Getting the Basics of Bladder Health Right

There are some very easy ways to improve your bladder health and it starts with drinking enough water

Rolling Inspiration
By Rolling Inspiration
6 Min Read

There are some very easy ways to improve your bladder health and it starts with drinking enough water

To improve bowel movement, people with spinal cord injuries are encouraged to take better care of their gut health through a healthy high-fibre diet. For better bladder health, it is important to take care of the kidneys. This is done mainly be ensuring you consume enough water.

Speaking during a webinar on bladder management hosted by QASA in September, Dr Virginia Wilson explained the role of the kidneys: “To keep your kidneys in good health is very, very important when you have a spinal cord injury.”

“Just as the gut is a processing system for the food we eat, the kidneys are smaller factories that takes the blood coming from the heart [and] clear out toxins or products in your blood stream that come from what you’ve eaten, what you breath in and what medicines you take.”

As the kidneys filter your blood, they produce urine. To boost your kidney health, Dr Wilson recommended drinking at least two litres of water a day and taking a vitamin C supplement.

“Water should be your primary drink with a minimum of two litres from the time of waking up to early evening. Then you should drink only if you are thirsty,” she explained; adding that the body is not designed to process large quantities of water while asleep and thus the majority of the water consumed should be during waking hours.

Dr Wilson suggested drinking water in a way that is easy and will help you keep track of how much you have consumed. She advised against glasses that are forgotten or knocked over and instead recommended a water bottle of about 500 millilitres that is easy to open and close.

While the kidney is the filtration system, the urine still needs to travel through the ureter, bladder and urethra before it exists the body. It is just as important to keep the rest of the urinary tract system healthy. This is where pH levels can be important.

Contrary to what some might believe, this does not refer to blood pH as Dr Wilson clarified: “Some people believe they can alter the pH levels in their body; in their blood. You can’t do that unless something dangerous happens to you. You can’t voluntarily alter the pH levels in your blood.”

Rather, the pH levels that people should consider is that of their urine. Dr Wilson explained: “You might have been advised to make your urine more acidic. The reason we do that is because there is some evidence that an acidic urine prohibits the growth of bacteria.”

This can be done by consuming cranberry juice, diluting apple cider vinegar in water or even drinking coffee. Dr Wilson does warn against too much juice and coffee.

“Coffee is a bit of a diuretic (a substance that promotes the production of urine). It can make you pass more urine,” she noted. Fruit juices on the other hand is high in sugar, which can be harmful to your overall health. She encouraged people to dilute their juice with water.

Dr Wilson also warned people with spinal cord injuries away from fizzy drinks and alcohol. Fizzy drinks or soda can be harmful to the bowel while alcohol can be harmful when drunk in excess or in combination with certain medications.

“Many spinal cord injured persons are taking medications. Quite a few of those medications work on the brain. So, the combination of those medications and the alcohol is a big no,” Dr Wilson warned. For tea, she recommended Rooibos and warned against black tea, which she said can contribute to bladder infection.

With so many liquids not recommended, it can feel like options are limited. However, there are many ways to make a more interesting drink with water. Fruits, lemon, cucumber and even herbs can be added to flavour the water in interesting ways.

While more acidity in urine can help prevent bacterial infections, it cannot cure an existing infection. If you suspect that you have a urinary tract infection, consult your doctor or urologist.

Dr Wilson also noted that there has been evidence to show a healthy bowel can contribute to a healthy bladder. She explained: “If you have a sluggish bowel, which most people with spinal cord injuries do, and you are not doing anything to assist, you are more prone to urinary tract infections.”

For intermittent catheter users, it is important to avoid reusing their catheters as this can lead to infection. There are many reasons why a person might decide to reuse their catheters. A common reason is because of the cost of catheters.

For those on medical aid, it is possible to have their catheters funded in full. The QASA Reimbursement Toolkit can offer some advice on how best to approach your funder about having your medication and medical devices funded in full.

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