If you have an overactive bladder (OAB), you may feel a frequent, intense need to urinate. This is because your bladder muscles are contracting, even if your bladder isn’t full.

Your bladder muscles may also contract suddenly, without feelings of buildup or warning. This causes the urgent need to urinate.

OAB is common, affecting approximately 33 million Americans. Although it’s more common in older adults, OAB can occur at any age.

If you have OAB, you can do a number of things to help alleviate your symptoms, including:

  • Bladder training. Timing your trips to the bathroom can help your bladder adjust to holding your urine for longer amounts of time.
  • Pelvic floor exercises. Also called Kegels, these can help give you better control over the stop and start of urination.
  • Over-the-counter (OTC) medications. Some medicines can help relax your bladder muscles, providing you with more control between bathroom breaks.

Your diet also plays a key role in your symptoms. In some cases, what you eat may actually add more stress to your bladder and increase irritation. Certain OTC medications for bladder control have side effects that can impact your food and fluid intake.
Keep reading to learn more about how your diet affects OAB, what foods you can eat to find relief, and what foods you should try to avoid.

If you have OAB, certain foods and drinks can further irritate your bladder or urinary tract.

This can cause an uptick in the following symptoms:

  • frequent urge to urinate
  • frequent urination
  • bladder spasms
  • urinary incontinence

Keep in mind that foods that negatively affect one person may not have an effect on you. Experimenting with different foods and beverages can help you pinpoint any dietary triggers you may have. Keeping a food diary can also help.

Drinking lots of water is important for overall health. But if you have OAB, more fluid intake typically equals more trips to the bathroom. If those fluids are carbonated, they may aggravate your symptoms even more.

Discuss your fluid intake with your doctor. They can help you determine how much fluid to drink daily and at what times.

Many people with OAB avoid drinking before bed to reduce nighttime trips to the bathroom.

Keep in mind that too little fluid intake also isn’t ideal. If you drink too little, your urine may become concentrated and acidic, heightening bowel irritation.

If you also have celiac disease or gluten sensitivity, eating foods containing gluten may contribute to OAB. Gluten can be found in wheat, rye, and barley products. Common examples of these include:

  • breaded foods
  • cereals
  • oats
  • noodles
  • soups
  • alcohol

Certain foods and beverages contain irritants than can amplify your OAB symptoms.

You may find it beneficial to limit or avoid:

  • carbonated beverages, such as sparkling water
  • caffeinated beverages, such as coffee and tea
  • chocolate
  • alcoholic drinks
  • sports drinks, such as Gatorade
  • citrus fruit
  • tomatoes and tomato-based products, including ketchup, tomato sauce, and chili
  • spicy foods
  • foods containing artificial flavorings and preservatives
  • foods containing sugar or sugar substitutes
  • honey
  • raw onion

Eliminating irritating foods doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing approach. You may find that you can tolerate certain foods in small quantities, or when eaten occasionally.

If you do decide to completely eliminate a certain food, you may be able to reintroduce it into your diet at a later time.

Check out: Can exercise help with overactive bladder? »

Your doctor may recommend bladder relaxant medications to help control your bladder muscles.

Common medication options include:

  • fesoterodine (Toviaz)
  • tolterodine (Detrol)
  • oxybutynin (Ditropan)
  • darifenacin (Enablex)
  • solifenacin (VESIcare)

Although these medications can help alleviate symptoms, they may cause side effects. Potential side effects include dry mouth and constipation.

Dry mouth

Dry mouth can lead you to drink more fluid than is recommended. This can cause an uptick in your overall OAB symptoms. If you have dry mouth, try to sip small amounts of water throughout the day. There are also OTC products that can help reduce feelings of dry mouth, including:

  • sugar-free candy or gum, which can stimulate the flow of saliva
  • saliva substitutes, such as Mouth Kote Dry Mouth Spray or Biotene Moisturizing Mouth Spray
  • mouthwashes containing xylitol, such as ACT Total Care Dry Mouth Rinse

Constipation

Your bowels are located near your bladder. If you’re constipated, you may feel additional pressure on your bladder, causing you to urinate more frequently.

You may be able to combat this by eating fiber-rich foods, which are known for reducing constipation. Nuts are a great option, including:

  • almonds
  • pistachios
  • pecans

If you’re worried about your medication’s side effects, talk with your doctor. They can work with you to find a more suitable medication. If you need medication for your OAB, don’t stop taking your current prescription without your doctor’s approval.

If you have OAB, it’s important to avoid foods that can irritate your bladder. Opt for foods that are rich in vitamins, such as non-acidic fruits and vegetables.

Fruits for bladder health include:

  • bananas
  • apples
  • grapes
  • coconut
  • watermelon
  • strawberries
  • blackberries

Vegetables for bladder health include:

  • asparagus
  • broccoli
  • cucumbers
  • kale
  • carrots
  • celery
  • lettuce
  • peppers

Foods high in fiber are also important. They can help prevent constipation, which can put additional pressure on your bladder.

Fiber-rich foods include:

  • lentils
  • beans
  • raspberries
  • artichoke
  • barley
  • bran
  • oats
  • almonds

Protein is also essential for your overall health. Good sources of protein include:

  • fish
  • chicken
  • tofu
  • eggs

Feel free to experiment with different seasonings to put a new twist on go-to dishes. This can help keep your staple items interesting, while still helping you avoid potential irritants.

Keep reading: More foods to avoid if you have OAB »

Developing a diet free of irritants can take some trial and error. During this time, it’s important to get the recommended amount of daily nutrients.

Be sure to talk with your doctor about your individual nutritional needs. They can help determine the appropriate supplements for you.

You may find it beneficial to supplement your diet with a daily multivitamin or nutrition drinks. Popular nutrition drinks include shakes, such as Boost or Ensure, and formulas, such as ProNourish.

Check in with your doctor before adding a supplement or nutrition drink to your regimen. Certain ingredients may interfere with your medications or otherwise negatively impact your overall health.

Check out: What home remedies work for an overactive bladder? »

Although there isn’t a cure for OAB, most people can reduce or alleviate their symptoms through lifestyle changes, medication, or both.

Identifying your food triggers can go a long way in reducing your symptoms and improving your quality of life. You may also find it beneficial to monitor your fluid intake and restrict drinking liquids to certain times.

If you think your diet may be contributing to your symptoms, start a food diary. Be sure to jot down every meal and any symptoms you experience afterward.

If your symptoms appear long after you’ve eaten, write down what you were doing when the symptoms began. You may find that your symptoms have more to do with certain activities, such as exercising.

Keep reading: Tips for easing stress and anxiety from overactive bladder »