You Are What You Eat (Maybe)!

Jennifer Sobol, D.O. Health Pro November 22, 2006
  • What is often the most bothersome for a person with incontinence is not only that they are wet, but the feeling of urgency and frequency. The fact that they often feel like they have to go can be most distressing, and causes frequent trips to the bathroom.

    What many people don’t realize is that many foods and other things we ingest are filtered through the kidneys and end up in the urine. These substances in the urine can be very irritating when the urine comes in contact with the bladder wall. When the bladder is irritated, you can experience symptoms of urgency and frequency which makes people feel like they can’t control their urine, and sometimes causes the bladder to contract inappropriately (also known as overactive bladder). People don’t realize this and there may be some simple dietary modifications that can improve one’s symptoms.

    Unfortunately, the list of bladder irritants is enormous, and when I give the list to patients they look at me like I am crazy, because if you follow the list completely, there is very little left to eat. What I tell people is that this is a list of items that have been found to irritate bladders of many people, but not every item bothers everyone.

    The best thing to do is keep a food diary of what you are eating, and at the same time, keep track of your bladder symptoms and see if there is anything that matches up. If not, try eliminating certain things from your diet and see if your symptoms improve. Then, slowly add things back to your diet and see if you notice a difference. This is the best way to pinpoint something that is irritating to your bladder.

    Probably the most important thing I can stress to people in general about overactive bladder and incontinence is that limiting your fluid intake is probably the most counterproductive maneuver people do to help their incontinence. People think that if they make less urine, they will be less incontinent. Actually, the more concentrated your urine, the more irritating your urine is to your bladder, especially if you are someone who is affected by your diet. Increasing your WATER intake will often reduce symptoms of urgency and frequency, and may decrease your incontinence as well.

    In general, acidic foods and drinks are irritative to your bladder. Some items may seem obvious, and others are not. Here is a general list, but not necessarily complete. The best thing to do is use this as a guideline, and make out your food diary at the same time.

    Beverages:
    Coffee- even decaffeinated is irritative
    Tea (non-citrus herbal tea is usually okay)
    Anything carbonated

    Fruits:
    Citrus fruit is obvious, but also peaches, plums, pineapple, strawberries, apples,
    Cantaloupe, grapes, and other tropical fruits.

    Condiments:
    NutraSweet (very common irritant, but often unrecognized)
    Vinegar
    Mayonnaise
    Spicy foods- chili or cayenne pepper, jalapeños
    Tomatoes: anything tomato based as well, like ketchup, salsa, spaghetti sauce

    Chocolate (sorry!)

    As I mentioned before, this is not a complete list but hopefully will get you started on the right track. Try eliminating various things at different times to avoid going crazy. And I can’t stress enough the importance of plenty of water to drink. Hope this helps!

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