Which fluid intake modifications are used in urinary incontinence treatment?

Updated: Jan 22, 2021
  • Author: Sandip P Vasavada, MD; Chief Editor: Edward David Kim, MD, FACS  more...
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The quantity and types of fluids consumed influences urinary voiding symptoms. Fluids refer to all the beverages a person consumes in a day, which include water, soda, and milk. The human body receives fluids from beverages consumed, water contained in the food ingested, and water metabolized from food eaten.

The recommended amount of fluids consumed (all types) in 24 hours totals 6-8 glasses. The benefits of adequate fluid intake include prevention of dehydration, constipation, UTI, and kidney stone formation.

Some patients tend to drink water to excess. They may simply enjoy the taste, they may be on medication that makes their mouths dry, or they may be on a weight-loss diet that requires consuming abundant amounts of water. Drinking water to excess actually worsens irritative bladder symptoms.

In contrast, some older women do not drink enough fluid to keep themselves well hydrated. They minimize their fluid intake to unacceptable levels, thinking that if they drink less, they will experience less incontinence. Trying to prevent incontinence by restricting fluids to excess may lead to bladder irritation and actually worsen urge incontinence.

In addition, dehydration contributes to constipation. If a patient has a problem with constipation, recommend eating a high-fiber diet, receiving adequate hydration, and administering laxatives.

The exact amount of fluid needed per day is calculated based on the patient's lean body mass. Thus, the amount of fluid requirement varies per individual. For an average adult woman with symptomatic urinary incontinence, drinking approximately 6 glasses of liquid per day is generally recommended.

Many beverages contain caffeine. Caffeine is a natural diuretic and has a direct excitatory effect on bladder smooth muscle. Thus, caffeine-containing products produce excessive urine and exacerbate symptoms of urinary frequency and urgency.

Caffeine-containing products include coffee, tea, hot chocolate, and colas. Even chocolate milk and many over-the-counter medications contain caffeine. Of these products, coffee contains the most amount of caffeine. Drip coffee contains the most caffeine, followed by percolated coffee and then instant coffee. Even decaffeinated coffee contains a small amount of caffeine, approximately the same amount found in chocolate milk.

Persons who consume a large amount of caffeine should slowly decrease the amount of caffeine consumed to avoid significant withdrawal responses, such as headache and depression.

Studies have shown that drinking carbonated beverages, citrus fruit drinks, and acidic juices may worsen irritative voiding or urge symptoms. Consumption of artificial sweeteners also has been theorized to contribute to urge incontinence.

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