For whatever reasons, the prospect of earlier death from preventable diseases compared to women has yet to convince some men to adopt healthier lifestyles. Perhaps the prospect of erectile problems, along with bladder and bowel consequences, might provide some motivation.
Male deaths outnumber female deaths across all age groups until men reach the age of 65, but that’s only because so many men have died by then.
Perhaps an added incentive for men taking better care of themselves might be knowing that, by adopting certain lifestyle changes (such as those recommended by the Continence Foundation – see below), they could also improve their erectile, bladder and bowel function.
Continence nurse advisor Stephen Marburg said men were often unaware of the important role their pelvic floor played in erectile function.
He cited a 2014 Rome study of 40 men aged 19- 46 years who experienced premature ejaculation. Researchers found that their average ejaculation time of 32 seconds increased to nearly two-and-a-half minutes after 12 weeks of pelvic floor muscle training.
A toned pelvic floor has also been shown to improve erectile function, Marburg said, pointing to a 2005 British study of 55 men aged 20 years and over who experienced erectile dysfunction. The men who improved their lifestyle and did pelvic floor muscle exercises for three months significantly improved their erectile function compared with the group of men who only improved their lifestyles.
“And a previous study found the exercises as effective as Viagra for impotence, without the side-effects,” Marburg said.
“The pelvic floor is a trampoline-shaped group of muscles and ligaments that extend from the tailbone to the pubic bone, and between both sitting bones. It is responsible for holding up the pelvic organs and closing off the urinary and anal sphincters. The pelvic floor muscles also play a role in gaining and maintaining erections,” Marburg said.
“In the past, the focus has been on women doing their pelvic floor exercises, but we now know that they have benefits for men in conditions associated with prostate disease, premature ejaculation, and erectile dysfunction.”
Marburg, who is an advisor on the National Continence Helpline, said that around one-third of calls were from men, who were often embarrassed about their erectile or continence problems.
“It’s important for men to know they are not alone, and that there is a lot of help out there. While incontinence is not normal at any age, in most cases it can be improved, if not cured,” he said.
Marburg urged men with any bladder or bowel concerns to visit their GP or men’s health physiotherapist.
“Or they can speak to one of the continence nurse advisors on the free and confidential National Continence Helpline on 1800 33 00 66.”
THE FIVE STEPS TO HEALTHY BLADDERS AND BOWELS
The Continence Foundation recommendations:
- Drink well
- Eat healthily
- Keep active
- Tone your pelvic floor
- Practice good toilet habits
Stephen Marburg said men were often unaware of the impact that lifestyle could have on their bladder and bowel.
“Drinking enough fluids is a big issue; particularly for men working long hours with few breaks. If the urine is darker than pale lemon colour, they’re not drinking enough,” Marburg said.
“And if their urine gets concentrated and irritates the bladder, it tries to get rid of it, risking frequent and urgent trips to the toilet.”
He warned however, of drinking too many caffeine or sugar-based drinks, which can also irritate the bladder. “And alcohol, which is a diuretic, should be drunk only in moderation,” he added.
Constipation was another significant issue, particularly for men who didn’t drink or exercise enough, or ate too many refined foods, he said.
“Constipation has a big impact on the bladder. A full compacted bowel can push up against the bladder, risking accidental leakage.
“And straining on the toilet when you’re constipated can stretch and weaken the pelvic floor muscles, much like overstretched elastic. These muscles are really important for continence,” Marburg said.
Some facts about incontinence:
- About 4.8 million Australians – more than a quarter of Australians aged 15 years or over – are incontinent (80% female, 20% male).
- About 70 percent of people affected by incontinence do not discuss the issue with anyone, including their GP.
- People with incontinence are more likely to be affected by depression or anxiety.
- Incontinence is more prevalent than asthma (more than 2 million), anxiety disorders (2.3 million) and arthritis (3.1 million).
- Faecal incontinence affects up to 20% of Australian men and up to 12.9% of Australian women.
The Continence Foundation of Australia is a not-for-profit organisation and the national peak body for incontinence awareness, management and advocacy. The Foundation is funded by the Australian Government under the National Continence Program. Go to continence.org.au