It’s holiday season, and for many, this means an influx of all types of delicious holiday food and drinks. Maintaining healthy eating habits is always at the top of mind for my family and me, but during the holidays, it’s sometimes easy to let our guard down. Sneaking an extra cookie from the batch made for my son’s class treats, having that extra glass of wine at the holiday Christmas party – it can all add up. And if you have symptoms of Overactive Bladder (OAB), as I do, these little extras can make them even worse and end up putting an unwanted damper on the holiday season.
At my last appointment, I asked my physician for some tips on how to best manage my diet during the holidays to ensure that I’m not running to the toilet every five minutes. She told me that the best rule of thumb is to try to stick to your normal eating plan as much as possible. “After all”, she said, “you probably already have a good idea of what types of foods irritate your bladder and increase your symptoms.” (Ahem, chocolate, I’m looking at you.) So, keep it simple and try to stay the course. However, she said, if you must indulge (it is the holidays after all), do so sparingly. And try to avoid the below foods as much as possible, since they are known bladder irritants.
That glass of wine or champagne may seem like a good idea, but alcohol is a diuretic, meaning it creates additional urine in the bladder. This can cause an increase in urge incontinence, and may also trigger symptoms of overactive bladder. If you really feel like you need a drink, try making a spritzer by mixing in some sparkling water. You’ll lessen the effects of the alcohol and will also stay hydrated.
Coffee and tea.
Like alcohol, coffee and tea act as diuretics, causing more frequent trips to the restroom. In addition, they contain caffeine, which can irritate the bladder and create stronger urges. Limit coffee and tea as much as possible. (I know, I know – I am cringing as I type this at 5 am!)
Soda and fizzy drinks.
These drinks usually have caffeine, as well as carbonation, which should both be avoided. In addition, many of them contain artificial sweeteners, which are believed to be a bladder irritant.
Unfortunately, chocolate contains caffeine, which may cause bladder irritation. (I had to use a little restraint to not shout at my doctor for this one.)
While sugary treats may be difficult to avoid around the holidays, you should do your best to limit things like cakes, cookies, and candy. My doctor explained that sugar –even in inconspicuous forms like honey – can irritate the bladder. If you must indulge, try to do so sparingly and try to avoid foods containing artificial sweeteners. This can be a bummer around the holidays, when delicious treats abound, but look at it this way – I just gave you an alibi to avoid your Aunt Martha’s fruitcake this year. You’re welcome.
Things like curries or many spicy ethnic foods can irritate the bladder and increase symptoms of OAB and incontinence. Try your best to avoid them spicy foods. Your bladder will thank you.
Increased acid in things like citrus fruits, tomatoes, and cranberries can worsen bladder control.
Many processed foods contain artificial flavors and preservatives that can irritate the bladder and worsen incontinence symptoms. So try your best to avoid too many packaged foods and stick to whole foods as much as possible (this will help your waistline too!)
I’ve been pretty good so far this season. Not only are the above tips helping to keep my bladder healthy and avoid accidents, they are also helping me keep my weight in check – something that I think we all struggle with during the holidays. My doctor said this is important too, since increased weight gain can also contribute to a decrease in bladder control.
Probably the best tip my doctor shared with me is to keep a food diary to track what I eat and to determine how it affects me. I’ve been at it for a couple of weeks now and it has really helped me identify my “problem areas”. Not only that, it also keeps me honest – no more stealing a handful of M&M’s from the candy dish as I walk past it. And while the temptation is sometimes hard to pass up, knowing that it’s helping me stay dry makes it worth it. And just think, come January, when everyone else is trying to work off those extra pounds they accumulated during the holidays, I’ll already be one step ahead of the game.
Do you have any diet tips for the holidays?