5 Diet Tips to Help Control an Overactive Bladder

Jun 25, 2018 at 8:20 a.m. ET
Image: JGI/Jamie Grill/Getty Images
In a perfect world, we'd have miracle foods to cure urinary incontinence. But, unfortunately, it's just not the case. In fact, it's quite the opposite: Certain foods and beverages can irritate your bladder and contribute to bladder leakage, however.

According to the National Association for Continence (NAFC), some foods and drinks — including citrus, chocolate, coffee and wine — can worsen urinary incontinence. Though the effects of these foods and beverages on the bladder are not well understood, they should be eliminated from the diet to see if avoiding them improves your urine control.

Here are five diet tips that can help you control an overactive bladder.

More: 3 Tips for Managing an Irritable Bladder

1. Drink up

Some women may feel the need to restrict the amount of liquid they drink in hopes of reducing the need to urinate. Even though drinking less does reduce urine volume, it actually causes the urine in your bladder to be more concentrated and more likely to irritate the bladder's surface (according to Health magazine) — and can result in needing to urinate even more.

More concerning, restricting fluids can also cause a bladder infection because the highly concentrated urine encourages bacterial growth. To help reduce the urge to urinate while you sleep, drink the majority of your liquids during the daytime instead of evening.

2. Limit beer, wine & other alcoholic drinks

Alcohol has a twofold effect on bladder control. It contributes to dehydration and increased urination, and it interferes with the brain's signals to the bladder about when to release urine. If you regularly drink beer, wine or other spirits, consider eliminating them from your diet to see if it helps control your bladder.

 3. Cut back on coffee, tea & cola

Caffeine irritates the bladder and acts as a diuretic, increasing the need to urinate. According to the NAFC, even decaffeinated coffee can contribute to weak bladder control, so opt for other beverages in place of your caffeinated drinks. The NAFC suggests, "Grape juice, cranberry juice, cherry juice and apple juice are thirst-quenchers that usually are not irritating to a normal bladder."

More: What's Your ‘Peehavior’? It's Time We Discuss Bladder Health Openly

4. Skip the sweeteners

Sugar, honey, corn syrup and artificial sweeteners can cause bladder irritation and the urge to urinate. These sweeteners offer few health benefits, so choose naturally sweet foods, such as bananas, apples and other non-acidic fruits. (Avoid tomatoes and citrus fruits because their acidity can irritate the bladder.) This will improve your bladder control by reducing the sweeteners in your diet; plus, it will increase your fiber intake and thus help prevent constipation, which can also contribute to bladder leaks.

5. Go light on the spices

Highly spiced foods can upset an overactive bladder. Avoid making dishes with peppers, such as salsa and chili, and always read labels to see if jalapeños or another chiles are in the ingredients list. When flavoring your food, opt for fresh or dried herbs, and always start with fresh, quality ingredients. These naturally have more flavor.

A version of this article was originally published in January 2013.

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