While nearly 25 percent of women experience problems
such as incontinence and frequent urination, natural options for strengthening
these muscles abound. Since pelvic floor muscles tend to weaken with age, these
issues are likely to worsen without attention. Weakened pelvic floor muscles can negatively affect both your sex life and your laundry load. Here are seven natural ways to
refurbish your pelvic floor.
Free and easy, Kegels are the classic
method for strengthening your pelvic floor muscles. Simply squeeze as if you
were trying to stop peeing. Hold for a few seconds, then release and repeat. If
it’s hard to make time in your day for this, you might try regular reminders
like setting an alarm on your phone or Kegeling every time you’re at a stoplight. Variations of Kegels include slowly contracting your muscles (imagine
your vagina as a slow-rising elevator) and increasing the amount of time you
hold the squeeze for.
2. Spicy Kegels
My physical therapist
recommended I do “spicy Kegels,” (my nickname, not hers) where you squeeze your
pelvic floor muscles around a vibrator or vaginal cone. This gives your vagina
something to concentrate on—and let’s face it, there are less pleasant ways to
spend your time.
When my physical therapist told me that people with healthy pelvic floors only pee once every 3 to 4 hours, I was (pelvic) floored.
3. Limit coffee and other bladder-maddening
I know that for many of us, our coffee intake is non-negotiable. So
start small—I started by downsizing from 4 cups of the dark nectar to 3 ½ per
day. Other drinks like orange juice,
soda and even tea can also agitate the bladder, increasing the urge to pee, so
be mindful of your intake of these drinks as well.
4. But don’t dehydrate!
When you’re worried about
having to pee all the time, it’s natural to think that drinking less water is a
good idea. Unfortunately, this method will backfire. Dehydration makes for more
concentrated urine—think Gatorade-hued pee. This concentrated urine aggravates
the bladder, and an angry bladder may have muscle spasms (shaking with rage
because it’s thirsty) that replicate the urge to pee. Backfire. Keep sipping
5. Limit triggering foods
Our bladders aren’t only
affected by what we imbibe. Citrus foods, spicy foods, alcohol, chocolate
(NOOOO!), tomatoes and other foods also can irritate the bladder, causing you
to feel like you need to pee more often.
6. Bladder training
While it sounds like potty
training for grown-ups, bladder training consists of peeing only at predetermined
times. Over time, practice waiting longer and longer in between urinating; when
my physical therapist told me that people with healthy pelvic floors only pee
once every 3 to 4 hours, I was (pelvic) floored. Bladder training also uses urge suppression techniques,
like distraction, deep breathing or a series of rapid-fire Kegels to relax the
muscles around the bladder when the urge to pee arises between scheduled potty
If your pelvic floor issues are
seriously impacting your life, consider consulting with a physical therapist
specializing in pelvic floor issues. While I initially imagined a room filled
with tiny, vagina-sized barbells, pelvic floor therapists are specially trained
to assess your individual situation and create a program to help. Pelvic floor
rehab may include massage, bladder training, specially designed exercises and
biofeedback. One of the benefits of rehab is that your therapist will assess
your unique body, potentially finding other physiological reasons for your
pelvic floor issues, such as muscular tension in the abdomen or thighs.
Like any other muscles, the pelvic floor muscles can
get stronger with practice. Give your PF a little love and try some of these