Overactive bladder, sometimes known as urge incontinence, is a problem that results in a sudden urge to urinate and potential loss of bladder control.
A number of factors affect this condition. One factor is fluid intake volume; the more fluid you drink, the more you’ll have to urinate. Smoking is also a factor. Smoking irritates the bladder muscle, and spasms caused by smoker’s cough can result in urine leakage.
Certain foods can irritate the bladder or urinary tract and exacerbate symptoms. The effects of various foods on an overactive bladder vary from person to person. Use trial and error to determine which foods affect you personally.
According to the Cleveland Clinic, tomatoes are an acidic food that can potentially irritate your bladder and worsen OAB symptoms. People who are particularly sensitive should also cut out tomato products, such as:
- pizza sauce
Coffee and tea
The culprit in coffee and tea is caffeine. It can increase bladder activity and result in exacerbated symptoms, including higher urgency and frequency of urination, as well as increased incontinence. Reducing or eliminating caffeine intake or switching to decaffeinated varieties can decrease symptoms.
If you are particularly sensitive to caffeine, keep in mind that even decaf coffee and tea contains some caffeine.
Like coffee and tea, a serving of chocolate also contains some caffeine — about 1/4 the amount in a cup of coffee. Try white chocolate, which usually doesn’t have caffeine, or dark chocolate, which contains more cocoa and might satisfy your craving with a smaller amount.
Like tomatoes, citrus fruits contain high amounts of citric acid, which can worsen bladder control. Citrus fruits to watch out for are:
You should still include fruit as part of your healthy diet, so try less acidic kinds such as apples or bananas. Because everyone reacts differently to foods, experiment to see which fruits cause you more trouble.
Along with chocolate and coffee, add adult beverages to the list of vices you may want to limit if you have an overactive bladder. This includes:
Alcohol can irritate the bladder and disrupt the signals to your brain that make you aware of bladder overflow.
The fizz in carbonated beverages can potentially aggravate OAB symptoms. Be wary of drinks such as:
- soft drinks
- soda water
- energy drinks
Drinks with both carbonation and caffeine can be extra trouble, and so can 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 of spicy salsas, which contain another food on this list: tomatoes.
Again, everyone reacts differently. Before you cut out spicy foods altogether, experiment to see which ones affect you and which ones don’t.
According to the Cleveland Clinic, there’s some evidence that both artificial and natural sweeteners can increase OAB symptoms. As with other foods, you might not have to cut out sugar altogether, but it might be wise to experiment and see if your symptoms lessen when you limit these in your diet.
Processed foods contain a lot of artificial ingredients, such as flavoring and preservatives, which can irritate your bladder and worsen OAB symptoms. A healthy, balanced diet should include 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 try cooking them before you eat them to reduce the adverse effect they may have on your bladder.
Many people claim that cranberry juice relieves symptoms of urinary tract infections, but cranberries are acidic. Much like tomatoes and citrus fruits, cranberries can potentially irritate your 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).
Conventional wisdom might suggest that to avoid the constant urge to urinate, one might drink as little fluid as possible. But that isn’t the case. When it comes to water intake and OAB, the word to remember is “balance.”
Too much water will certainly cause you trouble, but too little fluid will make your urine more concentrated and acidic and can cause an 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 drinking the equivalent of six 8-ounce glasses per day and limiting intake in the evenings.
Track your food
Because the effects of food on the body can be different from person to person, it’s impossible to say for certain that you should or shouldn’t avoid each of these foods. A food diary can help you identify which foods cause your symptoms to worsen.
In the diary, note what foods you ate, when you ate them, and any symptoms you experience after. This will allow you to see any patterns or connections between the foods you eat and your OAB symptoms.
Remember, if you’re having bladder problems, talk to your doctor about it. The sooner you recognize a problem, the sooner you can treat and manage it.
If you’ve already been diagnosed, here are some more resources to help manage your condition: