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5 Bladder Tips for Festival Season 2024: Dealing with that "Gotta Go" Feeling

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The jasmine and azaleas are blooming, crawfish is back in season and the air is getting a little warmer: It’s spring in the Gulf South, and that means festival time! As you scan the food stalls for your favorite eats and drinks, the knowledge you’ll eventually have to wait in line for the port-a-potty may start to sink in. Of course, this is normal. During a day out, everyone’s gotta go. But if you feel like you need to urinate more frequently than other festival-goers, you might be experiencing urinary urgency.

Urinary urgency is that "gotta go" feeling when the urge to pee is powerful – even if your bladder isn't all that full. This feeling is caused by a miscommunication between the brain, bladder and pelvic floor, making you feel like you need to urinate even if you just went a few minutes before. Whether the bladder is full or not, if the urge is powerful enough, some urine can leak out as you make your way to the bathroom.

If running back and forth to the restroom and fighting off a leaking bladder doesn’t exactly sound like the festival headliner’s music to your ears, here are five tips to help you control the urge.

Stay hydrated

Urinary urgency can make for a lot of time in line for the restroom, so limiting fluid intake makes sense, right? Wrong. Decreasing your water intake can actually make urgency worse, and fewer fluids to fuel you mean your body will produce very concentrated urine that can irritate the bladder.

On the other side of the coin, you may be tempted to down an entire bottle of water in one quick sitting. Drinking a lot at once can dramatically increase the volume of urine your body produces, making urgency worse. Drinking water in smaller sips steadily throughout the day can give your body time to adjust and keep you better hydrated. Between the salty food and the hot weather, it's easy to get dehydrated during festivals. Make sure you're drinking enough water out there (especially if you’re also enjoying adult beverages) but take it slow and steady.

Avoid bladder irritants

Certain foods and drinks can irritate the lining of the bladder and urethra, leading to more urinary urgency. There are many bladder irritants; a few top culprits are alcohol, coffee, caffeine, carbonated beverages, tomato products and citrus.

You may find that you are susceptible to some of these – maybe you leak urine when you laugh after drinking alcohol, or you have that “gotta go” feeling more frequently after a lemonade or soda. If you’re planning a day at the festival, try to limit consuming foods and drinks that could irritate your bladder. For example, if you’re starting your day with coffee, maybe swap soda for water later in the day. If you do wind up consuming a lot of bladder irritants, make sure you drink enough water to dilute your urine and keep the bladder happy.

Manage constipation

Because the rectum and the bladder share the same small space inside the pelvis, constipation can impact urinary urgency. The three basic ways to manage constipation are getting enough activity, drinking water and eating your fiber. There's plenty of walking to be done at festivals, and you already know hydration is key, so focusing on fiber can help make any festival restroom visits go more smoothly. Aside from Bennachin Restaurant’s Jama Jama (sauteed spinach) at Jazz Fest, there aren't typically many fiber-filled options at festivals. Seek out plant-based dishes if you can for an extra dose of fiber at the fest. Alternatively, having a quick bite of extra veggies, fruit or whole grains before heading out can also help.

Suppress the urge

If changing up your food and drink choices isn’t curbing the urge, consider these discrete strategies to fend off the need to hit the restroom line and help reduce leaking:

  • Perform five quick squeezes of the pelvic floor. This helps relax the bladder through reflexes, reducing the pressing urge.
  • Try taking a few deep breaths to relax your body, mind and bladder.
  • Distract yourself to reduce the urge. Try to say the alphabet backward or think about other topics.
  • Find a phrase or mantra that makes you feel in control and repeat it to yourself: “I’m in charge of my bladder, not the other way around.”

Maintain bladder health

The recommendations and techniques above can help you manage urinary urgency when the feeling strikes. But if this is something you struggle with every day, consider these strategies to help you toward long-term health and recovery.

  • Give yourself enough time on the toilet to fully empty your bladder. Doing some deep breaths and focusing on relaxing your pelvic floor can help empty out the last little bits of urine.
  • If you find it difficult to empty your bladder fully in one go, rocking side-to-side and front-to-back or even standing up and sitting down to try again can help funnel the last bit of urine out of the bladder. This can be especially helpful if you experience pelvic organ prolapse, especially of the bladder.
  • Avoid “just in case” peeing. Many people use the restroom just in case before getting in the car or starting a movie. Over time, this habit can interrupt the delicate feedback system between your brain, bladder and pelvic floor. Just in case urination can make the bladder more sensitive, so waiting until you actually have to go is best!
  • Eliminate other poor urination habits like hovering and power peeing.

It’s been a while since we’ve been able to enjoy festival season here in New Orleans, so get out there and make the most of it – while also taking care of your bladder!

If you have persistent urinary or bladder issues, our pelvic floor physical therapists are here to help. Call 504-842-4348 to schedule an appointment.

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