Help! I'm beginning to have 'accidents'...
Q. I’m in my late 30s and have two children. I am beginning to have ‘accidents’. It’s occasional – mostly when I exercise or laugh – but I am terrified it will get aworse. What can I do? Between 30 and 40 per cent of women in their 30s wet themselves when they sneeze, cough, exercise, laugh or dance, but hardly anyone talks about it, according to Jenni Russell, personal trainer and expert in pelvic floor conditioning (www.jennirussell.com). 'Incontinence is not only embarrassing – I know from my clients that it also affects their emotional state, body image and sexuality,’ she says.
This medical condition has a range of possible causes, including being overweight, carrying more than one child or having a low-lying pregnancy, trauma in labour, surgery, menopause and age, or prolapsed organs. ‘Many women think it is a normal consequence of childbirth or ageing, but it does not have to be,’ she says.
The best treatment is exercise. A focused exercise programme can start to reverse the symptoms in six weeks, depending on the severity of the condition. you need to work on your core, bottom, abs and thighs, as Jenni details in her new book Pelvic Floor Secrets (Filament Publishing, £15.99 - buy here).
A strong pelvic floor can greatly improve your quality of life. ‘You won’t need to worry about leaking, the potential of incontinence pads and possibly serious medical conditions such as a prolapsed bladder, bowel or womb, and you will benefit from a better sex life,’ explains Jenni. Simple lifestyle shifts also help.
Avoid caffeinated drinks (coffee, tea, chocolate, colas), citrus fruits and spicy foods, which irritate the bladder, and alcohol, which acts as a diuretic.
Lose weight if you are overweight.
Sip plenty of still water through the day and eat a high-fibre diet with plenty of vegetables and fruit (and spelt, see below) to ensure you are not constipated: constipation can weaken the pelvic floor over time.
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GO WITH THE GRAIN
Wheat doesn’t suit me (I puff up and feel sluggish) but I love spelt, an ancient grain that is naturally low in gluten and high in nutrients. So I am delighted to tell you about Great British Spelt Recipes, a new online resource (www.greatbritishspeltrecipes.com) launched by Sharpham Park, purveyors of organic spelt flour, pearled spelt and spelt cereals, with Bowel Cancer UK. A high-fibre diet is important in preventing bowel cancer and spelt is a great source of dietary fibre. The truly delicious recipes – from bread to cakes to risotto (my favourite) and many more – come from such star foodies as Sophie Dahl, Heston Blumenthal and Yotam Ottolenghi. (NB Spelt is not suitable for diagnosed coeliacs.)
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