While having a healthy heart and brain are top-of-mind goals for many, bladder health is something people don’t tend to think about until there’s an issue. But it’s actually vital. Anyone experiencing an overactive bladder, inconvenience, a pelvic floor disorder, or repeat urinary tract infections will tell you that when something is off with your bladder, it can truly dominate your life.
That’s why whether you’re currently experiencing a health issue with your bladder or want to think proactively about it, it’s important to know what nutrients can help. There’s one nutrient for bladder health that new research is pointing to being crucial that most people aren’t getting enough of: vitamin D.
According to an article highlighting new research published in International Urogynecology Journal, not getting enough vitamin D is linked to an overactive bladder, urinary incontinence, pelvic floor disorders, and lower urinary tract symptoms. Researchers performed a review of past studies—which all occurred as recently as August 2020—and analyzed the data collectively, seeing a clear connection between vitamin D and bladder health. Curious as to why there’s a connection? Keep reading to learn more, straight from a urologist.
Nutrients linked to helping with bladder health
While the recently published research shows a clear connection between vitamin D and bladder health, urologist and female pelvic medicine specialist Michael Ingber, MD, says the reasoning for it still isn’t fully understood. But he says one way it is beneficial is because it helps other nutrients linked to bladder health be better absorbed in the body.
“Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin, which plays a role in intestinal absorption of several different nutrients in the body. Calcium, magnesium, phosphate, are all absorbed as a result of vitamin D, and these things also play a role in kidney and bladder health,” he explains. “Recently, there have been studies evaluating vitamin D deficiency, and the effect on urinary incontinence. It does appear that a vitamin D deficiency makes a person more prone to having urinary incontinence.”
The reason why calcium is important for bladder health is because it helps with muscle contraction, including the detrusor muscle. This muscle is found in the bladder walls and it remains relaxed to allow the bladder to store urine, contracting when you pee to release it. Magnesium and phosphate similarly play a role in muscle and nerve function. Calcium is also linked to helping prevent kidney stones. As Dr. Ingber explains, vitamin D helps with the absorption of these nutrients, which could be a key reason why it’s so important for bladder health.
The new International Urogynecology Journal article also points to vitamin D receptors found in the skeletal and smooth muscle cells, including the detrusor muscle. Besides helping with nutrient absorption, this points to another key reason why the nutrient is so important for bladder health.
How to make sure you’re getting enough of the nutrients that support a healthy bladder
Unfortunately, nearly half of the U.S. population does not get enough vitamin D. The bladder isn’t the only reason why it’s important to get enough. Not getting enough vitamin D is linked to a higher risk of certain types of cancers, muscle weakness, and digestive distress. “There are several ways to increase vitamin D levels, the first being through food,” Dr. Ingber says. “Foods high in vitamin D include fatty fishes like salmon, cod liver oil, canned tuna.”
If you’re vegan and don’t eat fish, he says you may want to consider a vitamin D supplement. “I typically recommend my patients get 1,500 to 2,000 microunits per day, although if you’re getting half of that, it’s likely sufficient for most people,” he says. Dr. Ingber says the sun is also a good source of vitamin D, although it’s still important to wear sunscreen when soaking it up. Just 15 minutes of direct sun exposure a day can help meet vitamin D requirements.
Remember how calcium, magnesium, and phosphate are important for bladder health? This nutrient trio can be found in foods, too. Dairy, leafy greens, and broccoli are all high in calcium; spinach, almonds, peanut butter, and dark chocolate are all good sources of magnesium; and dairy, bread, fish, and olive oil all contain phosphate. In addition to these nutrients, Dr. Ingber says if you experience UTIs on a regular basis, it is also important to drink lots of water—and you may want to consider a cranberry concentrate tablet, too.
Here’s the thing: Since vitamin D is linked to so many health benefits and ensuring other important nutrients are being well absorbed in the body, getting enough supports your entire body, not just your bladder. Consider this a sign to step away from the computer and take a little walk in the sunshine. Hey, doctor’s orders.
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