Irritable Bladder and IBS
Are They Connected?
Irritable Bladder, also called hyperactive bladder or over-active bladder is a condition caused by the sudden contraction of the muscles of the bladder, bringing an urge to urinate even though there may be very little urine in the bladder itself. It is a problem seated in the nerves and muscles of the bladder.
One of the main muscles in the bladder is called the Detrusor. It contracts as a normal response to the bladder filling with urine, and is controlled by the nervous system. When this muscle contracts when there is very little urine in the bladder, this causes hyperactive bladder and urge incontinence.
Urinary tract infections, bladder stones or tumors can trigger Irritable Bladder, although sometimes there is no discernible cause, but there seem to be numbers of people who suffer both Irritable Bowel Syndrome and Irritable Bladder.
It should be noted that although women tend to report symptoms of an over-active bladder more often, it is not solely a female problem. Men can suffer it too.
Additionally, diarrhea can lead to urinary tract infections because the e-coli bacteria can be present in fecal matter. If this enters the urethra, it can cause infections. It is important, if suffering a bout of IBS diarrhea, to wipe yourself front to back, and even to use a damp wad of cotton wool also front to back to ensure that no traces of fecal matter are left.
If you are doing these things as a matter or course and still suffer an over-active Bladder, there are certain steps you can take to ease the symptoms. Kegel exercises are said to be helpful as they strengthen both the vaginal muscles and those of the urethra. A woman should aim for 30-80 kegel movements per day over a period of weeks. This is the same movement used when stopping the flow of urine, a clenching of the vaginal muscles. The more the muscles are exercised the stronger they become, and also aids in preventing incontinence.
A doctor also advised me not to keep emptying my bladder every time I felt the urge, but to hold on as long as possible. This is a form of toilet training if you will.
When you do empty your bladder, you should ensure that you wait a few seconds after the main flow and and empty it entirely. He also suggested continuing drinking a lot of water (at least a liter per day), and to take at least one liter of cranberry juice.
It can feel as if you are on the verge of an infection, but not quite. I have found that the Cranberry juice or bottles of Potassium Citrate liquid, (used for cystitis relief, but cheaper than most remedies, and available on sites such as Amazon) taken in water, makes the urine more alkaline. Infections cannot survive in an alkaline environment, they ‘wither and die,’ to quote a doctor.
When it comes to prescribed medication, I was given a drug called Oxybutynin (Ditropan), which acts directly on the detrusor muscle of the bladder to decrease its spasms. Side effects can include a dry mouth and constipation. I do not take the drug often, as I have learned that the bouts of Irritable Bladder do fade on their own, but sometimes it is unbearable (and always miserable) so I do take it at times. A hot water bottle also helps.
A doctor told me that the causes in women are not yet clearly understood when there is no underlying cause. Mine was triggered after series of urinary tract infections, and comes and goes, but attacks of Irritable Bowel Syndrome often do seem to bring on Irritable Bladder. And, like IBS, a hyperactive bladder causes great stress, social and psychological problems. I think some instances may be found to be related to stress and the nervous system as IBS can be, because if I am under stress, anxious or upset that also seems to induce a bout of Irritable Bladder even if my IBS has been quiet for a while.
If you find yourself suffering with your bladder as well as your bowels, it may be worth following some of the tips above, but to also see if your doctor recommends any prescription medication to treat the symptoms for the duration.