Overactive Bladder

An overactive bladder (irritable bladder) is a common condition where there is a pressing and/or rapid and urgent sensation of needing to urinate. This feeling of urgency may or may not occur frequently and can be difficult to control, resulting in urinary incontinence (the involuntary loss of control of the urine). An overactive bladder may be the result of ineffective urination where the bladder looses its muscluar tone. It has an inability to hold onto the 300ml capacity of urine and therefore frequency of urination is experienced.

Helping the tone to return to the bladder can be achieved by slowly increasing your water intake to the recommended 2 liters/ day. You can do this by increasing 250mls/ week.  This helps the bladder to tone as well as ensuring that the body is eliminating adequate amounts of wastes. Improving the tonicity of the bladder also helps to ensure that there is an increased removal of metabolic wastes and reduced inflammatory irritation. These both will further contribute to an overactive bladder.

Possible causes of an overactive bladder

Some other causes may be associated with:

  • diabetes
  • a prolapsed uterus in women
  • swollen prostate in men
  • stress
  • reoccuring urinary tract
  • infections
  • dehydration
  • arthritis
  • side effects of medications
  • obesity
  • hormone replacement therapy
  • detrusor muscle overactivity

The connection between the Kidneys and the urinary system

You may also consider addressing any Kidney deficiencies as the bladder, urinary system and Kidneys all influence each other. An overactive bladder in Chinese Medicine can be attributed to dampness and weak Kidney energy.

The kidneys are a pair of organs situated at the back of the abdomen, below the diaphragm on each side of the spine just under the rib cage and weigh about 150gm each. Its functions are to:

  • regulate blood pressure
  • reduce acidity (metabolic acidosis)
  • dispose of waste material from the blood, regulate water and fluid balance
  • produce erythropoietin to build new red blood cells and keep the acid/ alkaline balance controlled
  • flush wastes out from the kidneys (excess Sodium, nitrogen, aluminium, urea, metabolic wastes)

Healthy kidneys act like a filter to remove wastes and fluids from the circulating blood, they keep the proper balance of salts and acids in the body and produce hormones. Every day our kidneys filter 200 litres of blood which is an essential process and they remove about 2 litres of waste products which are diluted in water. To remove this waste and extra water, blood enters the kidney through the renal artery and is then cleaned in the kidney as it passes through tiny filters called nephron. One kidney contains about one million nephrons and each nephron contains a filtering apparatus called a glomerulus. Cleaned, fresh blood then returns to the circulation via the renal vein and the wastes taken from the blood via filtration are excreted via the bladder and urine.

Diet tips to improve an overactive bladder

  • Drink herbal teas such as Dandelion Leaf and Green Tea as they support the function of the kidneys filtration and are also gentle diuretics to help expel more wastes and encourage better urinary tonicity
  • The best advice to support the role of the kidneys is to ensure adequate fluid intake, at least 2 litres of water/ day. There is a saying which goes “the solution to pollution is dilution” which explains the role the kidneys place in removal of wastes from the body
  • Reduce diuretics in the diet such as sugar, tea, alcohol, coffee and carbonated drinks. These place an extra burden on the kidneys filtration and can cause the body to lose more water and disrupt the sodium and potassium balance. Reduce alcohol intake as alcohol can dramatically reduce kidney function by causing a diuretic action which leads to dehydration and places a burden on the kidneys to remove the waste aldehyde from the system
  • An alkaline diet rather than an acidic diet cleanses and tones the kidneys and urinary system. An alkaline diet involves eating foods such fresh vegetables and fruits, lemon juice, water, brown rice, miso soup and vegetable juices. An acidic diet is foods like sugar, wheat, dairy, red meat, oranges, alcohol, preserved and processed foods
  • Have a vegetable juice each day to encourage liver detoxification and kidney filtration. Some ideas are fresh juiced beetroot, carrot, celery and ginger or watermelon or pineapple, green apple and mint
  • Reduce foods such as sugar, tea, coffee, alcohol, soft drinks and table salt (an alternative for this is Celtic Sea Salt) as these tend to hold onto fluid in the body causing irritation to the kidneys and urinary system
  • Decrease sodium (table salt) consumption in your diet and replace with sea salt or vegetable salt. Sodium is important for the health of the kidneys but not in excessive amounts. Sea salt is rich in many minerals without being refined and does not contain aluminium (used in table salt to keep the salt dry)
  • Vegetable broths are very nutrient rich for the health of the kidneys as well as alkalising excess acidity levels to help take the burden off the kidneys filtration system. You can make a broth by boiling kidney beans and a mix of vegetables such as onions, celery, carrot, beetroot, spinach, sea salt, wakame (sea vegetables/ seaweed) and drinking a cup of the broth daily. This recipe is also very rich in minerals which again will help to fortify and nourish the kidneys while improving urinary system strength

Lifestyle factors to improve urinary bladder strength

  • Address any underlying causes of a decrease in Kidney function and overactive bladder – stress, history of urinary tract infections, dehydration etc.
  • Heavy metals such as cadmium, lead, mercury and aluminium dramatically reduce kidney function, causing irritation to the bladder
  • Some pharmaceutical medications cause holding of fluids and a decrease in kidney and bladder function, so speak to your GP about possible side effects from any medications you may be currently taking

Natural Remedies to address bladder weakness

Please keep in mind that any changes will take time (3+ months) and speak to your Healthcare practitioner concerning any supplements you intend to take.

  • Herbs which may help to strengthen the urinary system and bladder are Cornsilk, Buchu, Chapparal, Dandelion Leaf, Goji, Alisma, Parlsey, Celery, Bearberry, Golden Rod, Golden Seal, Slippery Elm, Horsetail, Horny Goat Weed and Cornelian Cherry
  • Also the minerals Calcium flouride, Magnesium and Silica are beneficial in helping to increase the integrity of the musculature, connective tissues and bladder function
  • A probiotic supplement to ensure that the urinary system has sufficient healthy bacteria to encourage proper functioning of the bladder.