December 27, 2022
The inner workings of our urinary tracts and sexual organs can be a bit of a mystery. But one thing’s certain — when those parts aren’t working as they should, it can be painful, uncomfortable and downright miserable. Taking steps to keep our urinary tract and genitalia healthy is beneficial both now and as we age.
To learn how to take better care down there, we turned to MU Health Care urologist Dr. Jack Campbell. He reflected on his years of experience and what he’s learned as a urologist to suggest seven things you should NEVER do.
1. Never Get Dehydrated
Drinking water helps you regulate body temperature, think clearly and keep joints working smoothly. But getting enough H2O also prevents kidney stones — which form when minerals and salt in your kidneys don’t dissolve as they should. When stones move from the kidney into the ureter (the tube connecting the kidneys and bladder), they either leave the body through urine or get lodged in the ureter — neither of which are very pleasant.
“The reason to avoid kidney stones is that they can be very painful when they pass,” Dr. Campbell says. “It’s the only pain I’ve ever heard compared to the pain of childbirth.”
Approximately 1 in 10 people will develop kidney stones at some point. But Dr. Campbell says drinking at least 12 cups (or 3 liters) of water daily can keep stones from forming. He also recommends avoiding added salt whenever possible and adding citrus (lemons, limes or oranges) to your drinking water — citric acid can help block the formation of stones.
2. Never Hold in Pee
It happens to everyone — the urge to urinate hits suddenly, and there’s no bathroom in sight. Dr. Campbell says that holding in your pee from time to time isn’t really an issue. But if you make it a habit, it could increase your risk of infection, especially if you are pregnant, have an enlarged prostate or have a kidney disorder. Not only that, but people who hold their urine often may eventually lose bladder function later in life.
Dr. Campbell also urges women to urinate immediately after sexual intercourse. Friction during sex can spread bacteria — the most common cause of urinary tract infection (UTI). Try to go to the bathroom within 30 minutes of having sex. The urine helps to clear bacteria out of the urethra before it makes its way to the bladder.
3. Never Get (or Stay) Constipated
Constipation is never a comfortable feeling. But spending too much time constipated can also cause:
- Inability to fully empty the bladder
- Increased risk of UTI
- Overactive bladder
- Trouble with urination
To avoid or relieve constipation, Dr. Campbell recommends regular physical activity, eating more fruits and vegetables and supplementing with fiber.
“The goal is to have one soft bowel movement every day,” he says. “An easy fix is adding a daily fiber supplement to your water. You can adjust it as needed to reach that goal.”
4. Never Let Vaginal Discomfort Go Unaddressed
The vagina is a fickle environment, and in being so, most women are used to the occasional itch, dryness or odd feeling. But if that discomfort is or becomes persistent, it’s time to see a doctor.
While most mild discomfort can be treated quickly and easily, it’s important to ensure it’s not a symptom of something else. Vaginal pain and discomfort can be caused by:
- Genital herpes
- Yeast infection
Many women also experience vaginal discomfort due to hormonal changes leading up to or during menopause. If that’s the case, and there’s no other underlying issue, Dr. Campbell recommends talking to your doctor about vaginal estrogen cream. It can improve any resulting bladder urgency issues, reduce UTIs and make sexual intercourse more comfortable.
5. Never Be Sedentary
Sitting for too long increases the risk of heart disease, diabetes and obesity. But it can also cause issues down below, for both men and women.
For men, being sedentary directly affects penile health, according to Dr. Campbell. The penis, made of blood vessels, relies on healthy circulation — getting the blood pumping each day helps with the quality of erections. “Anything good for the heart is good for the penis,” Dr. Campbell says. “And anything bad for the heart, like being sedentary, is bad for the penis.”
For women, a sedentary lifestyle increases the risk of urinary incontinence — leaking urine whenever there’s pressure on the bladder. That pressure can come from sneezing, coughing, laughing, exercising or lifting a heavy object. Prolonged sitting can cause weight gain and a weakened pelvic floor — which contribute to incontinence.
6. Never Ignore Blood in Urine
There are many reasons (apart from menstruation) that you might see blood in your urine, also called hematuria. And while some of those underlying issues are easily treated, others may require more serious and immediate action.
“Blood in the urine is the number one sign of bladder cancer,” Dr. Campbell says. “Never ignore it, and plan to see a urologist to make sure everything is okay.”
Blood in your pee can make urine look pink, red or brown. And you should seek care even if you only notice blood once. It could be a sign of:
- An enlarged prostate
- Kidney stones
7. Never Stick Things Where They Don’t Belong
“There are a lot of moving parts in the genitalia. Participating in unsafe sexual practices or putting things where they don’t belong can cause serious damage,” says Dr. Campbell.
He cautions never to put anything into a body opening that you can’t easily pull out. And men should be wary of putting anything constricting on their penis, including metal rings which often need to be removed with a surgical drill later.
It doesn’t have to just be sexual products either — Dr. Campbell recommends checking with your doctor before trying trendy practices or products for vaginal cleaning.
Next Steps and Useful Resources
- Want to learn more? Read about our urology services.
- Not done reading doctor advice for “down there”? Check out 6 Things Your OB/GYN Wants You to Know Abut Your Lady Bits (Including Why You Should Avoid Calling Them Lady Bits).