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9 Foods that May Make Overactive Bladder Worse

Who knew that acidic foods could affect incontinence?

If you have overactive bladder, you probably already spend time thinking about how often you fill up your thermos or mug. Totally understandable. (Here’s the perfect amount of water to drink with OAB, by the way.)

But have you thought about what’s on your dinner plate? It may not be obvious, but the foods you eat may send you to the bathroom even more frequently. Certain trigger foods act as diuretics or bladder irritants, or they may cause constipation. Either way, they lead to the same result: more trips to the bathroom because of overactive bladder symptoms.

Try cutting out these trigger foods for 10 to 14 days to see if your overactive bladder symptoms improve. Then, add them back in one at a time and see if OAB symptoms return. If so, you will have identified the trigger.

  • Coffee and tea: Caffeine is a diuretic, meaning it makes you need to go to the bathroom more (ugh). It’s also a bladder irritant, which also gives you the urge to go. Gotta have some joe? Try keeping your caffeine intake to fewer than 100 milligrams a day, says the National Association for Continence. That’s one cup (8 ounces) of regular coffee, or two cups (16 ounces) of black tea.

  • Chocolate: Everyone’s favorite sweet is another source of caffeine, although it has way less than coffee (thank goodness).

  • Alcohol: Beers, wines, and liquors are well-known diuretics.

  • Carbonated beverages: Soda, even plain seltzer, can irritate the bladder.

  • Spicy foods: Yeah, a couple extra drops of hot sauce can really elevate a taco, but it may also irritate the bladder lining.

  • Citrus: Oranges and grapefruits are super acidic (obviously), and all that acidity can bother the bladder. Consider these other non-citrus sources of vitamin C.

  • Cranberry juice: This drink might be famous for helping to prevent urinary tract infections, but when it comes to incontinence, it’s a different story. Like citrus, cranberries are acidic and may irritate the bladder.

  • Tomatoes: Wanna guess? Yep, these veggies (err, fruits, actually) are acidic as well.

  • Dairy: Milk, yogurt, ice cream, and cheese may make overactive bladder symptoms worse in some people.

  • Artificial sweeteners: Preliminary research suggests they may negatively affect bladder function. Frequency and urgency of urination increased after drinking diet beverages, reported the National Association for Continence, compared to drinks with regular or no sugar. (Here are more reasons to avoid artificial sweeteners.)

Giving up any or all of these trigger foods won’t cure your overactive bladder, but it may reduce your symptoms. Here are more lifestyle changes for overactive bladder that may bring relief.

Dr. Preeti Parikh

This video features Dr. Preeti Parikh. Preeti Parikh, MD, HealthiNation's chief medical editor, is a board-certified pediatrician with special interests in preventive medicine, advocacy, and patient education.

Duration: 2:29. Last Updated On: Nov. 8, 2017, 6:14 p.m.
Reviewed by: Dr. Preeti Parikh, . Review date: Aug. 3, 2017
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