If you have multiple sclerosis, you probably already know that MS and bladder problems are birds of a really wet feather. Over 80% of women with MS experience bladder leaks, and surprise rain showers are often some of the first MS symptoms women notice before they’re diagnosed. This blog is a virtual hug and a tip o’ the hat to our readers with MS, and we’ve come bearing gifts: a guide to every actionable tip and trick(le) we could find that might help you run dry and steer clear of complications, without scheduling another visit to the doctor. But let’s start from the beginning:
Why does multiple sclerosis cause leaks?
MS is an autoimmune disease that has a reputation for causing a little neurological chaos. On the most basic level, MS affects your nerves, so transmitters block or delay the signals that help your brain tell your body what it should be doing. Over time, your nerves become damaged, which means signals are really delayed, jumbled, or just get stopped in their tracks. When it comes to your bladder, these blocks and delays mean your brain has a challenging time controlling your pelvic floor. For you, this causes symptoms like:
- really frequent, 911-emergency urges to pee
- having a tough time getting your flow started once you’re on the toilet
- bladder spasms that cause full-on incontinence, meaning the floodgates are open and your bladder isn’t holding back
- a bladder that never quite feels empty.
Whether your leaking is MS-related or you’re a mystery dribbler with no determined cause just yet, these kinds of symptoms can get really frustrating, really fast. The more empowered and in control you feel when it comes to your bod, quite literally the happier you’ll be.
Ok, so how can I get better bladder control?
Researchers, fundraisers, and experimental crusaders are still searching for an all-out cure for MS. In the meantime, there are medications, nerve stimulation procedures, and long-term surgery options that offer *relief* from flooding. But there are also several lifestyle changes you can try today (as in right now!) that might leave you a little higher ‘n’ drier in a good way:
- Planned voiding
It sounds intense, but planned voiding – also called bladder training – is really just putting your bladder and fluid intake on a schedule, kind of like taking a medication at a set time every day. Drinking water at specific intervals and scheduling me-time with yourself and the porcelain throne has two big upshots. First, with a regularly emptied bladder, you can worry less about spontaneous leaks and dribble, and get back to enjoying the moment. Second, scheduled bladder release can help you return to a place where the act of peeing starts to feel relaxing again – not like a frustrating, anxiety-inducing standoff between you and your bod.
It seems counterintuitive when you’re already feeling flooded, but drinking MORE fluids can mean a less irritated bladder. Restricting fluids because you’re afraid of leaking (no judgment, I totally get it) can actually lead to scary complications like bladder infections, dehydration, and constipation – all of which can make your bladder spasms worse. Instead of restricting, focus on drinking the right fluids: drink a healthy amount of water every day, and avoid caffeine and bubbly drinks like champagne or seltzer that act as diuretics (aka bladder saboteurs). All this said, there is one restriction that can work in your favor: if nocturia (needing to pee in the middle of the night) is haunting you, avoid drinking for about 2 hours before bed. Monitoring your water intake and drinking less irritating fluids will reduce your risk of infections, and help the whole machine run smoothly.
- Less stress
Easier said than done, but when you can’t stop leaks, learning to approach a spazzy bladder with a little calm and acceptance can do ✨wonders✨ for your spirit. Icon is in the business of breaking bladder taboos, so it’s no secret in our office that leaks can make women feel isolated, othered, stressed out, and *awash* with shame. But your mental state when it comes to leaking can really make a difference in your daily life. I even found out that anxiety about leaking can actually make leaking more frequent, which doesn’t mean living anxiety-free will make leaks go away. But the more you’re able to mediate your anxiety around leaking and accept your body’s ebbs and flows, the freer you’ll start to feel.
- Better snacks
Greasy, spicy foods are (really delicious and unfortunately) irritating for your bladder, so eating a milder diet can help calm a stormy sea. There’s no proven diet that reduces MS symptoms, but there is a general consensus that what you’re eating makes a real difference in your health and symptom management. So, here are a few things that the National MS Society suggests are good to include in your meals, or get into your bod through a daily supplement: Vitamin D (a great immune system booster), calcium, and Omega 3’s (like fish, walnuts, flaxseeds, and flaxseed oil, which all have anti-inflammatory properties). When you’re hydrating, eating better, and doing what you can to regulate your stress levels, your bod and your mind will thank you.
*~Are you navigating MS and leaks? Leave a comment below, we’d love to hear what works for you!~*