If you’re like several of my patients, you may have an overactive bladder which keeps you running to the bathroom with an urge to urinate frequently. Some people have smaller bladder capacities than others and therefore naturally have to urinate more. Other people may be eating certain foods that can irritate their bladder causing the need for them to urinate. I’d like to explain to you what some of these foods are and what you can do to minimize your “going” issues.
Overactive Bladder – What Is It?
Overactive bladder is a mild to severe condition that can not only become a nuisance in always creating the need to find a restroom while you’re out in public, but can also have some embarrassing consequences. It is also a condition that can be accompanied by something called “urge incontinence”, or UI, where you have to go so badly you just can’t hold it and urine leaks into your clothes; or “stress incontinence,” or SI, where you have involuntary leakage of urine through laughing or sneezing. Usually UI and SI are just variant symptoms of overactive bladder syndrome which also can include nocturia (waking up at night to urinate) and frequency, just “going” a lot all day long.
As mentioned above, overactive bladder can be caused by a few things which include:
- A congenitally small bladder that has less holding capacity than most people.
- A “neurogenic bladder” – caused by damage, or pressure, pinching of the nerves of the spine that may occur in certain medical conditions like spinal injuries, epilepsy, Parkinson disease, MS, and stroke, that can result in involuntary emptying of the bladder.
- Certain medications used to treat other conditions like diuretics for high blood pressure, or medications that contain caffeine.
- Hormonal. Decreasing estrogen in menopause can cause bladder and urethra muscles to weaken and fall forward, resulting in more frequent urination and leakage. In men, an enlarged prostate can cause frequent urination as well.
- Constipation. Pressure from retained waste in the rectum can aggravate the bladder.
- Obesity. Too much abdominal fat can put pressure on the bladder as well.
However, the most common cause of overactive bladder is simple foods that we eat everyday! These are foods that have certain compounds in them that can irritate the bladder and sometimes result in a chronic inflammatory condition. The bladder attempts to wash these irritants out through triggering frequent urination. In order to support a healthy bladder, please see our list of the top bladder support trigger foods below:
- Tomato products – tomato products generally have a lot of acid in them and can really irritate the bladder. In an attempt to get rid of the irritant, the bladder tries to flush itself out with frequent urination.
- Caffeine – a stimulant present in coffee and tea can really irritate the bladder and make you go more. Decaf varieties can help, but they also have very small amounts of caffeine.
- Chocolate – also contains caffeine plus other compounds like theobromines that can irritate the bladder. White chocolate has less caffeine but still has some. Try to cut down on the amount of chocolate you eat.
- Citrus fruits – also highly acidic, lemons, limes, oranges, grapefruits can also irritate the bladder like tomatoes. Try to cut down on citrus fruits and supplement with an Ester-C type of Vitamin C to avoid further irritation.
- Beer, wine, hard liquor – “spirits” draw more water out of your body to process it through your kidneys and make you urinate more.
- Carbonation – soft drinks, champagne, tonic water, all contain carbonation that can trigger the bladder and make you urinate frequently.
- Hot spices – like cayenne, jalapeno, especially when combined with tomato, can really keep you hopping to the bathroom. Not only does the spice itself irritate your bladder but they prompt you to drink a lot more cold fluids to wash them down.
- Sweeteners – real sugar, honey, and artificial sweeteners like Equal, Splenda and Sweet N’ Low can over-stimulate the bladder as well.
- Preservatives/Spices – MSG, salt, pepper, other kitchen spices and certain herbs like oregano and dill also have diuretic action that can keep you urinating more frequently.
- Onions, cranberry – like tomatoes, are acidic based, which can irritate the bladder. However, cranberries can also help keep the bladder free of bacteria by neutralizing it with the compounds it contains and flushing them out.
What Can You Do To Slow Your Go?
The best recommendation I give my patients who seem to have overactive bladder symptoms from food sources is to do the following:
- Keep track of your symptoms and what foods seem to irritate them the most. Then, try to reduce the amount, or eliminate, these foods altogether to cut down on your frequency of urination.
- Keep drinking your recommended amount of daily water intake, generally eight 8 ounce glasses a day, or more if you’re sweating a lot. Adequate water intake dilutes your urine so that if you do eat some of these foods, they will be less of an irritant to your bladder.
If you have symptoms of overactive bladder, visit your doctor for an evaluation to determine if there is a medical condition behind it such as those mentioned above. If you’re like my patients, however, most likely foods and drinks that you take in every day are causing overactive bladder symptoms. To get your “going potty” problems under control, try the recommendations noted above, watching what foods you eat and what your symptoms are. Continue to drink your recommended amount of water to flush out any irritants and keep the rest of you healthy as well!