Picture 2.3 billion people. That’s the number of adults who will experience at least one lower urinary tract symptom (LUTS) by 2018, according to a study from the University of North Carolina (UNC). In addition, urinary incontinence is also expected to increase, which means together there will be a staggering number of individuals who can expect to have symptoms of incontinence ranging from urinary frequency to dribbling to getting up multiple times during the night to urinate (nocturia), and failing to reach the toilet in time, among other problems.
The researchers reached their conclusions after using data from two main sources: a telephone survey of more than 19,000 men and women in five countries, and the worldwide and regional population estimates from the US Census Bureau International Data Base, along with definitions from the International Continence Society. Lead author Dr. Debra E. Irwin from the Department of Epidemiology at UNC pointed out that “It is well known that people do not always seek medical attention for urinary problems, so basing our figures on studies using self-reported symptoms is an effective way of measuring worldwide prevalence.”
Some of the findings of the research team include:
- LUTS will affect 45% of men worldwide (most cases are associated with benign prostatic hyperplasia [BPH])
- Between 2008 and 2018, the number of people experiencing at least one LUTS will increase by 30% in Africa, 20.5% in South America, 20% in Asia, 16% in North America, and 2.5% in Europe
- Overactive bladder (OAB) will increase worldwide by 20% between 2008 and 2018
- Urinary incontinence will increase worldwide by 22% between 2008 and 2018
These findings led Dr. Irwin to comment “We believe that our study underlines the clear and urgent need to improve the awareness, prevention, diagnosis and management of these conditions.”
So what can you do now to help prevent LUTS and urinary incontinence?
Tips to prevent LUTS and urinary incontinence
A key to preventing LUTS and urinary incontinence is to follow certain lifestyle habits and behaviors that support and promote prostate and urinary tract health. The following tips may help prevent you from becoming one of the statistics revealed in the new study.
- Follow the Prostate Health Diet: The Prostate Health Diet is designed to support and promote prostate and urinary tract health. The key to the Prostate Health Diet is a focus on maximizing fruit and vegetable intake, choosing healthy fats (omega-3s and monounsaturated), selecting plant protein over animal protein, drinking green tea (early in the day to avoid nighttime urination), avoiding foods and additives that can be harmful to your prostate and urinary tract (including but not limited to meat, calcium supplements, and foods high in sugar), choosing whole natural foods, and drinking pure water.
- Avoid drinking fluids late in the day: Staying hydrated is important, but avoid drinking fluids 2 to 3 hours before going to bed to prevent getting up during the night.
- Limit or avoid alcohol: If you do drink, limit your intake to one to two drinks daily, because alcohol can irritate the bladder and increase urinary frequency.
- Maintain a healthy weight: Carrying around excess weight places unnecessary pressure on the bladder, which can exacerbate urinary incontinence and LUTS. If you are having trouble losing weight, seek professional advice.
- Don’t smoke: Smoking is a risk factor for urinary incontinence. If you smoke, quit.
- Manage stress: Stress can have a significant negative impact on urinary tract function, weaken your immune system, and contribute to urinary incontinence. Incorporate stress-reducing activities or practices into your lifestyle.
- Reduce caffeine: If coffee, tea, colas, energy drinks, and chocolate are on your menu, it’s time to check your caffeine intake. Caffeine can promote urinary frequency, so it’s best to limit or avoid products that contain caffeine.
- Avoid foods that irritate the bladder: Carbonated beverages, citrus fruits and juices, milk and cheese, tomatoes and tomato products, and spicy foods can make urinary incontinence and overactive bladder worse.
- Don’t hold it: When you feel the urge to urinate, don’t hold it. Retaining urine can irritate your urinary tract and possibly cause a urinary tract infection.
- Avoid constipation: The Prostate Health Diet consists of many high-fiber foods, which is the best diet to follow to avoid constipation. Also drink plenty of water to facilitate movement through the intestinal tract.
- Practice Kegel exercises: If you practice Kegel exercises regularly (preferably daily), you can maximize and help maintain bladder control. Kegel exercises can be done just about anywhere and only take a few minutes per day.
- Maintain good hygiene: To reduce the risk of infection, keep your penis and surrounding area clean.
- Control diabetes: Uncontrolled diabetes can contribute to overactive bladder.
- Check your medications: Some prescription and over-the-counter (OTC) medications can cause urinary incontinence or urinary symptoms. These include alpha-blockers, antidepressants, antihistamines, calcium-blockers, diuretics, narcotics, sedatives, and OTC allergy, cold, and diet medications.
Supplements for urinary tract health
Natural supplements can help prevent and fight lower urinary tract symptoms, such as urinary retention, urinary urgency, painful urination, and other symptoms associated with BPH, and urinary incontinence as well.
- Beta-sitosterol is a phytosterol (cholesterol-like substance derived from plants) that helps relieve symptoms of BPH.
- Cranberry contains a special kind of phytonutrients called A-type proanthocyanidins (PACs), which help prevent the development of urinary tract infections. This quality may make cranberry helpful in managing LUTS.
- Diindolylmethane (DIM) is a phytonutrient that is released in the body when gastric acid from the digestive process acts on indole-3-carbinol, the precursor to DIM. Among older men who have BPH, taking DIM may improve reduce nighttime urination.
- Green tea contains potent antioxidants known as catechins, which appear to contribute to its ability to reduce levels of dihydrotestosterone (DHT), a hormone that increases a man’s risk of developing LUTS and BPH.
- Omega-3 fatty acids suppress inflammation in the urinary tract, which can help manage urinary incontinence and overactive bladder.
- Pollen extracts have demonstrated an ability to reduce symptoms of BPH. In one study, more than 75% of men with BPH who took a pollen extract reported significant improvement in their symptoms.
- Probiotics are beneficial bacteria that can restore the bacterial balance in the urinary tract, which in turn supports urinary continence.
- Pygeum is an herbal extract derived from the Prunus africana tree, and valued for its ability to relieve LUTS associated with BPH.
- Quercetin, a phytonutrient found in red grapes, red wine, onions, and other foods, has potent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, which make it helpful in managing LUTS.
- Saw palmetto has a long history of use in the management of prostate and urinary tract problems. Recent scientific studies show saw palmetto inhibited the enzyme (5- alpha-reductase) that is associated with BPH and LUTS.
- Stinging nettle has anti-inflammatory and diuretic properties that have made it a choice for management of urinary tract and prostate problems. In one study of 620 men who had BPH, 81% of the participants who took stinging nettle had improved symptoms compared with 16% of men who took a placebo.
- Uva ursi has antibacterial properties that make it helpful in managing urinary tract infections, suggesting uva ursi may be helpful in treating urinary incontinence.
- Vitamin D, at low levels, is associated with a greater risk of having an enlarged prostate and the urinary tract symptoms that accompany it.
- Vitamin E and the anti-inflammatory abilities of one of its forms, gamma-tocopherol, may have a role in BPH. In addition, research indicates that men with BPH may have lower levels of another form of vitamin E, alpha-tocopherol, than men without BPH.
- Zinc is a mineral found in large concentrations in the prostate gland. Research shows zinc has antiproliferative effects in BPH cells and may also have an important role in regulating cell growth and cell suicide in BPH cells.
Irwin et al. Worldwide prevalence estimates of lower urinary tract symptoms, overactive bladder, urinary. Br J Urol Intl 2011 Oct; 108: 1132.