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The best alternative treatment for . . . urinary incontinence

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* Look to hidden food allergy

* Look to hidden food allergy. Coffee, milk, sugar, honey, alcoholic and soft drinks, tea, chocolate, citrus juices and fruits, tomatoes or tomato-based products and highly spiced foods have all been associated with incontinence. Keep a food diary and compare your periods of incontinence with your diet to see if there's a pattern. Try going without one type of food or drink for at least a week. If that helps, it's a sign that you should stop eating that sort of food.

Higher incontinence rates are also associated with obesity and carbonated drinks, whereas eating bread reduces the risk (BJU Int, 2003; 92: 69-77).

* Take herbs to calm and heal your bladder, which may ease or eliminate symptoms. A homoeopath may recommend remedies such as Causticum or Euryale for bladder control.

* Take magnesium. In a double-blind, placebo-controlled study of 40 women with urge incontinence, 11 of the 20 who were taking magnesium reported an improvement in their urinary symptoms compared with only five of the 20 taking a placebo (Br J Obstet Gynaecol, 1998; 105: 667-9).

* Ditch hormones. HRT (hormone replacement therapy) can make incontinence worse (Obstet Gynecol, 2001; 97: 116-20). Try supplementing with vitamins A, C, D, E and selenium instead.

* Try using the Conveen Continence Guard. This arch-shaped polyurethane-foam device is inserted into the vagina, and its two 'wings' are designed to support the bladder neck. Of the 28 women with complicated stress incontinence who used the product, 84.2 per cent were cured or improved (according to objective measures) after three weeks (Acta Obstet Gynecol Scand, 2000; 79: 1052-5). The device can be purchased from selected high-street pharmacies for around lb15.

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