11 Foods to Avoid if You Have OAB
Learn which foods can irritate the bladder and exacerbate OAB symptoms.
Foods That May Irritate the Bladder
Overactive bladder, sometimes known as urge incontinence, is a problem that results in a sudden urge to urinate and potentially incontinence as well. There are a number of factors that are known to affect this condition. For instance, volume of fluid intake: the more fluids you drink, the more you will have to urinate. Smoking is a factor as well, as it irritates the bladder muscle, and the spasms caused by smoker’s cough can result in urine leakage.
It is possible for certain foods to worsen this condition, potentially irritating the bladder or the urinary tract and exacerbating symptoms. The effects of various foods on overactive bladder vary from person to person and require trial-and-error. The following slides describe some foods that may make your symptoms worse.
Click through the slideshow to see foods that may irritate the bladder.
According to the Cleveland Clinic, tomatoes are an acidic food that can potentially irritate the bladder and worsen OAB symptoms. Those who are particularly sensitive should also cut out tomato products, such as pasta or pizza sauce, ketchup, and salsa.
Coffee and Tea
The culprit in coffee and tea is caffeine. It can increase bladder activity, and may result in exacerbated symptoms, including higher urgency and frequency, as well as increased incontinence. Reducing or eliminating caffeine intake, or switching to decaffeinated varieties, may result in decreased symptoms. However, it should be noted that even decaf contains some caffeine. Keep that in mind if you are particularly sensitive to caffeine.
Like coffee and tea, a serving of chocolate also contains some caffeine (about ¼ that found in a cup of coffee). White chocolate usually has no caffeine. Try dark chocolate, which contains more cocoa but might satisfy your craving in smaller amounts.
Oranges, Limes, and Lemons
Like tomatoes, citrus fruits—such as oranges, limes, lemons, and grapefruits—contain high amounts of citric acid, which can worsen bladder control according to the National Association of Incontinence. Fruits should still be part of your healthy diet, so try less acidic varieties such as apples or bananas. Because everyone reacts differently to foods, you should experiment to see which fruits cause you more trouble.
Along with chocolate and coffee, add adult beverages—beer, wine, and liquor—to the list of vices you may want to limit if you have an overactive bladder. Alcohol can irritate the bladder and affect the signals to the brain that make you aware of bladder overflow.
The “fizz” in carbonated beverages—such as soft drinks, soda water, and energy drinks—can potentially aggravate OAB symptoms (Shaw, 2011). Drinks with both carbonation and caffeine may be extra trouble—as is champagne, which has carbonation and bladder-stimulating alcohol.
The same foods that make your eyes water and burn your lips can also irritate your bladder, the Urology Care Foundation advises. Be wary of spicy peppers and sauces; be extra cautious with spicy salsas, which also contain another food on this list—tomatoes. Again, everyone reacts differently. So before cutting out spicy foods completely, you should experiment to see which ones affect you and which ones don’t.
According to the Cleveland Clinic, there is some evidence that both artificial and natural sweeteners can increase bladder symptoms. As with other foods, you might not have to cut out sugar altogether, but it might be wise to experiment to see if your symptoms lessen when you limit these in your diet.
Processed foods contain a lot of artificial ingredients—flavoring, preservatives, etc.—that can irritate the bladder and worsen the symptoms of OAB. A healthy, balanced should target natural and fresh foods, such as vegetables and whole grains. This is especially true for people who have OAB.
Like spicy and acidic foods, onions can cause bladder problems and increase the urge to urinate. Raw onions are the main culprits, so cooking them before you eat them could reduce the adverse effect they may have on the bladder.
Many claim that cranberry juice relieves symptoms of urinary tract infections, but cranberries are acidic and, much like tomatoes and citrus fruits, can potentially irritate the bladder and cause urge incontinence. You might be tempted to try cranberry juice for relief, but it may worsen your symptoms. If you are going to take in fluids, water is your best bet (see next slide).
Balanced Water Intake
Conventional wisdom might suggest that to avoid having the constant urge to urinate, one would need to drink as little fluid as possible. But that is not the case. When it comes to water intake and OAB, the word to remember is “balance.”
Too much will certainly cause you trouble, but too little fluid make your urine more concentrated and acidic, and can cause increased need to use the bathroom. Limiting fluid intake can also potentially make you constipated. Your doctor can tell you the right balance, but most experts suggest the equivalent of six 8-ounce glasses per day and limiting intake in the evenings.
Keep a Food Diary
Because the effects can be different from person to person, it’s impossible to say for certain that you should or should not avoid each of these foods. A food diary can help you identify which foods cause your symptoms to worsen. The diary should contain the foods you eat, when you ate them, and any symptoms you experienced after. This will allow you to see any patterns or connections between the foods you eat and your OAB symptoms.
More OAB Information
Remember, if you are having bladder problems, talk to your doctor about it. Avoiding a problem can only make it worse.
- Personal Assessment Quiz: How Often is Too Often?
- How to Talk About OAB
- Download a Discussion Guide to Bring to Your Doctor Visit
If you've already been diagnosed, here are some more resources to help manage your condition: