Before accepting that fourth holiday-party cocktail, consider what it will do to your New Year’s bladder.
Your bladder is storing those drinks like a plastic bag in a box of wine before reaching capacity and hitting the “release” button. The contents might be all gone tomorrow, but reminders of their temporary residence could linger well into 2019.
Alcohol is among a list of holiday delights that can overwhelm the already hard-working bladder, from rich foods to hugging outfits to caffeine. All day long the bladder does its job of taking in fluid, expanding to capacity, and then releasing it. But between those releases, it’s storing whatever all that fluid contains. And that can be taxing.
We’re not Scrooges here – we encourage festivities during the holidays. But we’re also big fans of a healthy 2019, and a few painless guidelines will help ensure it as you navigate the over-indulging events that have come to define the holiday season. And we promise, you can even over-indulge a little, too.
Following are seven simple compromises for a healthy bladder over the holiday season.
- Alternate cocktails with water. Alcohol increases the production of urine, causing your body to release water faster and more frequently. This can lead to dehydration. A shortage of fluids in your system can result in a buildup of body waste in the urine, which can irritate the bladder, the Mayo Clinic reports.
- Avoid tobacco smoke. Not much to add here. Cigarette smoking causes more than half of the bladder cancers in the U.S., a study by Kaiser Permanente reports. More than 81,000 new cases of bladder cancer are estimated to be diagnosed in 2018. Fortunately, bladder cancer is highly curable – there’s a 77% survival rate in the first five years.
- Eat the cookies, but also eat salad (avoiding romaine this year). The rich foods that make the holidays so special might cling to your digestive system as well as your midsection. Constipation is a leading contributor to bladder incontinence, which could really interfere with mistletoe magic. Balance out sugary, high-fat cheeses, dips and desserts with fiber-rich holiday foods. Options include whole grain crackers, raw veggies and fruits, sweet potato pie, chocolate-covered strawberries and certain nuts, such as almonds. If you’re going for salad this year, keep in mind the recent recall on romaine lettuce. Read more here.
- Be a restroom regular. Another simple way to prevent constipation is by drinking plenty of caffeine-free and alcohol-free fluids, but be sure to use the bathroom when you need to. If you hold it in and wait until the last minute, your bladder may not empty completely and the residual urine, if left in the bladder too long, can contribute to a bladder and/or urinary tract infection.
- Make decaf the (occasional) new black. Caffeine, like alcohol, is a diuretic, which causes the body to produce more urine while stimulating the urgency to pee. This can exacerbate the compromised function of an overactive bladder, a leading cause of urinary incontinence. Request (or offer) decaffeinated after-dinner coffee drinks. Note that dark chocolate, plentiful on the holidays, also contains caffeine. If given a choice, opt for white chocolate.
- Wear that awesome outfit, but wear it well. You should look great during the holidays, but also be comfortable and mindful of future comfort. Tight-fitting pants, pantyhose and nylon underwear can trap moisture while keeping you warm, which is an environment that breeding bacteria love. And bacteria, when grown in the urine, cause urinary tract infections (UTIs).
- About that mistletoe. Holiday romance can haunt you if it results in a UTI. This occurs when the urethra, the tube through which urine escapes the bladder, comes into contact with bacteria in a partner’s genitals. In women, who have shorter urethras, the risks of contracting UTIs are greater. Cleaning and urinating before and after sex reduces the chances.
Follow these tips and compromises as often as you can and it should help your hard-working bladder tackle 2019 with better energy and health. Remember, you may have lots of opportunities to celebrate, but your bladder never gets a day off.