A Natural Option for Urinary IncontinenceFebruary 2, 2009 Written by JP [Font too small?]
I found two new items today that made me feel quite hopeful. Anytime I find real evidence that a natural therapy can help manage a chronic health condition, it inspires hope in me, knowing that the alternative usually involves the use of long term medication or a surgical procedure of some sort. These two latter options carry a very real risk of unintended consequences (“side effects”). On the other hand, many natural options carry a very real possibility of “side benefits”.
Work Through the Pain
Intermittent claudication (IC) is a painful condition that generally affects the legs of people with Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD). The symptoms can include cramping, fatigue, muscle aches, numbness/tingling and poor wound healing in the lower extremities. The most common cause of this condition is heart disease. The same artery damage and plaque build-up that affect our coronary arteries can also impact other arteries (like those of the legs).
Conventional treatments for intermittent claudication often involve prescription medications that address cardiovascular risk factors (like blood pressure, cholesterol and poor circulation). Surgery is sometimes utilized in more severe cases as well. In these instances, surgical procedures that are similar to heart surgery are performed – such as bypass grafting, angioplasty and the placement of stents.
But a recent study out of the Netherlands offers a different option: exercise. 151 patients with intermittent claudication were treated for IC by either providing surgical revascularization or a doctor supervised exercise program. The supervised exercise was comprised of “semi-weekly sessions of walking on a treadmill”.
The researchers analyzed the benefits of both treatments over the course of a year. Measurements were taken at the 6 month mark and at the completion of the study. Here’s what they found:
- The patients that had surgery felt a quicker improvement in their symptoms.
- But at the 6 month and 12 month measurements, both groups reported an equal amount of improvement.
These results prompted the authors of the study to suggest that exercise therapy should be considered as a “first line” treatment for IC – prior to even considering the surgical possibilities.
The Weight of the Evidence
Urinary incontinence refers to a condition defined as losing partial control over bladder function. This often results in urine leakage at involuntary times. It can also affect the sensation of urinary urgency. The severity and type of symptoms vary from person to person. But the impact on day to day quality of life is often quite profound.
Both conventional and alternative medicine have certain prescriptions for this condition. In conventional medicine, the use of medications, electrical stimulation, a variety of implantable devices and surgical options are available. On the alternative front, Kegel exercises, nutritional supplements, biofeedback and other mind-body techniques are often employed.
A newly published study in the New England Journal of Medicine provides yet another option: weight loss, if you’re overweight. In the study, 226 overweight women (with an average age of 53) were put on an intensive weight-loss program. The program included dietary restriction, exercise and “behavior modification”. The study lasted a total of 6 months.
At end of the study, the overweight women experienced an average of 17 lbs. weight loss and a 47% reduction in the number of incontinence episodes per week. Improvements were found in both stress-incontinence and urge-incontinence. As a result of these findings, the researchers noted that an improvement in urinary incontinence should now be added to the list of benefits relating to weight loss.
I’m all for the use of natural therapies. If I suffered from this condition, I’d certainly consider some of the natural options first. But before even thinking about an alternative approach, I would first determine whether or not my weight could be playing a role in my symptoms. If this is an issue that affects you, or someone you care about, I hope you’ll ponder the possible role that obesity may playing in it.
Tags: Bladder, Circulation, Urinary Incontinence
Posted in Alternative Therapies, Exercise