Now that we’re full-swing in to the midst of the holiday season, do you find yourself avoiding the scale more than usual? It’s often falsely stated around the holidays that people gain an average of 7-10 pounds between Thanksgiving and New Year’s. The good news: the actual average weight gain during this period is only about a pound. The bad news: that weight rarely comes back off.
If fitting into that little black dress for New Year’s Eve wasn’t enough motivation to stay away from the cookies, maybe this will be: obesity can lead to incontinence. Just as a pregnant women experiences increased pressure on her bladder, men and women who are overweight can feel a similar pressure caused by the extra weight of fatty tissues on their bladder. The big difference between a pregnant woman and someone who is obese: the weight from the pregnancy naturally drops off on its own. There is no nine-month deadline at which a person with obesity will automatically loose weight – it takes work. But the good news is that even a small weight loss may result in improved continence.
Weight usually isn’t the actual cause of incontinence. The incontinence itself is most likely caused by a weakened sphincter muscle – a small ring-shaped muscle around the urethra that squeezes to close and keep urine in the bladder until it is relaxed when it is time to urinate. This kind of incontinence is called stress incontinence, and the leakage generally occurs when there is some kind of physical stress that the body is enduring, such as laughing, coughing, sneezing, running, or jumping. The sphincter isn’t strong enough to stay closed during these activities, thus allowing urine to leak out.
Imagine for a moment that you fill a balloon with water and hold it neck-down. Now imagine a paper clip is placed around the neck, keeping it closed. This paper clip sort of works like a sphincter – it’s keeping the water inside the balloon just like the sphincter keeps urine inside the bladder. Now imagine that you set some books on top of the balloon, adding extra pressure. Can you see how this extra weight may further weaken our paper clip-sphincter to the point where water leaks out of the balloon? Those books on the balloon represent excess fatty tissues putting extra pressure on the bladder. Can you see how obesity can make incontinence worse?
I sincerely hope that you are having a wonderful and safe holiday season, but remember to be good to your bladder and watch that winter weight gain!
Published On: December 22, 2006