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CAN YOUR DIET AFFECT YOUR BLADDER OR BOWEL CONTROL?
There is no “diet” to cure incontinence. However, the foods you eat can have a profound effect on your bladder or bowel leaks. There are symptoms you may be able to manage just by altering your diet. You may want to complete a bladder-diary and monitor your food and fluid intake to see if you are able to find any relationship between your intake and urination.
Remember that certain “natural” or “energy” supplements may also contain ingredients that irritate the bladder, so read labels carefully. You may want to see if eliminating one or all of the items discussed in this section improves your bladder control.
COMMON BLADDER IRRITANTS
- Caffeine is a powerful substance that can increase bladder activity. It is naturally present in coffee beans, tea leaves, and cocoa beans. Drinking sodas, coffee, tea, eating foods, or consuming over-the-counter medications that contain caffeine may result in urgency, frequency, and/or incontinence. Studies have demonstrated that individuals with bladder symptoms who have reduced caffeine intake to less than 100mg/day noted improvement in symptoms. If you choose to limit products containing caffeine, do so slowly over a period of several weeks, as strong headaches may result during the withdrawal period.
- Alcohol (liquor, beer, wine) has also been shown clinically to act as a bladder stimulant, triggering symptoms of urgency. In addition, it acts as a diuretic and may induce greater frequency of urination.
- Artificial sweeteners (sodium saccharine, acesulfame K, and to a lesser degree aspartame) have been shown in limited studies to negatively affect bladder function. In research, episodes of daytime frequency of urination, urgency, and nocturia all increased with the consumption of dietary beverages compared to drinks with sugar or unsweetened.
- Carbonated beverages (soda, seltzer water)
- Milk/milk products
- Coffee (even decaffeinated)
- Medicines with caffeine
- Tomatoes & tomato-based products
- Citrus juice & fruits
- Corn syrup
- Highly spiced foods
The best beverage is water. A very thin slice of lemon (not enough citrus juice to irritate the bladder) may improve the taste of water enough that you will find it enjoyable. Grape juice, cranberry juice, cherry juice, and apple juice are thirst-quenchers that usually are not irritating to a normal bladder. Cranberry juice (or cranberry tablets) and cherry juice may help control urine odor.
Many people who have bladder control problems reduce the amount of liquids they drink in the hope that they will need to urinate less often. The smaller amount of urine may be more highly concentrated thus, irritating to the bladder surface. Highly concentrated (dark yellow, strong-smelling) urine may cause you to go to the bathroom more frequently. It also encourages the growth of bacteria. And when bacteria begin to grow, infection sets in, and incontinence may be the result.
In general, it is recommended that you drink a total of six to eight glasses (8 oz. each) of fluid throughout the day. However, some studies have found that patients with OAB who reduce their daily fluid and water-containing food intake by 25% have improved episodes of urgency, frequency, and nocturia. Do not restrict fluids to control incontinence without following the advice of your physician and establishing a baseline intake.
Some foods cause urine to smell bad or peculiar. The most notable of these foods is asparagus. Some other foods may affect the way your urine smells.
Another cause of foul-smelling urine, and the most dangerous cause, is urinary tract infection. If you notice that your urine has a strong odor and you have not eaten any foods that would cause this, you should see a physician and have a specimen of your urine tested for infection.
Some medicines may cause your urine to be discolored or have an unusual odor. Some are medicines that you take for bladder inflammation or for urine tests. Others you take for separate health conditions. If your urine has a peculiar color or odor, consult the pharmacist who filled your prescription.
Constipation could be a cause of your bladder control problems. When the rectum is full of stool, it may disturb the bladder and cause the sensation of urgency and frequency. If you have a history of constipation or have recently become constipated, see your physician.
Constipation may be caused by the medicines you are taking, a “sluggish bowel,” or other conditions. Most people in Western society should add more bulk to their diet in the form of a high-fiber diet, fiber additives, or bulking agents.
Discuss your need for fiber with your doctor, pharmacist, or nutritionist. When you add fiber to your diet, it is important that you do not restrict fluids. Also, you may note that you feel bloated and have gas in the beginning. This discomfort will be temporary.
If you are constipated, this Special Recipe will be helpful.
1 cup applesauce
1 cup oat bran
1/4 cup prune juice
Spices as desired
(cinnamon, nutmeg, etc.)
This recipe may be stored in your refrigerator or in the freezer. Pre-measured servings may be frozen in sectioned ice cube trays, or foam plastic egg cartons, and thawed as needed.
Begin with two tablespoons each evening followed by one 6 to 8-ounce glass of water or juice. After 7 to 10 days increase this to three tablespoons. At the end of the second to third week increase it to four tablespoons.
You should begin to see an improvement in your bowel habits in two weeks. You should make this a part of your daily routine for your lifetime. It is good for you!
When you begin using the Special Recipe, remember it is high fiber. You may be troubled by gas and bloating, but this should go away in several weeks.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) can aggravate urinary symptoms of urgency and frequency, as well as cause alternating diarrhea and constipation whose symptoms have to be managed as well. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs are prescribed for pelvic pain associated with IBS may exacerbate these urinary symptoms. Antibiotics, particularly erythromycin, can actually worsen IBS.
A gluten-free diet has been found in addressing problems of chronic diarrhea, but those with continuing symptoms should be checked for a diagnosis of celiac disease or gluten intolerance. Otherwise, such fat-free, non-dairy foods as bananas and rice can be helpful for transient diarrhea.
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