Q: A friend of mine says that drinking a beer at bedtime keeps his bladder quiet through the night. Have you heard anything about drinking beer as a way to quiet a spastic bladder?
A: Dave, I love the question! I searched far and wide hoping to find a journal article saying that beer is good for the bladder! Alas, after many search engine explorations, the closest match I came up with after typing in “neurogenic bladder and beer” was a reference to a urologist from 1915 named Dr. Beer. Other than that was a post on Healthline.com and a couple of lines in the Merck Manual, both of which say alcohol is a natural diuretic, increases urine output and is a bladder irritant—none of which sound very helpful in terms quieting the bladder.
Undeterred, I emailed the question to a urologist who is well versed in physical medicine and rehab. Although he hadn’t heard of any scientific research on beer and its effects on the bladder compromised by SCI, he did say that the hops in beer can be anti-inflammatory. And while alcohol irritates the bladder, it is also a central nervous system depressant and would probably quiet some of the spinal cord nerves, which may, in turn, quiet the bladder. Anti-inflammatory hops and quieter CNS nerves—now I was getting somewhere.
Next I turned to a New Mobility reader. Paul Knott, 55, of Davis, Calif., is in his 24th year as a C7 complete quad. Knott is a systems analyst for California Department of Forestry and spends his days in front of a computer screen. “I had horrible problems with lower body spasticity, including a very spastic bladder — the spasms were the worst after a long day of sitting at work,” he says. “My urologist started me on Ditropan, and it wasn’t enough. Then upped the ante to Oxybutynin, which worked but wiped me out and made me dizzy and very temperature sensitive. Then I noticed if I drank one or two 12-ounce beers during the evening my bladder quieted down for the night.” Knott shared this with his urologist at Santa Clara Valley Medical Center in San Jose, Calif. The urologist said he hadn’t read any official data but anecdotally, beer seemed to help some of his other patients. He told Knott, “If it works for you keep doing it — in moderation.”
The bottom line is, so far there is no scientific evidence that beer can quiet the bladder; however there is anecdotal evidence that it has helped some people. The key word here is moderation. Alcohol is high in calories and can add unwanted weight. In addition, while moderate consumption alcohol may be of some benefit, heavy drinking can be addictive, harmful and even fatal. According to the USDA Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2005 moderate drinking means no more than one 12-ounce beer per day for women and two 12-ounce beers for men.
Q: I became a C4-5 quad in October 1971. I have been on an indwelling catheter ever since. I get occasional bla