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Food and Drink to Help an Overactive Bladder

An over active bladder can be problematic but did you realise how much difference your diet can make?


If you have an overactive bladder (OAB) with urge incontinence, food and drink can make a big difference to your symptoms.

So sometimes what you drink or eat can aggravate symptoms and sometimes how much you eat or drink can make them worse, too.

If you are struggling, try these tips to help you calm your urge incontinence symptoms.

What to drink and when

The best drink is plain water as the added ingredients in soft drinks and energy drinks, and caffeine in coffee, may aggravate an overactive bladder.

Staying hydrated is important to overall health but choosing how much and when to drink is essential to help your bladder. THere are some tips for managing your fluid intake:

  • Spread out fluid intake throughout the day, sipping water between meals.
  • Unless exercising, don’t carry a large water bottle with you.
  • Fill your cup or glass half-way or use a smaller cup.
  • Sip, don’t gulp.

If you’re drinking enough water, your urine should be light yellow or almost colourless and remember that you also get fluids in other foods, such as fruit, vegetables, and soups.

See your doctor if you have pain or burning with urination, or if your urine is cloudy, dark, or smells strong.

Drinks that may increase the urge to go

One of the biggest culprits here is caffeine as it can make you urinate more. Studies show that reducing caffeine intake to below 100 milligrams per day — the amount in one cup of coffee — may help reduce urge incontinence symptoms.

These are what you need to cut down, or cut out:

  • Caffeinated drinks such as coffee, colas, energy drinks, and tea
  • Acidic fruit juices, especially orange, grapefruit, and tomato
  • Alcoholic drinks
  • Carbonated drinks
  • Artificial sweeteners, such as aspartame and saccharin, which may irritate the bladder

If you can’t imagine starting your day without a morning cup of coffee, try to lower the amount of caffeine you take in. Make a cup that’s half decaf and half normal. You may want to wean yourself gradually to avoid caffeine withdrawal headaches.

For fruit juice, try switching to something with less acid, such as apple or pear juice, and dilute it with water.

Foods to avoid

Some people find that certain food or drinks seem to make symptoms worse.

If you feel that any of these potential problem foods make your urge incontinence symptoms worse, see if eliminating or cutting them back helps:

Acidic foods. Citrus fruit (lemons, limes, oranges, and grapefruit), tomatoes, and tomato products (like tomato sauce) are among the chief reported offenders.

Solution: Eat more fruit that are less acidic, such as pears or blueberries. They’re also high in disease-fighting antioxidants. If you like lemon in your water, try adding a twist or thin slice. You’ll get the hint of the fresh fruit flavor without the acid.

Highly spiced foods. Some people say chillies or wasabi wreaks havoc on their bladder.

Solution: Cut back on the spices little by little and see if your symptoms get better.

Artificial sweeteners. Aspartame, saccharin, and other artificial sweeteners aren’t just in drinks — they are also added to foods.

Solution: Read the labels of pre-packaged foods and eat those with artificial sweeteners in moderation.

Chocolate. Unfortunately this is high in caffeine so keep to a moderate – ie small – amount.

Solution: Skip the giant size chocolate bar and for a small, individual one instead.

Salty foods. Potato crisps, salted nuts, and other salty foods can cause the body to retain water, which eventually goes to the bladder. They also make you thirstier, so you’re likely to drink more liquids.

Solution: Switch to low- or no-salt snacks.

What can help

If you feel that something in your diet is hampering your attempts to manage your urge incontinence, but you don’t know what it is, try keeping a bladder diary. Keep a daily record of what and when you eat and drink, and your urination patterns.

Another option is trying an elimination diet. Remove one item — tomatoes, for example — from your meals for a week. If your symptoms get better, make a note of it. Gradually add back small amounts of that food until you notice your symptoms come back. You may be able to enjoy the food in modest amounts while avoiding irritating side effects.

Helpful information: 

As well addressing your diet, don’t forget there are other helpful things that can be done with exercise and certainly hormone balance also plays a part here as well.