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I'm A Urogynecologist: These Are My 3 Nonnegotiable Tips For Bladder Health

Jason Wachob
mbg Founder & Co-CEO
By Jason Wachob
mbg Founder & Co-CEO
Jason Wachob is the Founder and Co-CEO of mindbodygreen and the author of Wellth.
Image by Betsy Greenleaf, D.O.
February 2, 2022

Whether you have a specific problem with your pee patterns or not, we'll wager you want a bit more control over your bladder. Who doesn't want the ability to command their pee frequency

And according to board-certified urogynecologist and pelvic floor expert Betsy Greenleaf, D.O., a few easy tips can train your bladder and optimize its long-term health. "The bladder is basically a muscular bag that just holds the urine," she says on this episode of the mindbodygreen podcast. And like any muscle, you can strengthen it, stretch it, and feed it the fuel it needs to perform its best. Below, find Greenleaf's easy tips: 

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1.

Pee exercises. 

To "strength train" your bladder, Greenleaf suggests not giving in to the urge to pee so frequently: "People who are like, 'I've got to go!' and they get up and go, and a couple of minutes later they say, 'I've got to go again!' they're going to train their bladder not to hold a lot," she explains. Rather, when you don't give in to your bladder's frequent urges, you can actually stretch it over time—which ultimately means fewer trips to the bathroom. 

"There's this big misconception that holding in [your pee] is bad," she adds. "It's not necessarily bad, so long as you're staying hydrated." (We'll explain more in a moment.) Of course, that doesn't mean you should ignore your body's natural cues—if you've got to go, then go!—but Greenleaf says that sometimes your bladder can have natural spasms that come and go, and not all of them mean you must head to the bathroom. "If you get a sudden urge to go, take a breath and think: 'Do I really have to go?'" she suggests. Wait for a minute or two, and if you still have the urge, then make the conscious decision to get up and go to the bathroom. 

After a couple of rounds of this exercise, see if you can extend that wait time: "Start with five minutes, 10 minutes, 15 minutes, and just keep spacing that out. You'll be able to hold in more and more, and you'll be able to stretch that bladder," says Greenleaf. 

2.

Avoid irritating foods. 

According to Greenleaf, it's important to eat with your bladder in mind. "There are some foods that can actually irritate the bladder," she notes. "There are components of these foods that when they're processed, they go through the kidneys and then become part of the urine." 

First up: caffeine. You may already know that caffeine is a diuretic and bladder stimulant, but if you are experiencing any bladder issues, you may want to steer clear of coffee. "Teas and even decaf coffee can really irritate the bladder," she adds. 

Acidic foods can also irritate the muscle, Greenleaf continues, like citrus fruits and tomatoes, as well as chocolate and alcohol. That said: "A great Italian dinner with tomato sauce and wine is probably one of the worst [meals] if you already have bladder problems," Greenleaf notes. Again, these foods are not inherently bad; if you don't have any problems with your bladder, go ahead and load up on tomato sauce and end the night with a decadent chocolate treat. "But if you are somebody that's noticing some bladder issues, I would cut out citrus fruits, tomatoes, chocolate, alcohol, and caffeine," Greenleaf says. 

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3.

Hydrate. 

When it comes to the connection between hydration and bladder health, many focus on pee color: Optimal water intake results in pale yellow pee, whereas a dark yellow hue may represent dehydration. But did you know that the frequent urge to pee may also signal dehydration? 

It's true: "When people go frequently, they tend to purposely dehydrate themselves, because they think, 'Oh, I'm going too much. I'm just not going to drink,'" says Greenleaf. "Well, it actually has the opposite effect on the body because when you become dehydrated, the urine becomes very concentrated. And within the urine are different chemicals, salts, and these can become very irritating to the lining of the bladder when they're extremely concentrated." 

That irritation to the bladder can actually trigger you to go pee more, Greenleaf continues. "So sometimes the urge to go frequently is a sign that you may be dehydrated," she says. Rather, when you drink more fluids and your urine becomes clear, it soothes the bladder and, for many, slows down the urgency. All that being said: Your pee color isn't the only sign of dehydration; your pee frequency may also play a role. 

The takeaway. 

Of course, if you're rushing to the bathroom several times within the hour or experiencing any discomfort or other irregular signs, it's always best to consult a doctor to make sure you aren't dealing with any underlying conditions. But if you generally have bladder health on the brain, feel free to incorporate Greenleaf's simple tips.

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Jason Wachob
Jason Wachob
mbg Founder & Co-CEO

Jason Wachob is the Founder and Co-CEO of mindbodygreen and the author of Wellth. He has been featured in the New York Times, Entrepreneur, Fast Company, and Vogue, and has a B.A. in history from Columbia University, where he played varsity basketball for four years.