Over 33 million Americans live with overactive bladder, a condition where the hallmark symptoms are an urgent and frequent need to empty your bladder – even if you’ve just done so.
And, many people with overactive bladder also experience bladder leaks, or incontinence, when they’re not able to make it to a bathroom in time.
Overactive bladder is more common in older adults, but it can occur in anyone – men, women, young or old. People with overactive bladder may find the condition frustrating, and it may even lead to a reduced quality of life, since many are afraid of having an accident in public if a bathroom cannot be located in time. Many people with OAB have reported distancing themselves from family and friends, and avoid doing things they once loved.
Luckily, there are a number of treatment options for people with OAB, but a key to relieving overactive bladder symptoms may just be hiding in your kitchen. Your diet actually plays a huge role in your bladder health. Eating the right foods can help calm an overactive bladder, and eating the wrong foods may just make your symptoms worse.
HOW DIET AFFECTS OAB
When our bodies create urine, it’s made up of the liquid waste that the kidneys filter from our blood. Traces of the foods and drinks we consume can therefore end up in our urine, which is then stored in the bladder. Some foods that you eat may actually irritate your bladder, causing bladder spasms, that gotta go now feeling, and even bladder leaks.
People who have a sensitivity to gluten may also experience overactive bladder symptoms, as the bladder can be irritated by gluten. Eliminating foods with wheat, rye and barley may help to alleviate symptoms of OAB.
THE OAB DIET
So, what can and can’t you eat if you have OAB? While there are certain foods that are commonly known irritants, it’s important to keep in mind that everyone’s different, and what one person may find irritating may have absolutely no effect on another. It’s sometimes difficult to pinpoint which foods are triggers to you personally if you’re not keeping a close eye on what you eat. A bladder diary can help with this. It will help you track what you eat and drink, and when you have bladder leaks or OAB symptoms. Over time, you may be able to see a pattern and pick out the foods or drinks that frequently lead to those extra trips to the bathroom. (Download a free bladder diary from NAFC here.)
Below are some general guidelines on common foods that can irritate the bladder, and ones that you may want to start to incorporate. Keep track of your consumption in your diary and see which foods seem to calm your bladder, and which ones aggravate your symptoms.
FOODS TO AVOID IF YOU HAVE OAB
- Alcoholic beverages (liquor, beer, wine)
- Brewer’s Yeast
- Carbonated beverages (soda, seltzer water)
- Sports Drinks
- Milk/milk products
- Sugar & artificial sweeteners
- Coffee (even decaffeinated)
- Tea – black or green, regular or decaffeinated
- Medicines with caffeine
- Tomatoes & Tomato-based products
- Citrus juice & fruits
- Corn Syrup
- Highly spiced foods/chilies
- Raw onion
- Sour cream
- Soy sauce
- Vitamins buffered with aspartame
FOODS TO INCORPORATE IF YOU HAVE OAB
- Lean Proteins – fish, chicken breast, turkey, low fat beef and pork are good options. Eggs are also a good source of protein if you’re trying to avoid meat.
- Fiber Rich Foods – these foods are filling and can help prevent constipation, which can put extra pressure on your bladder. Almonds, oats, pears, raspberries lentils and beans are all good options when you want to add more fiber into your diet.
- Fruits – while some fruits, especially citrus, can irritate the bladder, it’s still important to incorporate them into your diet. Bananas, apples, grapes, coconut and watermelon are good options for those with overactive bladder.
- Vegetables – Leafy greens, like kale, lettuce, cucumber, squash, potatoes, broccoli, carrots, celery and bell peppers.
- Whole grains, like oats, barley, farro, and quinoa (also a great protein).
You may wish to eliminate all the foods on the “do not eat” list, then slowly reintroduce them back into your diet one by one to determine which ones your bladder finds irritating.
DRINKS AND OAB
What you drink matters too, and while it’s important to always stay hydrated, drinking too much, especially of carbonated or caffeinated beverages, may have you running to the bathroom more often than you’d like.
Drinking too little is a problem too, as it can concentrate your urine, making it more irritating to the lining of your bladder. This can also cause constipation, which puts increased pressure on the bladder, further exacerbating your OAB symptoms.
Always aim for the recommended daily amount of water intake, and drink enough so that you don’t feel thirsty.
WILL THE TYPE OF TREATMENT YOU’RE ON AFFECT YOUR DIET?
There are many medications that are available to treat overactive bladder. Most of these medications work by relaxing the bladder muscles to prevent bladder spasms. They can, however, have side effects, and those may in turn affect what you eat and drink.
A common side effect of OAB medications is dry mouth. This may cause you to drink more water than normal, which may then increase your oab symptoms. Keep an eye on how much water you’re consuming, and try to take small sips throughout the day to avoid overloading your bladder.
Constipation is another potential side effect of OAB. Constipation places increased pressure on your bladder – a problem in general, but especially when you have overactive bladder. Patients who experience constipation can help relieve this symptom by eating fiber rich foods, such as the ones listed above.
Talk to your doctor about any potential side effects of OAB medications you may be taking or considering.
OAB can be a frustrating condition, and one that can be tricky to treat. Talk to your doctor about the diet changes you can make to improve your symptoms, and incorporate some of the tips above. With a few small tweaks to what you eat, you may soon be on to drier days.