Weight Loss Can Help Incontinence

Rushing to the bathroom? A little weight loss may help

If you’re carrying extra pounds, you may be at increased risk for urinary incontinence. But a recent study in Obstetrics & Gynecology shows that shedding just a little weight may greatly reduce incontinence symptoms. These symptoms can range from some loss of urine when you cough or sneeze to an urgent need to use the bathroom.

Major changes, even for frequent symptoms

Researchers studied the effects of weight change in 338 overweight or obese women with urinary incontinence. All had a body mass index between 25 and 50 and were provided information on healthy lifestyles or enrolled in a weight-loss program.

After 18 months, results showed major changes for women who lost just five to 10 percent of their initial body weight. These women were up to four times more likely than women who gained weight to report significant improvement in their symptoms. Many of them reduced incontinence episodes each week by 70 percent or more. These results were true even among women who weighed the most and struggled with the most frequent symptoms.

The weight-loss key? Start with small goals

While weight loss can be tough, it’s not impossible, says Port Orchard Medical Clinic family medicine practitioner Margaret Mercado, MD. Dr. Mercado herself finally lost almost 70 pounds after the birth of her second child two years ago and has been an inspiration to her patients.

The key, Dr. Mercado says, is to start with small goals. “Don’t think, ‘I’m going to lose 60 pounds.’ Think, ‘I will lose five pounds in the next two weeks’ or ‘I will lose one pound this week,’” she explains.

Dr. Mercado does recommend counting calories if you’re able to. “If you know you’re going to log that bite of pie into your smartphone app before you put it in your mouth, you think twice,” she says. Dr. Mercado will also send patients to a dietician if they need additional one-on-one nutrition guidance.

Of course exercise helps, too. “I recommend 45 to 50 minutes five to six days of the week, but it doesn’t have to be all at once,” Dr. Mercado says. “Walk 10 minutes in the morning and 10 minutes on your lunch break. It adds up. Not all of us have an hour to spend at the gym—including me!”

Talk to your Franciscan physician for help

Losing weight isn’t always easy. But shedding five to 10 percent of your overall weight is a reachable goal. For a 200-pound woman, that’s as little as 10 pounds. For help, talk with your Franciscan primary care provider. He or she can help you develop a weight-loss plan that’s right for you.