Overactive bladder (OAB) is a common condition that affects millions of Americans. This condition is typically characterized by urinary frequency, nocturia (getting up multiple times per night to urinate), and urgency, sometimes with involuntary leakage of urine.
While there are many causes for OAB, the symptoms associated with OAB essentially occur when your brain tells you it is time to urinate before your bladder is full. The bladder wall is composed of muscle, and if this muscle responds to the signal from the brain by contracting too early, involuntary urinary leakage, or urinary incontinence, may occur.
Many byproducts of what you eat and drink are directly excreted into the urinary tract. If your diet consists of foods or drinks that are known bladder irritants, your OAB symptoms may become worse. So take precaution and avoid these foods and beverages that may irritate the bladder:
1. Coffee and tea
The caffeine in coffee and tea beverages can increase bladder activity and exacerbate OAB symptoms. One might find themselves with a higher urgency to urinate, more frequent urination, and increased incontinence after a caffeinated beverage. This is because caffeine is a stimulant and diuretic (meaning the bladder becomes more active and more urine is produced).
Reducing or eliminating caffeine intake or switching to decaffeinated varieties can decrease symptoms; however, keep in mind that even decaf coffee and tea still contain small amounts of caffeine if you are particularly sensitive.
Similar to the reasoning behind coffee and tea, a serving of chocolate also contains some caffeine — about 1/4 of the amount in a cup of coffee.
If you’re a chocolate connoisseur, try switching to white chocolate, which usually doesn’t have caffeine, or dark chocolate, which contains more cocoa content and fewer sugars.
Alcoholic beverages are known to cause frequent bathroom breaks, but the science behind “why” isn’t as well known. The reasoning is that alcohol stimulates your bladder while also disrupting the signals to your brain that make you aware of bladder overflow, making it difficult to control. Alcohol also dehydrates your body, which can irritate your bladder and exacerbate OAB so it’s best to stay away from this culprit.
4. Carbonated beverages
The fizz in carbonated beverages can be potentially aggravating to OAB symptoms. Beverages like soft drinks, soda water, and energy drinks should be consumed in low doses, if at all when you are experiencing OAB symptoms.
5. Citrus fruits
Fruits high in acidities such as pineapples and oranges can irritate your stomach. You should still include fruit as part of your healthy diet, but consider less acidic kinds such as apples or bananas over oranges, limes, and lemons.
6. Cranberry juice
Because it’s often used to help prevent urinary tract infections, many people wrongly assume that cranberry juice can also help with an overactive bladder.
Unfortunately, the opposite is true. When it comes to overactive bladder and incontinence, cranberry juice can actually make symptoms worse, due to its acidic pH.
7. Tomato products
Tomatoes are acidic, causing them to irritate the bladder. The effect varies by individual, but if you’re vulnerable, try cutting out all tomato forms including sauces, paste, juice, spaghetti sauce, taco sauce, and salsa.
8. Spicy foods
The hottest of wings will make your eyes water and burn your lips – so it is not a surprise that these will have a similar effect on your bladder. This food irritates the lining of your bladder, triggering symptoms and making it harder to control.
9. Artificial sweeteners
Whether you choose Aspartame (NutraSweet or Equal), Sucralose (Splenda), Saccharin (Sweet ‘N Low), or even plain Sucrose; they all can be irritants to your bladder, in particular to your OAB symptoms.
10. Processed foods
In addition to the sugar named above, processed food contains a plethora of artificial ingredients, such as flavoring and preservatives. Because they are not natural, they can be a nuisance to your bladder and worsen OAB symptoms.
As we have said, every person is different and will have to test their sensitivity to the foods on this list. In general, avoiding these common culprits will help your bladder function more regularly and healthily. For folks with moderate to severe OAB symptoms, simple dietary changes may not be enough. The physicians of Urology Specialists of the Carolinas, with eight locations throughout the Charlotte and surrounding areas, are here to help.
For more helpful information contact us today!
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