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Overactive Bladder Diet: See What You Should Eat and Avoid

Dr Julia Thomson, Consultant Pediatrician All content within this page has been reviewed and endorsed by Dr Julia Thomson, Consultant Paediatrician

Living with an overactive bladder is no picnic. You feel the urge to urinate so often during the day that it’s hard to concentrate on anything else.

An overactive bladder can be identified by two factors: contractions even when your bladder is empty, or a sudden contraction without the usual warning that gives you time to get to a toilet.

Either way, it is inconvenient and, at times, embarrassing.

You can train yourself to control this problem by doing Kegel pelvic floor exercises or timing your bathroom trips until your body adapts to a schedule. Some medicines may help too, but let’s find out first if you can treat it with foods that help overactive bladder.

Please be aware that the impact that diet can have on bladder function is not fully understood. Isolating food and drink is a process which each woman has to work out for herself. There is no guarantee that avoiding any of the food stuffs listed below will be beneficial for you, even if it helped someone you know.

How diet can affect your overactive bladder

Certain foods can irritate your bladder and urinary tract, causing it to act up. Since this is so specific to each individual, you can best track your reactions by keeping a diary of foods that help overactive bladder.

A common cause for overactive bladder is a sensitivity or intolerance to gluten, a component in foods made from wheat, rye and barley. Test it by avoiding these foods and seeing if it makes a difference:

  • cereals and oats

  • bread and breaded dishes

  • noodles and soups

  • alcohol

Of course, what you drink also impacts your bladder function. While drinking water has many benefits, filling your overactive bladder with more fluid means more urination.

Speak to your doctor about your how much you drink. You may need to track how much fluid goes into your body, via food or drink, to set the right limit for you personally. Drinking too little will concentrate your urine and heighten bowel irritation.

Here are some tips to help you know when and what to drink:

  • Spread out your sips throughout the day, including between meals.

  • Do not tempt yourself by carrying a large water bottle.

  • Fill your glass half-way or use a smaller cup.

  • Sip your drinks to control your intake.

  • Check the colour of your urine to see if it is the ideal shade of light yellow, or almost colourless.

  • Factor in fluids from fruit, vegetables and soups.

Carbonated drinks may worsen symptoms, so avoid them until you have a better idea of the reactions your body has to other foods. You may wish to curtail your pre-bedtime beverages as well, so you can make fewer trips to the toilet during the night.

Foods that help overactive bladder

In order to quell irritation, you need to eat a mix of non-acidic foods that are rich in vitamins and protein. Fibre-rich foods will also help, since they prevent constipation, relieving your bladder of extra pressure.

To pinpoint what eases your symptoms, try these foods:

  • Best fruits: apples, bananas, blackberries, coconut, grapes, strawberries and watermelon

  • Best vegetables: asparagus, broccoli, carrots, celery, cucumbers, kale, lettuce and peppers

  • Best fibre-rich foods: almonds, artichoke, barley, beans, bran, lentils, oats and raspberries

  • Best proteins: chicken, eggs, fish and tofu

To keep your dishes from tasting the same, experiment with different seasonings, while avoiding potential irritants.

Foods to avoid with overactive bladder

The list of ‘naughty foods’ is considerably longer at first, until you figure out which are the ones working against you. Try cutting them all out, before gradually adding the ones you miss the most back in, in a series of trials. Some of them may be fine to eat occasionally, or as part of a larger dish.

These foods are to be avoided with overactive bladder, as they contain common irritants that can worsen your symptoms:

  • foods made with artificial flavourings and preservatives

  • food and drinks with sugar or sugar substitutes

  • honey

  • raw onion

  • spicy or salty food

  • citrus fruit (dilute orange juice with water, or replace it with apple or pear juice)

  • tomatoes and tomato-based products, including ketchup, tomato sauce and chilli

  • chocolate (because of the caffeine, try a smaller dose)

  • carbonated drinks, even sparkling water

  • caffeinated drinks, such as coffee and tea (limit to one per day)

  • alcohol

  • sports drinks and energy drinks

These foods may cause bladder muscle spasms that increase the urge and frequency of urination. Caffeine, soft drinks and alcohol are also particularly problematic, since they increase the amount of urine your bladder needs to process.

If you smoke, you are inhaling chemicals that aggravate your overactive bladder and could lead to bladder cancer. Smoke-induced coughing also puts extra stress on this vital organ.

Disclaimer: This information aims to answer some of your questions or concerns. If you are worried about your health, talk to your family doctor or your gynecologist for professional medical advice.

Try wearing products designed for bladder leaks such as Always Discreet liners, pads, and underwear to protect against incontinence. They absorb liquids and odours within seconds, to help you stay comfortable. Plus, they come in different sizes and absorbencies to meet a wide range of protection needs.