Natural remedies for urinary incontinence

Seven ways to help prevent embarrassing leaks


Urinary incontinence is more common that you might think, particularly in women who have given birth or had a hysterectomy. Bladder problems can even occur during the menopause due to the drop in oestrogen – which causes your pelvic floor to weaken, as well as the lining of your urethra. If urinary incontinence is a problem for you, these natural remedies may help.

See also: Seven reasons you need to pee frequently

See also: Five ways the menopause affects your sex life

1. Kegel exercises
Exercising, coughing and laughing can put pressure on the bladder, causing you to have an accident – but there are things you can do. Kegel exercises help to tighten and contract the muscles of the pelvic floor, helping to prevent leaks.

Try squeezing and releasing your pelvic floor muscle (the one you use to stop and start urine flow) 20 times. Then slowly do 20 more, holding each squeeze for 10 seconds.

You can also buy a specially-designed exercise set, such as the LadySystem Pelvic Floor Exercise Therapy, £39.95, which has good reviews on Amazon.

As well as helping women, Kegel exercises have been shown to improve urinary incontinence in men after surgery to remove the prostate gland.

2. Magnesium
Magnesium is important for muscle and nerve function and could help to reduce bladder muscle spasms - yet many people don't get enough in their diet. Magnesium-rich foods include almonds, bananas, broccoli, and sunflower seeds. If you're concerned that your diet is lacking in the mineral, consider taking a daily magnesium supplement.

3. Vitamin D
Research shows that women with normal Vitamin D levels are less likely to have incontinence. Get out in the sunshine for at least 20 minutes each day, with your arms exposed. Eating fish, eggs, fortified milk and bread, or taking a daily vitamin D supplement may also help.

4. Avoid acidic foods and drinks
Acidity is known to irritate the bladder, so it may help to eliminate acidic foods and drinks, such as oranges, lemons, apples and alcohol. You might also want to limit your total daily fluid intake to 60 oz (or about 7 and a half cups of water).

5. Lose weight
If you're overweight, consider losing a few pounds. Weight loss reduces the pressure that's placed on the bladder, and may relieve that 'I have to go right now' feeling. Research shows that dropping 10 per cent of your body weight is associated with improvement in symptoms.

6. Biofeedback
Biofeedback is a technique that uses electrical sensors to measure and display body functions on a computer screen - helping you to learn how to control your muscles. In the case of incontinence, sticky electrode pads are fixed to various sites in your pelvic region, which are then connected to a computer using long wires. Watching what happens on screen can help you figure out which muscles to squeeze to strengthen your pelvic floor.

7. Acupuncture and hypnosis
Some people find that acupuncture helps, while others have reported success using hypnosis – the idea being that going into a deeply relaxed state can help you feel more in control of your body.

Research shows that relaxation and visualisation exercises may help you have fewer episodes of incontinence. If you're not sure where to start, try listening to a guided meditation, such as In Control of Incontinence (£7.99) from Amazon.