Incontinence (Overactive Bladder)
What are You Eating? Does it Matter?
By Karen Best Wright, B.S., M.A. Health & Wellness Educator
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Healthy Living & Wellness
||The types of food and drink you consume have an effect on
the bladder. Some foods and drinks increase the amount of
urine your bodies produce and some stimulate the bladder.
Learning which foods and beverages affect you and either
reducing or eliminating them when necessary can help in
managing incontinence aggravated by them. Always use common
sense, especially when it comes to fluid intake. The goal is
not to be able to go all day without going to the bathroom.
The goal is to not be wetting your pants every hour or so.
Caffeine stimulates the bladder and acts as a diuretic,
producing more urine. So if you are going to be away from a
bathroom for an extended period of time avoid the caffeine.
Caffeine is found in coffee, tea, some sodas such as
Coca-Cola, Pepsi, and Mountain Dew, as well as chocolate.
Avoiding caffeinated beverages in the evening will also
reduce the number of nighttime trips to the bathroom.
Too Much Liquid
Staying hydrated, especially in hot weather, is very
important. But if you have a problem with urinary urge
incontinence, also called overactive bladder, limit your
fluid intake to about 2 liters (about 2 quarts) daily.
Too Little Liquid
While reducing fluid may help with urinary urge
incontinence, too liquid fluid can actually irritate the
bladder, promoting infection. A urinary tract infection can
cause incontinence. Finding the right balance between too
little and too much fluid is necessary for over-all health.
Alcohol is dehydrating, whether it is beer, wine, or liquor.
It is dehydrating by increasing the amount of urine, causing
you to go to the bathroom more. Alcohol also interferes with
the brain signals to the bladder indicating when to release
urine. If you suffer from urinary urge incontinence, cut
down on or eliminate alcohol.
Acidic Foods and Beverages
Caffeinated beverages are more well known to cause more
frequent trips to the bathroom. Acidic beverages are less
obvious. Citrus fruits and juices, coffee, tea, tomatoes,
and cranberry juice are acidic and can irritate the bladder.
If your urinary incontinence problem is caused by an
overactive bladder, try cutting back on them. Cranberry
juice (real cranberry juice) may help with urinary tract
infections, but it can still irritate the bladder, so it
will not help with an overactive bladder. Reducing or
eliminating acidic foods and beverages may also help reduce
Carbonated drinks may irritate sensitive bladders. So if you
have an overactive bladder eliminate the carbonated
beverages. They are useless calories anyway.
If your diet consists of a lot of spicy foods, try cutting
back on the spices to see if this helps with your overactive
bladder. Spicy foods can irritate the bladder. Experiment to
determine how your body reacts to spicy foods. At least you
will know what not to eat when you go out to dine.
All sweeteners, artificial and natural, can irritate the
bladder. Limit sugar, honey, and artificial sweeteners if
you need to limit your bathroom trips. As with other foods,
people respond differently. Experiment to learn whether or
not sweetened foods affect you.
Balance Your Foods
Learning what foods affect your overactive bladder can help
you balance what you eat. You may not need to eliminate all
of your favorite foods, but you may not want to have coffee
and orange juice for breakfast, a soda with your candy bar,
and spicy Mexican food for dinner, all in the same day.
Medications and Bladder Problems
While medications aren’t foods or beverages, some make
urinary incontinence worse. Some blood pressure medications
relax the bladder and increase urine and some
anti-depressants make it harder for the bladder to contract.
Muscle relaxants relax the bladder and sleeping pills may
inhibit your awareness that the bladder is full. If you are
taking medications and also have a problem with overactive
bladder, talk to your doctor about possible side-effects.
You may even have a side-effect that is not common in other
Learn for Yourself
People are different and how different foods, beverages, and
even medications affect people will vary. Always pay
attention to what you are consuming and how your bladder is
behaving. You are the one who will best be able to tell what
makes your overactive bladder worse. Often doctors do not
even ask their patients with chronic problems, “What are you
eating?” You may have to figure this out on your own and
then discuss it with your doctor if you need to. When you do
figure out what makes your problem worse and your doctor
says, “I’ve never heard of that,” don’t get discouraged.
Unfortunately doctors don’t know everything.
If an overactive bladder is a problem for you, investigate.
Find out what is contributing to your problem, whether it is
the foods and beverages you consume, the medications you are
on, or the emotional stress you are experiencing. You are
ultimately responsible for and in control of your own
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