of the fluid extract; can be combined in an herbal tea
- Yarrow: infusion, 1 tsp. to 1 cup of boiling water is given in a wineglass to cup amounts, three to four times a day
- Couch grasses (especially helpful when there is a burning sensation and constant desire to urinate): 10 – 20 drops in water, two or more times per day
- Damiana: 15 – 30 drops, once a day
- Mullein: 15 – 40 drops in warm water, every two to four hours
Do the bladder drill. This technique requires that you urinate only at scheduled times during the day, usually one or two hours apart. Then over a few weeks, gradually extend the periods between urination, with a goal of reaching two and a half hours, then three hours. You should empty your bladder as completely as you can at your scheduled time, regardless of whether you feel an urge to go. If you feel an urgency to go again before your next scheduled trip to the toilet, try to distract yourself with work or some pleasant activity. If the urge becomes too great to be suppressed, of course you should go after you have made a significant effort to resist. It may take up to six months to regain the desired amount of control, but this method of bladder training has been shown to be highly effective against incontinence.
Kegel exercises should be done daily. Pelvic muscle exercise has been used as an effective treatment for more than a century. It calls for stopping and starting the flow of urine several times every time the bladder is being voided. Like any muscle-training regimen, these exercises must be done correctly and daily to have sustained benefits. To do this:
- Locate the proper muscles by placing your hands on your thighs and buttocks as you stop and start the urine flow. If these are tense, you are doing the Kegels wrong. Focus instead on closing and opening the muscles that control the urethra and anus, which are the ones you want to strengthen.
- Tighten the muscles slowly to the maximum extent that you can; hold the contraction for 10 seconds; and slowly release.
- Repeat the exercise at least 10 times throughout the day.
Do yoga and stretching exercises daily, especially those designed to cleanse and eliminate blockages from bladder meridian.
- To strengthen the kidney and bladder qi, obtain crushed or whole oyster and clam shells in a Chinese herb store. If they are whole, crush them before decocting them into a tea. Oyster shell calcium can also be taken.
- Acupuncture, especially to restore the strength of and illuminate blockages from the bladder and kidney meridians.
- Acupuncture for bladder and kidney.