Owner's Manual: Listen to Your Bladder

Put an end to the pee dance. 

Tips for taking care of your bladder

This hardworking organ saves us from embarrassment time and time again, except maybe during a particularly mighty sneeze. Give your bladder some support (and put an end to the pee dance) with our doctors' tips.


  • 2: Maximum cups of urine the bladder can hold when fully expanded.
  • 3.5: Average number of hours it can stay full before you need the loo.
  • 6.3: Number of inches shorter a woman's urethra (aka the bladder's exit tube) is than a man's, which makes it easier for bacteria to travel up and cause a UTI.
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1 The Brain-Bladder Connection

Peeing, though seemingly straightforward (you just squat and go, no?), is actually a complicated process involving a network of nerves that transmit signals from the bladder to the brain: I need to go. Where's the closest bathroom? Can I interrupt what I'm doing? How long can I wait? If you frequently ignore or delay alarms, you can damage the nerves and muscles that control urination. Then signals get crossed, and you may feel as if you have to pee even after going. Or on the flip side, you might not notice the need to go, causing the bladder to fill until urine leaks out.

2 Make It Stronger

Like your abs and quads, the bladder works best when toned. Chances are you've already tried Kegel exercises, those stop-your-pee squeezes that strengthen the pelvic floor muscles to help prevent incontinence (the loss of bladder control). But many Pilates moves, like the one below, also target this key area.

Tone Up! Lie on your left side with knees bent 90 degrees. Keeping feet together and pelvis still, lift right knee toward ceiling, then lower. Do 10 reps on each side.

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3 Buh-Bye, UTIs!

The classic symptoms of a urinary tract infection may be all too familiar: pain when you pee, pressure in the lower belly, and a frequent urge to go (though not much comes out). Ward off UTIs by wiping front to back and peeing before you have sex. Your risk can spike during menopause due to hormonal changes, so talk with your doctor about estrogen creams. Research shows they can lower the chance of infection.

4 Drink Enough (But Not Too Much)

Urinary incontinence hits up to 57 percent of middle-aged and postmenopausal women. Sipping too many fluids can up your risk (no surprise there), but so can drinking too little; urine becomes excessively concentrated, which irritates your bladder, giving you that "need to go right now" feeling — even if your bladder's only slightly full.

Still racing to the restroom? You may be sensitive to caffeine, which can also irritate bladder muscles. Cut it out for a week to see if things improve. If not, try nixing other potential bad guys such as citrus fruits and juices, spicy foods, and alcohol.

This story originally appeared in the April 2016 issue of Dr. Oz The Good Life.

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