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Making some simple lifestyle changes‚ such as swapping potentially troublesome foods for more healthful items, can help you alleviate overactive bladder symptoms.  While certain foods and drinks can aggravate the bladder or cause it to spasm, others can work toward preventing and even relieving symptoms of overactive bladder (OAB).

Foods to add to your diet for a healthy bladder
Women should be getting about 21-26 grams of fiber daily, depending on how much they eat (figure 14 grams for each 1,000 calories consumed a day).  We know that consuming the right amount of fiber can stave off constipation and constipation is not only uncomfortable, but it can also increase the likelihood of both OAB and incontinence.  This is because the bladder and colon are in close proximity and being constipated puts constant pressure on the bladder.

Severe constipation (having less than one bowel movement a week) can even damage the neurological function of the pelvic floor muscles, making it harder to get bladder symptoms under control.  Studies have shown that alleviating constipation may improve urgency and frequency.

To get the most out of your fiber intake, combine both soluble fiber, which absorbs water and slows digestion, and insoluble fiber, which helps maintain regularity.  Good sources of fiber include whole-grain bread and cereals, barley, brown rice, oatmeal, beans, peas, apples, cabbage and carrots.  For snacking, try fresh or dried fruit, raw veggies, popcorn, whole-grain crackers or a handful of nuts.

Foods to subtract from your diet to reduce bladder irritation
If you suspect certain foods might be setting off bladder symptoms, try eliminating one item per week and see if it helps.

  • Caffeine is a diuretic, which increases the amount of urine you make.  Caffeine also stimulates bladder muscles, increasing feelings of urgency.  Studies show that reducing caffeine intake to less than 100 milligrams a day (a cup of coffee can contain up to 180) can help reduce symptoms.  In addition to coffee and cola, caffeine is present in chocolate, some energy bars, weight loss aids (look for “guarana,” “yerba mate,” “kola nut” or “green tea extract” on the label) and even certain prescription and over-the-counter medications.
  • Alcohol is a diuretic and a stimulant, producing symptoms of urgency.
  • Artificial sweeteners have been shown to be bladder irritants and are often found in diet sodas and other diet foods.
  • Fruits and juices can irritate the bladder.  Oranges, grapefruit, lemons, tomatoes, pineapple and sour grapes are among the fruits that bother some.
  • Carbonated beverages and spicy food items appear to make overactive bladder worse for some women.

Foods and drinks to substitute for less bladder irritation
Instead of:
coffee; drink herbal tea
seltzer; spring water
milk or dark chocolate; eat carob
citrus fruits; blueberries, pears
artificial sweeteners; regular sugar or natural substitutes like stevia

How water helps your bladder
Drinking a lot of water can increase the frequency and urgency of urination but not consuming enough may cause constipation and make your urine more concentrated; both of which boost your chances of bladder irritation.  That, in turn, can heighten your risk of incontinence.

So, what’s a person to do?  The Institute of Medicine reports that most healthy people can let thirst be their guide in determining how much to drink.  The notion that everyone needs to drink eight 8 oz glasses of water a day is a myth.  A better approach would be to spread your water intake throughout the day, and if you get up more than twice a night to urinate, limit what you drink after dinner too.


For an appointment or consultation with Dr. Gary Bellman,
please contact the office or call 818-912-1899