Last post we busted a few myths about incontinence. Today, let’s look at the bladder and a few of the misconceptions about this amazing organ.
Firstly a Few Facts:
There are two types of muscles in your body :
1. Skeletal muscle – we have control of these and can make them contract and relax as we
wish. These are the moving muscles like the biceps and hamstrings.
2. Smooth muscle – we don’t have control of these muscles , they contract by themselves
automatically and are controlled by our brain. They are the function muscles that keep
the body working e.g the heart and the gut. they work by stretch response. As blood fills
the heart chambers (input), the walls stretch and at a certain point of stretch
automatically contract to push the blood out (cardiac output). The same with the gut – as
the food bolus passes through,it stretches and squeezes and pushes it along a bit like an
Your bladder is quite unique – it is made of smooth muscle just as your gut and heart are but you have conscious control of it.
So, as your bladder muscle fills, if it followed the laws of smooth muscle it would contract right?
Well in fact it doesn’t behave like the other smooth muscles in the body – yes it stretches as it fills , but instead of automatically contracting it actually RELAXES as it fills and this is where your conscious level of control comes in. You get background signals that things are filling up down there but you are able to put it off until an appropriate time …in other words you can hang on !
Once it fills to capacity – the average is about 300-500mls which = 1-2 mugs - you may reach the point of “busting” which hopefully won’t actually happen !
You have to go when you first feel the urge
BUSTED: as you have read – the bladder can stretch to an average capacity, in times of need it can stretch to hold up to 800mls although it is just as wise not to let things go too long as you should never allow the bladder to overstretch and become floppy. But a regular 2 cup hold is healthy. If you suffer from frequency and urgency your bladder capacity will be much less and you will need to firstly see your doctor to make sure there is not another cause such as a urinary tract infection before undergoing bladder training under the guidance of a medical professional ( such as a women’s or men’s health physiotherapist)
I have to go “just in case” before going out.
BUSTED: Unless your bladder is actually full , you DO NOT need to go just in case. If you are a “just in case” person , then chances are you know where every loo in your area is! there will be a loo at the shopping centre, the gym, work or your friends house so wait until you actually need to go!
If I drink more, I will wee more and might leak so I drink less to avoid accidents.
BUSTED: In fact, the less you drink, the more concentrated your urine becomes, this will irritate your bladder and make you want to go more- and so the urgency/frequency round-about continues.
All the books say drink 8 glasses of water a day.
BUSTED: What size glass? 8 x small ones or 8 x large ones …how many different glass sizes in YOUR cupboard? The general rule of thumb is that you drink enough to remain hydrated. Signs of early dehydration are thirst and darker urine. So keep an eye on the colour of your wee- the first one of the day will be concentrated but from then on they should be pale or nearly colourless, not like a glass of beer or apple juice. If you sweat a lot, you need to increase your fluid intake as well. The exception is if you are on a fluid restriction from your doctor in which case you should continue to be guided by them.
If unsure – speak to your doctor !
I don’t need to drink water – I get it from my coffee
BUSTED: Any drink containing caffeine acts as a diuretic – i.e. it increases urine production or in other words , makes you wee more. It can irritate your bladder and increase urgency and frequency . You should not count caffeine drinks in your daily fluid amount – or at least balance it with a glass of water. If you suffer from urgency or frequency you need to look at your caffeine intake – keep a diary for a few days and be honest with yourself about how much caffeine you are drinking and how little water you consume.
Here’s to a healthy bladder !