Thursday, June 27, 2013

Food As Medicine, Part 5: The Bladder (or: To Pee or Not To Pee?)

This is the fifth entry in a series

In addition to being the culprit behind huge restroom lines at concerts and coffee shops, the human bladder is a source of numerous diseases and ailments.  A healthy bladder means a much happier you (trust me on this!!), so do not take bladder problems lightly.

The urinary bladder's main job is to store urine for excretion.  It's a stretchy thing, so if you gotta hold it, it can handle the extra load without causing a lot of internal pressure.  There are two sphincters in the bladder.  One is controlled automatically by the body, and the other is controlled voluntarily by the body's owner to allow for urine to exit (or not exit, as the case may be).  Any loss of control of either of these sphincters can leave you hung up to dry (see what I did there?).  Childbirth, nerve damage, some medicines, age, obesity, smoking, chronic coughing, surgery, trauma, and age can all cause the sphincter muscles in the bladder to weaken. 

A lot of bladder control issues can be solved by doing-- yeah, you guessed it-- Kegels.  You can also follow the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disease' guidelines for men and for women.

Some other more common diseases of the bladder include interstitial cystitis, bladder cancer, and urinary tract infection (although UTI's do not pertain directly to the bladder, I thought this would be a good entry in which to include them). 

INTERSTITIAL CYSTITIS does not currently have a cure, nor does it have a known cause.  However, there are some things that can be done to help mitigate the symptoms.  These things won't work for everyone, since the origination of the disease can vary, but at least some of them may provide relief.

Hyaluronic Acid has shown promise in relieving IC when injected directly into the bladder.  (1) (2) (3) (4) (5)  I cannot find any studies on oral hyaluronic acid and IC, but it's worth a shot.

Avoiding trigger foods.  Most people suffering from IC have specific trigger foods that make it worse.  These are often acidic (tomatoes, coffee, citrus, Vitamin C), alcoholic, or spicy.  As a general rule, avoid any foods that do not make you feel good, even if you don't have IC.

Reducing stress.  Flare-ups are often stress-related.   Find ways to mitigate stress, including meditation, breathing exercises, physical activity, and other relaxation exercises that work well for you.

A combination of aloe, dry Vitamin D, and turmeric:  Since IC is an inflammatory condition, I felt sure that my favorite anti-inflammatory, turmeric, would have good results for alleviating symptoms.  I could not, however, find any scientific studies on this.  What I did find was someone's blog regarding their experience with the above combination of supplements.  It seems to have worked wonders for her, and knowing what I know about each of the individual ingredients, I'd say this is definitely worth a shot!

BLADDER CANCER According to the National Cancer Institute, there will be an estimated 72,570 new cases of bladder cancer in 2013, and 15,210 of those will result in death.  A very clean, organic diet high in vegetables (especially green leafy ones) and absolutely minimal in extra sugars, refined flours, processed foods, and ingredients that are bothersome to you in addition to maintaining a healthy body fat mass, avoiding smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, and drug use (prescription or otherwise) can go a long way in keeping cancers of all kinds at bay.  However, if the cancer has already manifested, there are steps you can take to try to reverse or at least halt its progression.

Raw Broccoli, above all cruciferous veggies, seems to have the most promising defense against bladder cancer

Cranberries appear to be strong bladder cancer weapons.  (1) (2)

Green Tea seems to improve the 5 year outlook significantly for bladder cancer survivors. 

Herbs and Spices have proven to have excellent anti-cancer properties

Genistein, a property of soy, has shown to inhibit bladder cancer growth.  (1) (2) (3)

Cordyceps, Maitake, and other Mushrooms are excellent anti-cancer foods, and have shown to be effective against bladder cancer.   (1) (2) (3)

Turmeric, once again, shows to be very useful for helping fight bladder cancer.  (1) (2) (3)

URINARY TRACT INFECTIONS are very not fun, and could lead to serious complications if left untreated.  It is important for women in particular to practice good hygiene when using the bathroom (wipe front to back) and when being intimate to avoid getting a UTI.  Drinking a lot of fluids helps mitigate symptoms, too.   

Cranberries are the most famous natural treatment for UTI symptoms, and have been proven scientifically to work.  (1) (2) (3

Several studies have found a very large percentage of retail meats and honeydew melon to be infected with E. coli bacterium, which can lead to UTI's.  (1) (2) (3)

In short, eat clean, drink lots of water and green tea, up your veggies, don't eat irritating foods, do your Kegels, and alleviate stress, and your bladders should last you quite a while.

Questions?  Comments?  Post 'em here!

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