If you’re prone to overactive bladder — also known as urge incontinence, or feeling a sudden and uncontrollable need to use the bathroom — lifestyle changes are often a key part of your treatment. This may include avoiding or minimizing certain foods that can be irritating to your bladder. Yes: Just as certain foods can give you a stomachache or a headache, others can bother your bladder.
While you may not need to eliminate these foods from your diet completely, it may be good to pay attention to the effects of certain foods on your urinary symptoms. If you find that certain foods or beverages increase your bladder pain, urinary leakage, or frequency of restroom use (going more than once every two hours), consider reducing your intake of bladder irritants.
Foods That May Irritate Your Bladder
Some foods have diuretic properties, which make you urinate more (not ideal when your bladder is already cranky). Others are acidic, which can irritate the bladder lining and cause the urge to urinate. Note: Most people are not sensitive to all of these. The key is to identify which ones make your symptoms worse.
Coffee (regular or decaf)
Caffeinated teas (e.g., green tea, black tea)
Citrus fruits and juices (e.g., oranges, grapefruits) or high doses of vitamin C supplements
Carbonated drinks (e.g., seltzer, soda)
Artificial sweeteners (e.g., Splenda, Equal, Sweet 'N Low, or anything that includes aspartame, acesulfame potassium, sucralose, or saccharin on a food label)
Foods with artificial coloring
Dairy products (e.g., milk, cheese, cottage cheese, yogurt)
Try These Instead
If you suspect any of the above items are causing problems, try these bladder-friendlier swaps:
Low-acid fruits (e.g., pears, watermelon, papaya, peaches)
Low-acid or low-caffeine coffee
Herbal teas (e.g., jasmine, mint, chamomile)
Lots of water! As in, half your body weight in ounces of water, if possible. Many people with bladder problems deliberately cut down their water intake to reduce their need to use the bathroom, but this approach can backfire. Dehydration makes your urine more concentrated, which can further irritate your bladder and lead to urgency.
For more information, check out our resource Incontinence and Water: How Much Should You Drink?
There’s one other category of sneaky bladder irritants: certain medications. Some commonly prescribed medications — high blood pressure and heart medications, muscle relaxants, antihistamines, sedatives, and antidepressants — can contribute to bladder symptoms by affecting urine output or how your bladder contracts. Talk to your doctor if you have any questions about your medications.
Managing Symptoms with Pelvic Floor Exercises
If you’re struggling with urinary issues, pelvic floor exercises can make a big difference. Pelvic floor exercises are not just Kegels. Rather, they include a variety of moves that help strengthen and relax the muscles of your pelvic floor, which support your pelvic organs (bladder, bowels, etc.). Be sure to reach out to your Hinge Health physical therapist or coach if you’re interested in adding pelvic floor exercises to your current routine.
Certain foods and beverages may cause bladder irritation. Identifying and avoiding (or reducing) triggering foods for you can help improve your bladder symptoms.
Try to stay well hydrated. Restricting water can actually make your bladder symptoms worse.
If you feel that certain medications are worsening your bladder symptoms, contact your doctor.
Bladder & Irritating Foods | Cleveland Clinic. (2017). Cleveland Clinic. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/14244-bladder-irritating-foods