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For words you might want to know more

Urge incontinence

The involuntary leakage of urine caused by a sudden, intense urge to pee.

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a common gastrointestinal condition that causes symptoms like stomach cramps, bloating, diarrhoea and constipation.

Detrusor muscles

This muscle lines your bladder and squeezes to empty it when it’s time to pee.

Pelvic floor

A group of muscles shaped like a hammock that stretches from the pubic bone to the tail bone and supports your pelvic organs, including the bladder.

Is there a link between IBS and urge incontinence?

If you have bladder problems like urge incontinence along with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), you may be asking yourself whether the two conditions are related.

Bladder leaks and IBS often overlap. So if you find yourself dealing with both bowel and bladder issues, you’re not alone. 

But can one cause the other, or is it just a case of bad luck? Below, we explore the link between IBS and urge incontinence and treatments that can help manage both conditions. 

What is urge incontinence?

Urge incontinence is when you feel an intense, out-of-the-blue urge to pee that results in accidentally passing urine. 

Urge incontinence happens when the detrusor muscles (the muscles that surround your bladder) don’t work properly and contract too much, too often. 

It’s not fully understood what causes the detrusor muscles to misbehave, but possible causes include some neurological conditions, pelvic floor injuries and certain medications.

What is IBS?

IBS is a common gastrointestinal condition that affects the digestive system and causes symptoms like abdominal cramps, bloating, constipation (IBS-C), diarrhoea (IBS-D), or a combination of all — lovely! 

IBS can be mild or severe and very often affects a person’s quality of life. It can also be temporary, or chronic. 

Although IBS doesn’t directly cause bladder problems, there is often an overlap. Women with IBS are more likely to experience urinary urgency and incontinence than women who don’t have IBS. 

The link between urge incontinence and IBS

IBS and urge incontinence often go hand in hand, but very little research has been done on the link between IBS and bladder problems. 

A small study investigated how common lower urinary tract symptoms (LUTS) were in women with IBS. The study found that women with IBS are more likely to experience: 

  • Increased urinary urgency

  • Excessive urination at night time (nocturia)

  • Painful urination (nocturia)

A similar, larger study had similar findings. The study found that urge incontinence is three times more common in women with IBS compared to women without IBS. 

So why is urge incontinence so common in IBS? The short answer is: experts don’t know yet. It’s often a challenge to pinpoint the exact cause of IBS, which makes it difficult to know how it’s linked to incontinence, even though the connection is well established.

Current research suggests it may be due to problems with serotonin receptors, the central nervous system, or dysfunction of pelvic floor muscles

Pelvic floor dysfunction is when the muscle that controls and support your bladder, colon, uterus and vagina aren’t working properly.

There’s evidence that women with IBS are at higher risk of pelvic organ prolapse, which can be a cause of urinary incontinence. 

Another potential explanation for the link between IBS and urge incontinence is constipation, a common symptom of IBS-C. Constipation can put increased pressure on the bladder, which can lead to leaks. 

What to do if you have both IBS and urge incontinence

If you’re dealing with IBS along with urge incontinence, there are a few treatments and lifestyle solutions that might make both conditions more manageable. 

Pelvic floor exercises may help improve bladder control. Whether or not you have pelvic floor dysfunction, strengthening your pelvic floor muscles can help to prevent both bladder and faecal incontinence. 

Watching your food intake may also help. Symptoms of both IBS and incontinence can often be exacerbated by spicy foods, alcohol, caffeine, or carbonated drinks. If you suspect your diet may be a trigger, keep a food journal to track how you feel after eating certain foods. If you experience constipation, make sure to up your fibre intake to keep yourself regular and stave off any unwanted pressure on your bladder. 

If you are experiencing both urge incontinence and IBS you must speak to your GP about it. Some medications for bladder problems can cause gastrointestinal side effects, so it’s crucial your doctor is aware of your IBS to ensure any bladder medication won’t make your symptoms worse.

Want to know how else to strengthen your bladder? With a powerful blend of pumpkin seed and soy germ extract, Jude's Bladder Strength Supplements are clinically proven to improve bladder control and reduce unwanted leaks. Try today for better nights and happier days!

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