An overactive bladder is an involuntary loss of urine preceded by strong urge to void independent of bladder fullness. One attributing cause can be acute or chronic bladder infections or irritation. From a functional prospective there are numerous factors that may contribute to an overactive bladder. The diet plays a huge role in recurrent bladder infections/inflammation. The body is designed to function optimally when there is a balanced pH between acidity and alkalinity. A neutral pH of 7.2 is ideal. When the bladder’s pH is too acidic it makes a perfect environment for the overgrowth a naturally occurring bacteria, called E. Coli. This bacterial organism has tiny finger-like projections that attach to the bladder wall. As these bacteria adhere to the bladder wall they can cause inflammation and irritation of the bladder wall lining, creating the discomfort of the bladder infection and the urgency in urination.
The standard American diet contributes to an acidic pH, the best remedy for this is to eat 80% of the diet from fresh vegetables, limit starches and sweets, and drink ½ your body weight in ounces of water with lemon per day. Voiding hourly will help eliminate bacteria and toxins from the bladder. “Consuming refined sugar, alcohol and fatty foods can also inhibit your body’s ability to fight off bacteria by suppressing your immune-system function,” notes the University of Michigan Health System.
There are a number of supplements which have proven to be effective in keeping the pH more neutral and acting to eliminate pathogens like E. Coli. Unsweetened Cranberry juice, or cranberry capsules contain tannin that interacts with the finger-like projections preventing them from sticking to the bladder wall potentially leading to infection. Probiotics (acidophilus/lactobacillus) prevent the overgrowth of unwanted bacteria and like cranberry, prevent the bacteria from adhering to the bladder wall. Another product that can keep the fingerlike projections from adhering is D-mannose. These products work best when used as a preventative rather than a cure for a bladder infection. The risk of an untreated bladder infection is that it can advance to the kidneys and with this type of infection it can lead to permanent scarring or damage of the kidneys.
For some people their immune system may be compromised by low grade infections, not severe enough to cause overt symptoms but enough to keep the person from feeling their best. These people might find themselves constantly fighting something and being susceptible to ever bug they come in contact with. Identifying the culprit of low grade infections and addressing them might be the most effective way to build up the immune system and keep opportunistic pathogens like E.Coli from taking advantage of their host.
A case study applicable to this scenario of imbalance is of a 70+ year old woman with chronic bladder problems. There was constant urgency and leakage while walking, exercising, attending social functions and working in the yard. Car trips where avoided at all costs. She was determined that she needed a bladder suspension to cure her urgency and frequent bladder infections. Once evaluated by her urologist, it was determined that she was not a candidate for surgery. By following the above dietary suggestions, changing her pH and a taking a supplement specific for this problem she is proud to announce that her symptoms are gone; she can enjoy long drives, is not searching for the nearest restroom and is completely symptom free for the first time in years. Her urologist is most impressed with her bladder examination that revealed a much smaller bladder size.
As Benjamin Franklin stated, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”. Change your dietary habits, drink more water, void more often and identify the possible pathogens that might be keeping your immune system impaired and your sense of well-being at a distance.