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What you need to know today

What's on the agenda for today? Listen below for a quick tour of today's top items...

Listening time: 2 mins

Don't put up with leakage

One in three women who have had a baby – and up to 10% of women who haven’t – have urinary (bladder) incontinence.

Incontinence insights

But just because it’s common, doesn’t make it a ‘normal’ or acceptable part of life. You don’t need to put up with leakage. Incontinence is not just preventable, but treatable – and in many cases, curable.

The bottom line: get tested

In 2017, bowel cancer was second to breast cancer as the most common type of cancer diagnosed in women in Australia. You can reduce your risk of getting bowel cancer and, when detected early, nine out of 10 cases can be treated successfully. Yet despite this, only 41% of eligible people in Australia are getting bowel cancer screening tests.

A bowel cancer screening test is recommended every 2 years for those between 50-74 years of age. The test, also known as a faecal occult blood test or FOBT, is sent to you in the mail. It looks for tiny amounts of blood in your bowel motions (poo), which might be coming from a bleeding bowel polyp or early cancer. 

The test sample is collected by you in your own home. It's non-invasive, painless, private and easy. So, what’s stopping you?

Talk to your doctor about bowel cancer screening. To find out when you will receive your free test kit as part of the National Bowel Cancer Screening Program, go online or call 1800 118 868. You can also purchase test kits from Bowel Cancer Australia here

Remember to always be on the lookout for blood in your bowel motions (poo). It could be bright red, dark red, or the poo could even be black. Don’t ignore it, and speak your doctor as soon as possible.

Tips for good gut health

Let's have a chat with Accredited Practising Dietitian Kim Menzies. Learn what 'good gut health' actually means and which foods can help to nourish your gut microbiome – the ‘good guys’ living inside your gut.

Good foods for gut health

Listening time: 22 mins

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The health of your bladder and bowel are closely connected to the health of your pelvic floor.

Today, Jean Hailes’ Jo Roberts talks to Jean Hailes pelvic floor physiotherapist Janetta Webb about the importance of pelvic floor health at every life stage. Janetta shares tips on how to correctly strengthen (and relax) your pelvic floor – and dispel some myths. 

Quiz | Busting the myths of UTIs

A twinge. A burning pain when urinating. The need to go … and then go again.

A woman sitting on the floor

Many women know the feeling of a urinary tract infection (UTI). Commonly the infection occurs in the bladder, and it’s known as cystitis. 

Some of us will get just a few UTIs our lifetime – while others will get them time and again.

While UTIs may be common, they still require caution and care. Let's sort fact from fiction and bust the myths of UTIs.

  1. UTIs always cause urinary symptoms, such as burning pain when urinating, or the need to pass urine more often than usual.

    It’s very common for UTIs to cause urinary symptoms. However, not every UTI makes its presence known this way. Some UTIs can be ‘silent’, with no symptoms.

    If you do experience symptoms from a UTI, these may include:
    •    a burning sensation or pain when urinating
    •    needing to pass urine more often than usual
    •    feeling the need to urinate, but not being able to, or passing only a few drops
    •    feeling like your bladder is still full, even after urinating
    •    bladder leakage before you can get to the toilet
    •    urine that is smelly, bloody, cloudy or darker than normal
    •    lower back pain
    •    fever.

  2. If you have pain while urinating, you can safely assume you have a UTI.

    While pain with urination is a common symptom of a UTI, there are many other conditions that can cause this symptom. 

    These include vaginal or vulval irritation, certain STIs (sexually transmissible infections), kidney stones and painful bladder syndrome (also known as interstitial cystitis). 

    That is why it’s important to see your doctor for a diagnosis, rather than just managing the symptoms at home on your own. A UTI is diagnosed through a combination of a urine test and an assessment of your symptoms.

    If you get recurrent UTIs (UTIs that keep coming back), talk to your doctor about using at-home testing kits to confirm any future potential UTIs while you wait for further advice.

  3. UTIs are common around midlife.

    At menopause, many things are changing, and some women find they get more UTIs than before. This is usually due to the decrease in the hormone oestrogen, which begins prior to and during menopause. 

    This drop of oestrogen can affect the vaginal and vulval tissues – they often become thinner, drier and more prone to infection.

    A topical oestrogen cream or pessary can be an effective way to manage this. It’s also important to ensure you use a good-quality lubricant for sex and ensure you are aroused enough.

  4. UTIs can be particularly dangerous for pregnant women.

    UTIs occur only slightly more in pregnant women compared to non-pregnant women; however, the consequences for both the mother and the unborn child are more serious. 

    There is a much higher risk of the UTI developing into a serious kidney infection, and possibly an increased risk of pre-eclampsia, premature birth and low birth weight.

  5. Antibiotics are effective at treating UTIs.

    Doctors commonly prescribe antibiotics for confirmed UTIs.

    UTIs symptoms should start to get better a couple of days after starting antibiotics. If they don’t – or if they get worse, or return after treatment – you may need a different type of antibiotic or treatment. 

    When this happens, it’s important to seek medical advice quickly.

  6. There is scientific evidence that drinking more water can reduce recurrent UTIs (UTIs that keep coming back).

    Drinking more water to ‘flush’ the bladder and urinary system has long been recommended to help with UTIs, but until recently there wasn’t any strong scientific evidence to prove it actually worked. 

    However, in 2018, a research study tested the theory and found that women who drank an extra 1.5 litres of water per day (on top of their usual fluid intake) had 50% fewer UTIs and needed fewer antibiotics than women who did not drink additional fluid.

  7. Urinary alkalinisers (powder sachets available over the counter at chemists) treat the cause of UTIs.


    Urinary alkalinisers make the urine less acidic, which may help to ease the burning discomfort and pain that often comes with UTIs.

    In this way, they may help to manage the symptoms, but they don't actually treat the infection – the cause of the UTI.

    Some women find urinary alkalinisers to be useful, but if you’re taking them and your symptoms don’t get better, or if they get worse (and include fever, back pain or blood in the urine), see your doctor as soon as possible.

  8. For women who get recurrent UTIs, drinking cranberry juice can reduce how often UTIs occur.

    The jury is still out on this one!

    The research on cranberry juice/supplements and UTIs is mixed. A 2012 review of research found that “some small studies demonstrated a small benefit for women with recurrent UTIs” but when a larger study was included in the review process, it was found that taking cranberry made no difference.

    If you want to try cranberry out for yourself, look for a supplement that provides a daily dose of 36mg proanthocyanidins (PACs). PACs are thought to be the key compounds in cranberry and this dose has been shown to be more effective than others.
     

  9. Nice work!

    You got out of 8 correct

    Remember, UTIs are common and easily managed with medication, but cystitis (bladder infections) can develop into a more serious kidney infection if left untreated. Known as pyelonephritis, this occurs when the infection travels up from the lower urinary tract to the kidneys. 

    If your symptoms persist for more than 24 hours and include fever, chills, back pain, nausea or vomiting, see your doctor immediately. 

Talking about tricky topics

For some women, bathroom business can be a tricky topic to talk about with your doctor. Here are some tips to help make your visit a little easier...
Put yourself first
Spend some time preparing
Be honest
Ask questions

Hands holding stomach

  1. If something is bothering you, or interfering with your daily life, it’s important to take the time to put yourself first and make an appointment with your doctor. It can be easy to put these things off, but you’ll feel better for reaching out.
  2. Before your appointment, it can be helpful to spend some time preparing. Think about what your main concerns are, or what you would like to achieve from the appointment. It can also help to take notes in with you. Write down what you are experiencing – for example, your symptoms, how often they occur and how they are impacting your life. This way, if you get stuck, you can refer to your notes.
  3. Your doctor’s office should be your safe place to discuss any type of health issue. There is no judgement, so be honest. Whichever body part or system your doctor is treating, their aim and approach is the same: to support you in being the healthiest you can be.
  4. Before leaving your appointment, be sure that you’ve understood your doctor’s advice and any instructions. An easy way to do this is to repeat back to the doctor what you’ve learned in the appointment and what the next steps are. If you are unsure about anything that’s been discussed, ask questions.

Women’s Health Week is all about shining a light on health topics that are often kept in the dark. Don’t ever feel alone or embarrassed. There are likely to be many other women experiencing similar issues to you. Help and support are available.

Small wonders

Teeming with life, your digestive system is home to trillions of bacteria and other microorganisms. Known as the gut microbiome, this collection of 'small wonders' is driving a rapidly expanding body of research.

Linked to many areas of human health – from obesity and immunity, to inflammation, allergies, mental health and metabolism – research in the past decade has revealed the gut microbiome's crucial role in our overall health and happiness.

With so much still to be explored, now's the time to learn how to take care of your gut's greatest allies. 

Shiitake and miso noodle soup

Today’s recipe is a Japanese-inspired soup, created by Jean Hailes naturopath Sandra Villella.

It’s a meat-free meal (with the option of adding tofu or chicken for heartiness). 

While red meat is an excellent source of iron and vitamin B12, for the prevention of bowel cancer, Cancer Council Australia recommends eating lean red meat in moderation – either 65g of cooked meat each day, or 130g three or four times a week and no more than 455g each week.

It’s also recommended to limit or avoid processed meats such as salami, bacon, ham and other deli meats.

This recipe highlights several nourishing ingredients that can be pantry staples, along with a few fresh ingredients – the medicinal culinary herbs, garlic and ginger.

So, for your meat-free meal, try this Shiitake and miso noodle soup with some added tofu.  
 

Bathroom boss tips and tools

Don’t get caught out

The National Public Toilet Map is especially useful for people with incontinence. It shows the locations of public toilets across Australia. Use the Trip Planner function, access it online, or download the app.

See the map

Laugh without leaking

Watch ‘Continence Champion’, comedian Bev Killick, show you how to ‘laugh without leaking’, with thanks to the Continence Foundation of Australia.

Laugh without leaking

Bathroom basics

How often do you need to visit the toilet in a day? What's healthy and what's not? Download our bladder and bowel fact sheet to get to know the basics of these important areas of health.

Download

The word on probiotics

Probiotics is a bit of a ‘buzz’ health word. But what does it actually mean?

Probiotics are often called ‘good’ or ‘healthy’ bacteria.

The World Health Organization defines probiotics as live microorganisms which – when consumed in adequate amounts – give a health benefit to the host (that means you!).

You may notice the word probiotic on labels of fermented or cultured foods at your local health store or supermarket.

But as Jean Hailes naturopath Sandra Villella says, “it’s important to note that the amount of probiotics found in these foods varies, and in many cases, is unpredictable.” 

For a food to be considered probiotic, it must contain 1 million CFUs (colony forming units) per gram or millilitre. 

A total of 100 million to 1 billion microorganisms should be consumed per day to reach an effective amount.

“So, if you’re comparing labels, look for a yoghurt or fermented food that specifies the dose of probiotics it provides,” says Sandra. “And remember, a whole food diet rich in fruits, vegetables and fibres is one of the best to nourish and restore healthy gut bacteria.”

The 'good guys' recipe

Fermented foods, such as sauerkraut, kimchi, kefir and yoghurt contain good bacteria.

Eating these foods regularly may help to bring the right types of bacteria to your gut, so give your gut a good head-start with our easy sauerkraut recipe.

Pelvic floor exercises

No matter your age or life stage, whether you've had many children or none, every woman needs to be exercising her pelvic floor muscles every day.

Jumping on a trampoline

For women who already have pelvic floor issues, such as bladder leakage, Jean Hailes’ pelvic floor physiotherapist Janetta Webb says that an intensive pelvic floor program is needed. Janetta also reminds us that some women need to learn to release their pelvic floor muscles, for example if they have pelvic pain.

She urges women to seek help for any pelvic floor symptoms, no matter how small. 

Your pelvic floor muscles

In this podcast, Janetta guides us through some simple exercises for your pelvic floor. And don't forget to tune into our live video today too!
 

Listening time: 8 mins

Looking for activities for your workplace or event?

We’ve got you covered. Today we’re exploring the benefits of mindful eating.

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Today's gift to keep or share

Spread good health and self-care this week by downloading this e-Card as our gift just for you, or share it with friends on your social media channels. Don’t forget to use the hashtag #WomensHealthWeek.