Alternative Treatments For Overactive Bladder or Incontinence
Herbal products that claim to treat overactive bladder, also known as incontinence, abound in the Internet and drug stores. People with overactive bladder may give these medications a try in favor of a number of new prescription drugs. These products often boast of clinical studies which back their therapeutic claims.
But consumers should be aware that these clinical studies are often conducted by in-house researchers and therefore are likely to be biased. Such studies may even fail to pass rigorous standards that ensure accuracy and objectivity of research findings. Government-approved drugs had undergone randomized trials involving placebo-controlled groups before they earn a “drug” status. Herbal products are not marketed as drugs since they do not undergo or pass such clinical test.
Moreover, unlike government-approved drugs, herbal medications are rarely published in peer-reviewed medical journals. Peer-review is considered by many as the gold standard for validating clinical data and therapeutic claims of drugs.
Despite the lack of clinical tests and citations by peer-reviewed medical journals, herbal medications earn the trust of some medical experts. Manufacturers of herbal medicine bypass clinical trial because it is very expensive. Moreover, herbal products cannot be patented, so there is little financial incentive for conducting a clinical trial.
The best way to choose herbal treatment for overactive bladder is to consult medical specialists who prescribe natural products to their own patients. Doing so will save you time and money as these experts have known, based on the experience of their past patients, which products work.
Herbal Medications for Incontinence
The following herbal treatments for incontinence are highly recommended. Their therapeutic effects are either backed by scientific studies or by medical experts or hospital-based incontinence treatment programs.
But before you try any of these herbs, make sure that you undergo standard diagnosis first. Don’t worry about side-effects, for these herbs are generally safe. The purpose of the diagnosis is for you to know what kind of incontinence you have. Certain types of incontinence are not responsive to herbal treatment, and chances are you will lose the opportunity from benefiting from more effective traditional medications.
Pumpkin (Cucurbita pepo) – Pumpkin seed is among the few herbal medications for urinary incontinence that have undergone clinical investigation. It has been tested in numerous clinical trials in humans and animals. These studies looked at its effects on prostate health in men and bladder health in women.
Pumpkin has been used traditionally to treat many ailments. For many centuries, Native American tribes have been improving prostate and bladder health through pumpkin seeds. This herb is rich in essential fatty acids and phytoesterol. Research data suggest that these ingredients have positive effects on prostate health and woman’s bladder, especially after menopausal period.
A six-week study involving 39 post-menopausal women reported better bladder control among 23 of the participants after two weeks of pumpkin intake. By the end of the trial period, three out of every four of the subjects experienced significant improvements in urinary tract and bladder control.
Magnesium – Clinical data show that magnesium is beneficial to muscle health. Several studies involving patients with Parkinson’s disease confirmed the positive effect of the mineral on bladder spasticity. Now some physicians believe that magnesium can improve spasms, which prevent the bladder from discharging thoroughly. Incomplete discharge results to drips, leaks and dribbles in both men and women. Taking magnesium before going to bed may also improve nocturnal incontinence by preventing frequent urination during the night.
Saw Palmetto (Serenoa repens/Sabal serrulata) – This herbal medicine, to be taken only by men, was used as tonic by Mayans and as antiseptic by Seminoles. It is currently being used in Europe to treat benign enlarged prostate. How saw palmetto treats incontinence is not clearly understood. Like pumpkin seed, saw palmetto is believed to reduce the activity of 5-alpha reductase, an enzyme partly responsible for prostate problems. It seems that this herb has also anti-inflammatory properties and mild estrogenic effects.
Research data show that taking 160 milligrams of saw palmetto extract twice a day increases urinary flow rate by 24%. Saw palmetto is also linked to lower urinary frequency and urine retention in the bladder.
Because of its hormonal effects, saw palmetto should not be used by women who are breastfeeding, pregnant, or taking oral contraceptives or hormone therapy. For men, this herb will not improve urinary incontinence that is not related to enlarged prostate.
Buchu (Barosma betulina) – This plant is naturally found in South Africa, but it is also cultivated in South America. The therapeutic use of this plant can be traced back to as early as 12th century. Buchu is believed to be antiseptic and is currently being used by herbalists to treat mild urinary tract infections. The therapeutic effect of buchu is attributed to a chemical known as diosphenol. The diuretic chemical is believed to be the one responsible for improving the urinary system. The use of diuretic to treat incontinence may seem to be counterintuitive, but actually, bladder control is often affected by inflammation and mild infection. Typical tests sometimes fail to spot the inflammation or infection. Inflammation causes frequent urination and prevents complete discharge of urine from the bladder.
Cornsilk (Zea mays) – Cornsilk is derived from the silky, yellow “threads” inside a corn stalk. Among its bioactive chemicals are flavonoids, maysin, carvacrol, and polyphenols. Cornsilk detoxifies and relaxes the bladder with its diuretic effect. It is also combined with buchu to treat mild bladder infections. Cornsilk is also believed to have anti-inflammatory properties that treat inflammation, thereby reducing the frequency of urination.
Cleaver – This herb is commonly found in Europe, the United States and the Middle East. It has a wide range of therapeutic applications since early centuries. It has been used as aphrodisiac, hair grower and gonorrhea treatment. A number of modern-day naturopathic doctors prescribe cleavers for incontinence treatment. Cleavers improve incontinence through its anti-inflammatory and diuretic properties. Among its bioactive compounds are flavonoids, organic acids, fatty acids and tannins. Several pharmaceutical companies are exploring the therapeutic properties of the herb.
Bromelain – Bromelain comes from a pineapple plant. It is popularly used as meat tenderizer. Like other herbal treatments for incontinence, bromelain is believed to have anti-inflammatory properties. Bromelain is deemed a suitable treatment for bladder inflammation related to urinary tract infections or other inflammatory disorders.
Check Food Sensitivity
Food sensitivity is also linked to urinary incontinence, and many doctors believe that it is the root cause. Should this assumption is true, then eliminating offending food can be the best natural treatment available. Food sensitivity triggers incontinence by causing systemic inflammation, subsequently resulting to inflammation of the bladder and the urinary tract, which in turn causes frequent urination and discharge problems.
Wheat, sugar, dairy products, and white floor are among the foods that are linked to urinary incontinence and bladder inflammation.
To determine if food sensitivity is indeed the cause of incontinence, drop the suspected food out of your diet for at least three weeks. You may notice that some symptoms are subsiding by then. Take the food back into your diet and see if incontinence symptoms return to their previous level.