Managing bladder and bowel problems

Parkinson's can cause bladder and bowel problems, but there are some small changes you can make that will make those issues easier to manage.

CONSTIPATION

  • Drinking a cup of hot water with a slice of lemon or dash of lemon juice every morning on an empty stomach can help you stay regular if you experience constipation.

  • As with Parkinson’s in general, it helps to maintain a healthy lifestyle and stay as active as you can. Exercise will stimulate your bowels, which can help prevent constipation.

  • ‘Squatting’ on the toilet changes your posture which allows you to pass bowel movements more easily than when sitting in the 'normal' way. Placing your feet on any type of step that raises your knees will help.

  • Eating more fibre-rich foods can help if you have constipation. Think about breakfast cereals containing wheat or oats, fruit and vegetables, or drinks that are high in fibre. Don’t forget to also drink plenty of fluids throughout the day.

INCONTINENCE

  • Did you know that caffeine can make incontinence worse? Try switching to decaffeinated tea or coffee or try to replace certain fizzy drinks (like cola), with other soft drinks, or squash.

  • The Shewee is a funnel that allows women to urinate into a bottle while standing or sitting, so you can 'go' anywhere. The Shewee is available on NHS prescription – just ask your GP or nurse about it.

  • If you have bladder problems, it’s important not to cut down too much on the amount of fluid you drink as this may leave you dehydrated. But you may find it helpful to drink less fluid late in the evening to limit the number of times you need to use the loo during the night.

  • There are lots of hand-held urinals available for men and women. These may be useful for someone who needs to use the loo urgently, but who can’t get out of a bed or a chair in a hurry or when there is nobody available to help. If you have a tremor, you may find it’s slightly difficult to use these, so it’s worth trying different types.

  • Did you know that alcohol is a diuretic, which makes you urinate more often? Cutting down may help if you have problems with incontinence.

  • Stress incontinence (leaking urine if you’re under physical stress or when you cough, laugh or exercise) is most often caused by weak pelvic floor muscles. Exercising these muscles can help to strengthen them. These exercises can be tricky, but a physiotherapist, nurse or GP will be able to explain how to do them properly.

GENERAL ADVICE ON GETTING HELP

It’s important not to struggle alone with bladder and bowel problems. Plenty of professional help is available. A lot of people find it embarrassing to talk about these subjects, but don’t let this stop you from getting help if you need it.

Your GP will usually be your first port of call. You may find it useful to keep a short diary of your bladder and bowel habits before your GP appointment. This may help you explain the difficulties you’re experiencing.

Your GP can offer treatments, or they may refer you to a specialist, like a urologist, who specialises in the urinary system, or a continence adviser, a specialist nurse who assesses and manages incontinence and who may visit you at home or see you in a clinic.