Life Extension Magazine November 2008
A Breakthrough in the Relief of Overactive Bladder and Urinary Incontinence
By William Faloon
A common and frustrating complaint we at Life Extension hear is how to stop urinary incontinence.
Our frustration has been that despite aggressive research, we could not identify a safe solution to this problem that plagues so many aging women (and men to a lesser extent).
Even more numerous are inquiries we receive from people seeking relief from frequent daytime and nighttime urinary urges.
In a breakthrough discovered by Japanese scientists, a natural plant extract combination has been shown to reduce incontinent episodes by up to 79%,1 daytime urination by up to 39%,2 and nighttime urination by up to 68%.3
This article will discuss the research findings on maturing women who found significant relief after taking this novel supplement for only six to eight weeks.
Additionally, this article will discuss more limited data obtained when men suffering from nighttime urinary urgencies were given this same plant extract.
Urinary frequency becomes more common with advancing age, with nearly half of people over 60 reporting to suffer from nocturia (two or more episodes of urination during the night).
Urinary incontinence is defined as an involuntary loss of urine. It represents a major social and hygiene problem in the aging population. About 48% of women and 17% of men over age 70 suffer urinary incontinence.4
Overactive bladder affects one in six adults over age 40, and is defined as having an urgent need to empty the bladder during the day-night, along with incontinence. Those afflicted with an overactive bladder have to go to the bathroom frequently, leak urine into their clothes, and report feeling depressed, stressed, and sleep-deprived.
Underlying Cause of Urinary Miseries
In women, stress incontinence (involuntary loss of urine during physical activity such as sneezing or exercise) is usually caused by a weakening of the bladder sphincter and pelvic floor muscles. Shrinkage (atrophy) of tissues where the bladder and urethra meet also contributes to the problem. Hormonal changes occurring after menopause are thought to be an underlying cause of these anatomical changes in the bladder sphincter that lead to urinary incontinence.
In postmenopausal women, decreased androgen (testosterone) levels weaken the pelvic floor and sphincter muscles, while an estrogen deficit induces atrophy of the urethra.
Mainstream medicine offers only mediocre therapies to address urinary incontinence. Drugs commonly used for this condition are expensive and side-effect-prone. Only a small proportion of the affected population seeks treatment because most people consider their urinary symptoms a consequence of normal aging.
Fortunately, a safe, natural, and low-cost approach has been developed that has demonstrated remarkable benefits in human clinical trials.
Water-Soluble Fraction of Pumpkin Seed
Pumpkin seeds were traditionally used by Native American tribes to “facilitate passage of urine.” A European herbal encyclopedia first mentioned the use of pumpkins seeds to treat urinary problems in the year 1578. The German health regulators approve pumpkin seed as a treatment for irritable bladder.
Pumpkin seed oil has been included in products used to alleviate urinary difficulties. While some effects have been shown when using the fat-soluble (oil) fraction of the pumpkin seed, it is the water-soluble portion that demonstrated impressive symptomatic effects in recent studies.
Japanese scientists have patented a method to obtain the water-soluble constituents of the pumpkin seed, which are absorbed far more efficiently into the bloodstream.
Anabolic Actions of Pumpkin Seed Extract
Urinary incontinence worsens after menopause. While menopausal problems are usually associated with estrogen deficit, low levels of testosterone and progesterone are also underlying culprits.
Water-soluble pumpkin seed extract exerts an anabolic (tissue-building) effect on the pelvic floor muscles via several mechanisms. By inhibiting the aromatase enzyme, it may make more testosterone available to strengthen the pelvic muscles.5
Secondly, this water-soluble pumpkin seed fraction binds to the androgen receptor on pelvic muscle cells, thus inducing a strengthening effect. This is important because androgen receptors are expressed in the pelvic floor and lower urinary tract in humans.6 By promoting androgenic activity, water-soluble pumpkin seed extract may play an important role in female pelvic floor structural integrity and lower urinary tract disorders.5
Increasing Nitric Oxide Synthesis
Nitric oxide is a molecule critically involved in lower urinary tract functions. For the urination muscles to relax when the bladder is full, nitric oxide is required. When nitric oxide synthesis is inhibited, the result is bladder hyperactivity and reduced bladder volume.
The dual mechanisms of strengthening pelvic floor muscles, while increasing nitric oxide synthesis,5 help explain how water-soluble pumpkin seed extract alleviated urinary incontinence in three separate studies on aging women.1-3
Soy Isoflavone Extract
Soy extracts provide standardized phyoestrogens that are potentially effective in ameliorating geriatric symptoms relating to estrogen deficit.
The ingestion of standardized soy extract has been hypothesized to decrease the atrophy of tissues where the bladder and urethra meet and thus alleviate frequent urinary urges and incontinence.
Experimental Study in Rats
A study was done to evaluate the effects of water-soluble pumpkin seed extract in anesthetized rats to determine bladder functionality.7
As measured by a cystometrogram, bladder parameters showed a dramatic 54.5% improvement in rats receiving water-soluble pumpkin extract compared to other agents.
When the “excretion frequency” was measured, a 60% reduction in urine excretion frequency occurred after administration of water-soluble pumpkin seed extract. No improvement was seen in the group given inactive solvent.
Conclusions from the study showed that water-soluble pumpkin extract significantly increases maximum bladder capacity while decreasing urination frequency.
First Human Study on Postmenopausal Women
A study of 39 incontinent females (aged 55-79 years) using water-soluble pumpkin seed and soy isoflavone extracts was conducted over a six-week period.1 The objective was to evaluate the effects on frequency of daytime and nighttime urinations and number of incontinent episodes.
After six weeks, the number of nighttime urinations was reduced from 3.3 to 2.0… a 39% improvement. Daytime urinations went from 8.0 to 6.7 after six weeks… a modest 16% improvement.
The number of incontinent episodes, however, plunged to a remarkably low number. Prior to receiving the water-soluble pumpkin seed-soy extract, these women experienced an average of 7.3 incontinent episodes a day. After six weeks of using this supplement, daily incontinent episodes averaged only 1.5… an astounding 79% decrease in urinary incontinence!
When these women were questioned about the effects they noticed in response to taking water-soluble pumpkin seed-soy extract, there was a 73% subjective improvement in the highest “fulfilled” category. When the global improvement ratio was evaluated, which included degree of satisfaction after sleeping, 81.8% of women with two to four episodes of nightly urinations reported that they were “markedly improved.”
Second Study on Postmenopausal Women
A study of 50 incontinent women (aged 35-84 years) was conducted using the same water-soluble pumpkin seed-soy extract supplement to evaluate the effect on stress incontinence episodes.3
Before the pumpkin seed-soy supplement was given, these women averaged 2.1 incontinent events each day. After taking the supplement for six weeks, incontinent events fell to an average of only 0.7 a day… a remarkable 67% decrease in stress-induced incontinent episodes!
Third Human Study
A consumer test of 10 women (aged 45-65 years) was conducted using the same water-soluble pumpkin seed and soy extract supplement.2
After eight weeks, daytime urinations went from 9.3 to 5.6… a 39% reduction. Nighttime urinations went from 2.0 to 0.8… a 60% reduction.
Prior to initiating the pumpkin seed-soy supplement, there was an average of 2.3 incontinent episodes each day. After eight weeks, the frequency of incontinent episodes declined to only 1.0 per day… a 57% reduction!