Believe it or not, your bladder is both a trainable and emotional being. Just like you potty trained when you were 3, your bladder can be trained to have good habits or bad habits at any point throughout your life. Remember your mother saying, “You don’t know if they’ll have a bathroom, honey, so let’s go potty just in case…”? Well, stop it! You’re just training your bladder to be over-sensitive and temperamental. So much so that whenever it senses even a few drops of urine you’re running for the toilet. Some of my patients run to the bathroom every 15 minutes. Now is this really necessary?
The opposite is also true. You can train your bladder to be so lazy, it never has to go. I hear this from patients who are teachers, physicians and nurses. “I don’t have time to pee,” they say. So their bladders become so distended and weak that they literally have to massage their bellies to wring the urine out.
So, what’s normal? Your bladder can hold about two cups of urine on average and should be emptied every 2 to 3 hours. The goal is for you to sit through a movie without having to run to the bathroom in between. This also means your are going to the bathroom 5-7 times per day and not more than once per night. Both diet and habits play a role in this. Make sure you’re drinking plenty of water (60 oz. or more) throughout the day and avoid bladder irritants. These include caffeine, sugar, acidic drinks or foods, alcohol and artificial sweeteners. The worst irritants, in my opinion, are sweet tea and diet sodas. A little bit is okay, but go ahead and invest in lots of pantyliners if you plan on sipping on these all day.
Second, if you feel the urge to go, don’t freak out. Remember that emotional being I mentioned? Your bladder is part of your fight or flight system. When it get’s excited, it wants to empty. So relax. Sit down if you can. Take deep, relaxing belly breaths. Doing 5 or 6 kegels (bladder talk for “Calm down. We’ll get there eventually.”) can help suppress the urge. Think positive thoughts or think about something else. Once the urge subsides, calmly make your way to the bathroom or just wait a few minutes. It’s up to you...not your bladder.