Halloween is coming. And as tempting as it may be to start raiding your kid’s candy bucket, if you have incontinence it’s important to take a pause. Yes, those snickers bars are so delicious, but what are they doing to your bladder?
What causes Incontinence anyway?
Simply put, incontinence is the involuntary loss of urine. There are many types of incontinence (you can read all about them here), and many different reasons why someone may develop bladder leaks. Bladder leaks may be the result of weakened pelvic floor muscles from childbirth, certain medications you’re taking, or even nerve damage that developed because of a different condition all together.
Why would sugar make a difference with incontinence?
It may sound crazy, but what you eat has a big effect on how your bladder behaves. While it’s different for everyone, there are many foods that can irritate the bladder. These include things like acidic foods (think citrus or tomatoes), caffeine, and yes, even sugar. Sugar can stimulate the bladder, causing sudden urges, which may lead to leaks. Even natural sugars, like honey, or artificial sweeteners can cause this irritation. (See this complete list of irritants from John Hopkins Medicine.)
And, let’s be honest. Besides just the effect on your bladder, you probably know that sugar is not great for you anyway. It can indirectly lead to number of other conditions, which consequently, may then lead to incontinence.
Too much sugar may lead to more frequent urinary tract infections, a condition that sometimes causes short-term incontinence. The bacteria that cause UTIs love sugar. Sugar makes the acid level of your urine higher, creating a better environment for this bacteria, and causing the infection to grow more quickly.
And, eating too much sugar can lead to higher blood sugar levels, which can cause an increase in the amount of urine that is produced by the body. This can then lead to that urgent, frequent need to go, and create the potential leaks.
Eating too much sugar can also lead to weight gain, which places extra strain on the pelvic floor muscles and can cause incontinence. It may also lead to diabetes, a condition where your body has a hard time processing the glucose in your body, causing potentially high blood sugar levels. These high levels of blood sugar can cause a condition called diabetic neuropathy, specifically, neurogenic bladder, which depending on the nerves affected, may cause a bladder to be under or overactive.
Should I avoid sugar completely if I have incontinence?
You don’t have to give up sugar all together, but you should definitely pay attention to the amount you consume. People are unique and what may be a big bladder irritant for one person isn’t always necessarily one for someone else. The best thing to do is to keep a bladder diary and track what you’re eating and drinking for a few days, as well as when you have leaks. If you start noticing certain patterns (like always needing a bathroom run after that 3PM sugar fixe), it may be a good idea to cut back. You can also try an elimination diet by eliminating sugar all together for a period of time, then slowly introducing it back into your system to see if it makes a difference.
Of course, when it comes to sugar, moderation is key for anyone – not just those experiencing leaks. Too much sugar is bad for anyone trying to stick to a healthy diet. If you can, try to stick to naturally occurring sugars found in fruits and limit foods with added sugar as much as possible.
Ways To Reduce Your Sugar Intake
Reducing sugar intake is a great way to improve your overall health and well-being. Here are some tips to help you reduce your sugar consumption:
- Read food labels: Pay close attention to the ingredients list and the amount of sugar per serving. Look for hidden sources of sugar, such as high-fructose corn syrup, dextrose, sucrose, and maltose.
- Choose whole foods: Opt for fresh fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains instead of processed foods. Whole foods are generally lower in added sugars and provide essential nutrients.
- Be mindful of beverages: Sugary drinks like soda, fruit juices, energy drinks, and flavored coffee can be a significant source of added sugars. Choose water, unsweetened tea, or infused water instead.
- Gradually reduce sugar in recipes: When baking or cooking at home, gradually decrease the amount of sugar in your recipes. You may find that you can enjoy the same taste with less sugar.
- Use natural sweeteners: Experiment with natural sweeteners like stevia, monk fruit, or raw honey as alternatives to refined sugar. However, remember to use them in moderation as they still contribute to your overall sugar intake.
- Be cautious with condiments and sauces: Many condiments and sauces, such as ketchup, BBQ sauce, and salad dressings, contain hidden sugars. Opt for homemade versions or choose low-sugar alternatives.
- Limit processed snacks: Processed snacks like cookies, cakes, and candy bars are usually high in added sugars. Replace them with healthier options like nuts, seeds, or homemade granola bars.
- Prepare meals at home: Cooking your meals at home gives you better control over the ingredients and allows you to reduce the amount of added sugar in your dishes.
- Satisfy cravings with alternatives: When you crave something sweet, reach for a piece of fruit, a handful of berries, or a small portion of dark chocolate instead of sugary snacks or desserts.
- Stay hydrated: Sometimes, cravings for sugary foods are a sign of dehydration. Ensure you’re drinking enough water throughout the day to help curb unnecessary sugar cravings.
By reducing sugar intake, you can not only manage your incontinence symptoms more effectively but also improve your overall health. It’s important to remember that everyone’s experience with incontinence is unique, and consulting with a healthcare professional or a registered dietitian can provide personalized guidance and support in managing both your dietary choices and your incontinence symptoms.
Remember, reducing your sugar intake is a gradual process, and it’s important to be patient with yourself. Small changes over time can lead to significant improvements in your health and help you develop healthier eating habits.