The Case of the Overactive Bladder

by James Wallace Harris, Sunday, April 28, 2019

Old men often reach a stage in life where they have to pee frequently because of benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH). This is caused by our prostates enlarging. Just another annoying aspect of aging. Depending on what I eat and drink, my bladder normally makes me go about every two hours, which means I get up three times in the night, and once during long movies. Not a terrible debilitation, but inconvenient. Yet, on some rare days, when I accidentally do the perfect routine, I only have to get up once in the night. That suggests I could do something to change things.

However, there’s something I also do that give me “pee spells” as I call them. They last about two hours and I have to pee every 10-15 minutes. This is extremely annoying, and I want to figure out what causes these spells. Maybe some of my readers might have this problem too and have already figured it out.

Of course, this case of the overactive bladder might be much too much information for some readers, so I expect most of them to have quit reading by now. But it is an interesting mystery, and I find people like solving mysteries.

My guess is I’m eating or drinking something that annoys my bladder since the condition only lasts a limited time. Figuring out that irritant is the mystery to solve. Sometimes I can go weeks without a pee spell, and other times it’s every afternoon. It’s the most annoying when it comes in the middle of the night. When it happens during the day I feel tired and try to nap. Of course, getting up every ten minutes to pee during a nap bugs-the-crap out of me and pisses off the two kitten who sleeps on my lap.

I had a pee spell yesterday. So here are the current clues. The week before I was on a sugar bender eating ice cream and oatmeal cookies twice a day, but I quit after one week. One theory is going between healthy and unhealthy diets does something to my bladder or hormonal system. I often feel like I have pee spells when I’m losing weight, but it might because I’m eating something healthy that’s triggering it and not the weight loss.

Because I hadn’t been eating much fresh fruits and vegetables last week I gorged on them this week. Another theory is my fruit salad might be the cause. I remember having frequent pee spells in the past, and maybe they were during the times I was eating fruit salads regularly.

I like fruit salads, and vegetable soups and salads because I can cram in many servings of each into one meal. However, that makes figuring out the culprit harder. I get all kinds of weird ideas like maybe I don’t wash my fruits and vegetables well enough and the suspect is a pesticide. Or maybe some fruit or vegetable is a natural diuretic.

I seldom take pain pills because they end up upsetting my stomach. This week I did take one ibuprofen for my back. So now its a suspect. I wonder if their occasional use is my problem and I’ve never noticed it before?

I’ve also wondered since I’m drinking less to pee less if this makes my urine more acid, and thus aggravates the muscles of my bladder. I’ve thought of drinking more, which is counter-intuitive, but I will test it. However, when I have tried drinking more in the middle of a pee spell it only makes it last longer. I wonder if there’s a way to get pH test strips to test my theory?

Another theory I’ve worked up relates to bacteria. Our gut biome is a big topic today, with claims it affects our thinking and personality. Could I be consuming something that alters the balance of warring bacteria in my intestines and that eventually affects my bladder?

When I was in high school and working at a grocery store after class, I’d often drink two 16-ounce Cokes on my commute home at 10 o’clock at night. I don’t remember it affecting my sleep. I also remember a few times of eating two Whoppers, a Coke, a shake with two orders of fries and not feeling stuffed. At 67, such a meal would kill me.

Getting old is so goddamn weird. I don’t want to be a hypochondriac, but my body has gotten hyper-sensitive to everything. I have to think about my health all the time, and I don’t want to. My body has become so sensitive to what I consume that I’ve thought about inventing the perfect bland diet. I wish Purina made People Chow. Or like in some science fiction story, I wish I could transfer my brain into a robot where I didn’t have to eat or eliminate at all. I’m a very happy person if my body didn’t keep nagging me. I’d be in my own Nirvana if I was a robot and could just read, write, watch, listen, and contemplate.

I tend to think the agent of my annoyance is something physical I consume, but I’ve also wondered about it being a psychological problem. I know that I’m weird, but am I that weird? My doctor once suggested trying Zoloft for anxiety and said one positive side effect of it might be to relax my bladder muscles. I did try Zoloft but not for long, it bothered my stomach. But this has gotten me to wonder if anxiety might cause my pee spells? Normally, I’m very happy except for when I have to go somewhere. As I’ve gotten older I just dread going places. This week I was dreading going to the book club last night.

I did ask my doctor about the medicines I see on TV for overactive bladders and she advised against them because of their side-effects. I was happy with that recommendation because I hate taking medicine.

So, there are the clues I have so far. Any health detectives out there that have already solved a similar crime?



9 thoughts on “The Case of the Overactive Bladder”

  1. I read all of your posts, Jim, but I rarely comment. (I get them in my email.) I thought I’d say something this time, though. Unfortunately, the answer is no, I haven’t found an answer and certainly not a cure.

    And for me, this isn’t anything new. I’ve struggled with this for a good thirty years. At first, I tried tons of different medications, first from my regular doctor and then from a specialist. None of them worked. (Rather, all of them seemed to work for a day or two, but within a week, it was just as bad, if not worse.)

    I’ve tried to figure out if what I eat makes a difference, but it doesn’t seem to be consistent, no matter what I try. Some of my nights are worse than others, but I can’t predict it.

    So I’ve just… lived with it. I get up constantly at night, but I’ve done that for decades. It’s just something I put up with. Driving a car makes it worse, so I can’t make long trips. Well, I know people with much worse problems, so I can’t complain.

      1. I’ve never heard of “Super Beta Prostate,” Jim. But then, I don’t watch television. And I wouldn’t trust any of stuff, anyway. Those “herbal remedies” are mostly just scams. If something actually works, it’s medicine.

        Anyway, in my case, the problem doesn’t seem to be with my prostate, but rather my bladder. Too very different things. 🙂

  2. I can relate. I’ve had a few bouts here and there. Maybe all men have it in varying degrees. I’ve always told myself that it’s a minor urinary infection, and in the nature of urinary infections, they come and go on their own.

  3. Catchy blog title—sure to attract followers ;~) My general observation, based only my own experience, is that we are all aging and our systems react differently than they once did, i.e., past lessons may not apply.

    When my urinary discomfort started, I drank less water thinking that meant fewer trips and midnight urgency. Dryness caused bowel problems and sinus infections, and my urinary tolerance became shorter due to increased irritation.

    I took the opposite approach, added a 16-oz glass of water before my first cup of coffee, and began daily saline nasal irrigation. Things were better by the end of the first week, and all bowel, bladder, and sinus irritation was gone after six. I know increasing water to decrease frequency is counterintuitive, but I think its more about irritation than the volume of flow.

    1. I’ve thought about that Keith. I’ve wondered if less water is making my pee more acidic, and thus aggravating the bladder. I meant to include that theory in the essay. I might add it in later.

  4. Being of a similar age, I’ve assumed that it’s an enlarged prostate that makes it harder for me to completely empty my bladder nowadays – aka “dribble syndrome”. I tried Saw Palmetto supplements as a remedy and have found by trial & error that while the saw palmetto didn’t seem to really help, the extra Zinc it is often compounded with does seem to make a difference. Specifically, taking 30 to 50mg daily of a Zinc supplement (as zinc gluconate), usually in addition to the 15mg MDR/RDA of Zinc that I take via daily multivitamins. I haven’t done any organized testing, this is just my casual observation for whatever it’s worth.

  5. According to the Mayo Clinic:
    Medications that relax the bladder can be helpful for relieving symptoms of overactive bladder and reducing episodes of urge incontinence. These drugs include:

    Tolterodine (Detrol, Detrol LA)
    Oxybutynin (Ditropan XL)
    Oxybutynin as a skin patch (Oxytrol)
    Oxybutynin gel (Gelnique, Gelnique 3%)
    Trospium (Sanctura)
    Solifenacin (Vesicare)
    Darifenacin (Enablex)
    Mirabegron (Myrbetriq)
    Fesoterodine (Toviaz)
    Common side effects of most of these drugs include dry eyes and dry mouth, but drinking water to quench thirst can aggravate symptoms of overactive bladder. Constipation — another potential side effect — can aggravate your bladder symptoms. Extended-release forms of these medications, including the skin patch or gel, may cause fewer side effects.

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