When life gives you lemons, make lemonade. But if you get bladder leaks, then you may not want to drink that lemonade.
What we eat has a direct impact on how our bladders work. When we eat, food passes through our digestive and urinary system. These systems process what we put into our bodies by eliminating the bad stuff and keeping the good. (Isn’t the human body amazing?). So, if you eat something that’s a bladder irritant, it can give you an urge, even if your bladder isn’t full. Spicy in, spicy out as they say…
If you have an overactive bladder or suffer from incontinence, understanding your diet can help you avoid the foods that irritate your bladder and stick to foods that soothe it. Don’t worry, you won’t starve. While there are a number of foods (like lemons) that you’ll want to stay away from, there are also a ton that can actually help minimize the spritz and sprinkles. Plus, no one is bothered by everything on the list. The trick is to find your one or two trigger foods.
Start With A Bladder Diary
Before you go crazy making changes to your diet, you’ll want to get a sense of what you eat and drink and how it affects your leaks. A bladder diary can help you figure out foods that may be triggering your leaks. Bladder irritants are a little bit different for everyone so put on your Sherlock Holmes hat and get ready to use your best detective skills.
Triggering foods and drinks typically impact your urinary system 2-3 hours after you eat or drink it. So, be sure to write down what you eat and drink throughout the day and when you eat meals. That way your bladder diary can help you figure out if it was the lemonade at 11am or the spicy chicken wings at 4pm that was the problem. You can keep things simple by using a template to get started but you’ll want to keep your diary for 3-5 days to get an accurate read on your habits.
Avoid Foods That Can Be Bladder Irritants
When it comes to foods that can irritate your bladder, the list is pretty long. But no need to panic that you’ll have to stop eating all your favorite foods. No one is irritated by all of these things. Doctors typically recommend using the list below as a guide to identify common trigger-foods, and then using your bladder diary to determine which are problematic for you. There are probably only a handful.
Here are some foods that can be bladder irritants:
- Caffeinated beverages like coffee, tea, soda and energy drinks.
- Acidic foods like citrus, berries (especially strawberries), cantaloupes, pineapple, apples, peppers, raw onion and tomatoes.
- Carbonated drinks like soda, kombucha, beer and seltzer.
- Chocolate. (We’re so sorry.)
- Salty foods that dehydrate you like pre-prepared meals, take-out and frozen meals.
- Alcohol of any kind.
- Spicy foods.
- Sugary foods like honey, agave, or anything with processed or artificial sugar.
- Processed foods like condiments, which include artificial flavoring and sweeteners or MSG.
- Diuretics like cranberry juice, which may be used to treat UTIs but are definitely bad for bladder leaks.
- Meats or fish that have been aged, canned, cured, processed, or smoked. These contain nitrates which can trigger leaks.
- Arylalkylamines which is a type of protein that’s found in avocados, bananas, cheeses, yogurt and other similar dairy products, pickled foods and dried fruits.
Eat Foods That Keep Your Bladder Happy
While the list of foods that can irritate your bladder is somewhat extensive, there are also a ton of foods that can help you avoid irritation or even soothe your bladder.
If leaks rule your life, try adding these foods to your diet:
- High-fiber foods like lentils, beans, barley, bran, oats, quinoa, rice, and almonds.
- Fresh meats and proteins like fish and chicken. Go easy on the condiments and seasoning.
- Non-acidic fruits like watermelon, coconut, blueberries, honeydew melon, pears, raisins, bananas (only if arylalkylamine proteins don’t bother your bladder), and cucumber.
- Vegetables rich in fiber like green peas, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, celery, mushrooms, peas, radishes, squash, and zucchini.
- Non-caffeinated teas like mint and camomile.
- Basic liquids like water.
- Fresh herbs like sage or marjoram are good alternatives to packaged seasoning or condiments. These can be found in the produce section of your supermarket.
Balance Your Water Intake
It’s a pretty common myth that reducing water can help with leaks, and we hear from people all the time that they’ve cut back on water to try to help. But unfortunately it doesn’t usually work. Even though the thought of water might cause you some anxiety, it’s still really important to stay hydrated. Dehydration concentrates your urine which makes it more acidic and irritating. If you leak, the key to hydration is to drink slowly and steadily throughout the day. Keep a water bottle on you at all times. Take sips. No chugging. Many women who get strong urges also find that drinking earlier in the day can reduce urges at night. So, if you wake up frequently in the middle of the night to pee, try limiting water before bedtime.
Maintaining a solid exercise routine is one way you can reduce the number of leaks you have. Weight gain and obesity are top causes of leakage because they put pressure on the bladder. Exercising may help you maintain a healthy weight and keep a steady metabolism, which can reduce your risk of constipation, another cause of urinary leaks. That said, exercise can be a bit of a double edged sword because sometimes leaks can be triggered by high impact activities like running. So, proceed with caution.
How To Avoid Bladder Irritants.
Now that you know which foods you’ll want to stay away from, it’s time to build a solid routine that will help you avoid them. Ready to dive in? Here are some tips on how to strategically avoid foods that give you leaks and stick to the ones that keep your bladder happy.
Cook your own meals
Preparing the meals you eat will help you know exactly what goes in them. Avoiding pre-prepared foods (like frozen meals or take-out) will help you stay away from foods with preservatives or ingredients that trigger leaks.
Planning meals in advance will help you save money in the long run and also avoid triggering ingredients. Two for the price of one! So, before you go shopping, make a grocery list and stick to it. Check to make sure that the items you are purchasing aren’t bladder irritants. Look for non-irritating alternatives if you’re planning to cook something that requires ingredients that might give you trouble.
Stick to the peripheral areas of your supermarket rather than middle aisles
Middle aisles often contain the most highly processed foods with the greatest amount of leak-triggering preservatives, sugar, and salt. Fresh produce, meats, and dairy are typically located on the periphery of the store.
Read food labels
They’ll tell you which ingredients are used in packaged goods so you can make informed choices about your food and avoid triggers.
Save dining out for special occasions
When you eat out, you don’t always know what ingredients are in the food you order. Certain ingredients like MSG, sodium, spices, and condiments containing artificial ingredients are often used in restaurants. These can trigger leaks and urges.
Putting Everything Together
Changing your diet can be a little tough at first, but once you see the benefits of how it positively impacts your health, we’re confident you’ll want to keep it up. If you have any questions about how to maintain a diet that will keep your bladder happy, your doctor can be a great resource.
What foods bother your bladder the most? Share your stories with us in the comments. And, if you’re ready to tell your bladder who’s boss, get pads and underwear for leaky laughs or dribble dilemmas delivered right to your door from Lily Bird.