Sometimes it happens after a sneeze. Other times it happens when you go running or jogging. Many times, laughter is the biggest culprit of them all.
If you’ve ever had a bladder leak, you’re familiar with the shock, embarrassment, and humor that comes with it. (You’re also not alone: 33 million Americans suffer from overactive bladder.) Embracing these moments with levity can help, but still no one wants to be interrupted by an unexpected pee burst. If there’s something simple you can do to reduce your chance of leakage, it might be worth a shot. The latest research suggests that there’s an easy fix among your supplements: vitamin D.
As explained in a new review from the International Urogynecology Journal, low levels of vitamin D in the body are linked to urinary incontinence. Researchers from Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Israel hypothesized that vitamin D could play a role in bladder leaks because of its presence in muscle cells throughout the body. To find evidence that proved their theory, the team analyzed 12 different studies that focused on urinary incontinence, pelvic floor disorders, overactive bladder, and similar issues.
The majority of the studies reviewed showed a significant link between vitamin D intake and urinary incontinence. The data also suggested that the onset and severity of leakage increases as levels of vitamin D in the body decrease. Though a few studies showed no association between vitamin D and urinary incontinence, those same studies found vitamin D supplementation to be an effective treatment for bladder leaks.
All of the research in the review directly applies to women and older adults. A 2016 study published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, for example, found that older adults living independently and suffering from urinary incontinence were highly likely to be vitamin D deficient.
Another study from the Indian Journal of Endocrinology and Metabolism focused its research on women who suffered from stress urinary incontinence. For clarity, this is the most common cause of bladder leaks, defined as leakage caused by abdominal pressure from a sneeze, a cough, exercise, or laughter. The research team used a questionnaire to determine the severity of the patients’ leakage and also tested the patients’ vitamin D levels. Upon analyzing the data, investigators found that higher vitamin D levels were linked to a lower risk for urinary incontinence.
We know that vitamin D is located in muscle cells throughout the body, but why might a lack of this nutrient cause bladder leakage? Researchers note that vitamin D is vitally important to our health because it increases calcium absorption from the intestine. More recently, vitamin D deficiency has been linked to pelvic organ prolapse, a condition where the muscles and tissues supporting the pelvic organs – the uterus, bladder, or rectum – become weak or loose. Investigators theorize that low vitamin D levels can make weak muscles even weaker and lead to a variety of issues, including urinary incontinence.
Vitamin D may prevent other bladder issues as well, including urinary tract infections and bladder cancer. A study published in the Saudi Journal of Biological Sciences noted that the vitamin plays a key role in preventing pathogens from entering the urinary tract, because it encourages cells in the bladder to secrete antimicrobial molecules. Another study from the Journal of Steroid Biochemistry and Molecular Biology found that the risk of bladder cancer is associated with a vitamin D deficiency.
Whether you believe vitamin D is a cure-all or not, it’s a good idea to get your recommended dose each day. The National Institutes of Health advise adults between 50 and 70 years old to consume about 600 IU on a daily basis. Adults older than 70 years old should take about 800 IU. The Harvard School of Public Health also notes that you don’t need more than the recommended amount, unless your doctor prescribes it.
When it comes to getting enough vitamin D, all you need is four ounces of salmon to reach your daily goal. An egg, a glass of orange juice, and at least three ounces of canned tuna fish will also do the trick. If you don’t want to worry about reaching your daily allotment each day through food, you can easily incorporate a daily vitamin D supplement into your routine.