Wednesday, July 20, 2011

My hypothesis about helping incontinence with raw eating

A few years ago, I wrote about The Healing Power of Raw Food.  I've been testing this method of dealing with my pelvic floor issues for over 8 years now, but whenever I mention it to a doctor, I usually get a puzzled response of "I don't know why that would be the case" or "Well, if it works, keep doing it."   I understand if they don't see any way that could be possible, but I would think that being in their specialty, they'd want to know more and see if there is a connection to help others.

Just last week, I went to yet another doctor for my problem.  My leakage (what I tend to call my incontinence) comes and it goes and gets horrible when I'm eating flour or sugar (even the more natural sugars unless from a whole food) and after about 3 days of raw eating, it gets pretty minimal and I am so grateful.  But I decided that since I live close to one of the best medical centers in the country (Stanford), I should go see someone from their Urogynecology Dept. to see what my options are after two surgeries and if there is any hope for lasting improvement beyond what I manage with nutrition.

First of all, I have to mention that the staff and doctors there are FABULOUS!  If you live nearby or have the means to go there, do!  After an initial exam and visit (I could tell right away that they understood so much more about my condition than my previous 4 specialists), I came back for urodynamic testing (no fun) and a cystoscopy (kind of cool, but scary to see that camera probe, which  may look small in the picture, but it's over a foot long!)  They learned several things about my condition and why my other surgeries failed from the testing, but I believe I learned how excellent nutrition has been able to make a difference for me.

During my office visit,  I did mention that my incontinence is MUCH lighter when I'm eating just fresh, whole foods.  The doctor (whom I believe to be one of the best there is) looked at the fellow (who was actually a female physician :)) and with a "Hmm, not sure why that would be" look, said that there is a connection between weight gain making incontinence worse (which anyone who has read about incontinence knows).  I could have said, "No, this has nothing to do with weight gain.  It can change from one meal to the next because of what I've ate and increase the problem by about 10x."  But I didn't say anything.  I just wondered once again myself besides believing that excellent nutrition will help the body heal and work much better than poor nutrition will.

Back to my testing results, they found a few things.  Besides the bladder prolapse that has been remedied with 2 different types of slings in the 2 different surgeries, they found that I have urethral hypermobility, which means that it moves or rotates too far.  If it rotates 30% or more, they diagnose it as hypermobility and it will cause incontinence.  Mine rotates 70%.   I didn't really see how that might change with better or worse nutrition.

They also found that I have very low pressure in my urethral sphincter, to which the tech kept saying "This is so uncommon in a woman as young as you are."  I think had she tested me a week earlier when I came in for my initial visit, it wouldn't have been as low.  At that time, I was eating raw and my leakage was minimal.  But once I knew I was coming in for the testing, I realized that I needed to stray from my raw eating and eat some foods that usually cause me more problems.  Some of these were completely against what I usually eat, but are on my every few months or a few times a year list (like pizza). Most were just regular things from the health food store that I like to eat (like Nature's Path Flax Raisin Bran with Almond Milk or Trader Joe's sprouted wheat cinnamon raisin bagels), but they're not raw foods and my body isn't at its optimum when I eat them.   So yes, it was a little fun to eat some of those processed foods, but I didn't enjoy being more tired in the morning and the inconvenience and craziness it caused with my incontinence.

However, I did test poorly in the urodynamics, which made me happy because that's what I have to deal with at times.  So now I'm back to my raw eating, am excited to see some improvements in a few days and am scheduled for another surgery to finally fix my specific problems (and not just the one size fits most approach).

My hypothesis is that although prolapse or positioning of the bladder or the urethral hypermobility may not alter with a change in diet, what is helped when I eat raw foods is my muscle control or pressure in the sphincter.  Yes, my medical background is minimal, but my experience with the ups and downs of my problems over the past 8 years tells me that my stress incontinence as well as a constant drip even without any coughing, sneezing, running, etc. happens when I'm eating foods that have a lower nutrient density than raw whole foods.  (If you missed my post on Nutrient Density, here it is).  I believe that when I'm eating raw foods, my body is able to maintain that pressure needed better at the urethral opening to minimize and even diminish the leaking............

..........Perhaps this isn't everyone's favorite topic.  In fact, I've even had a friend tell me (not that I go telling all of my friends about this issue) "Eww!  I don't want to look at you and know that you are dealing with this!"  I thought later I should have told him that probably 1/2 the women he knows have incontinence.  It's pretty common.  It's just not talked about much.

So if you have incontinence when you cough, sneeze, jump on the trampoline or even just walk around, it may not be as severe as mine, but I think it's worth a shot for you to see if you can manage it by eating raw foods.  You don't have to eat only raw foods forever (although you may want to -- many do!)  For me, if I eat all raw foods for at least 3 days, I can get my body cleansed enough to be able to add some cooked whole foods in the 10-20% range.  But once I start feeling invincible like it won't matter if I just eat this or that, it's never true.  The incontinence gets way worse right away.  Live and learn.  That's what I've done.  Hope it can help you!  TTFN!

Edited to add -- I just realized if I were truly testing my hypothesis, I would eat raw for a week, go back to Stanford and get another urodynamics test to see if my sphincter muscle control or low pressure as they called it improved greatly -- if that was the reason for less leakage.  But those tests cost over $2,000 and I doubt my insurance would cover it again PLUS you couldn't pay me $2,000 to do the testing again.  Not a pleasant experience!  It would be interesting to see though.  TTFN!


  1. Way to be scientific, Momma!

  2. Way to be scientific, Momma!

  3. Hi Renee,

    I commented on your blog a long time ago when you posted on VF about raw foods helping your incontinence. I had noticed that too and had never seen anyone else mention it. I keep thinking "Oh just a little cooked grains can't make THAT much of a difference." And it doesn't at first, but that just a little bit has a way of becoming more and more.....and suddenly there is a problem once again.

    I am currently starting a juicing fast to reboot my system and get back to high raw. I love your blog. I actually found my way back here by googling "Slim Series".

  4. Nice to see you here, Stacey. Fun that you're doing the Slim Series and eating a high raw diet. Have you done the SS before?