Just when you thought we had unearthed everything we needed to know for our diets to help us watch over our bladder and bowel health, researchers continue to unlike new clues, nutritional advice, and guidance. In recent months, the news has carried information to help reduce symptoms of urinary urgency and frequency, identify top choices in fruits to optimize for nutrients, fiber, and disease protection, and suggest drinking tea for stroke protection. Let's briefly explore each of these stories together.
Reducing Urgency and Frequency
At the National Association For Continence (NAFC), we have long heard anecdotal evidence that some people who eliminate citrus fruits and juice from their diets experience reduced incidence of urgency and frequency. It was not known whether this was scientifically true and whether the culprit was the irritating nature of more acidic urine caused by the higher vitamin C element in citrus fruits and juices or whether it was the effect of relatively high sugar levels in the form of simple carbohydrates. We may be much closer to an answer, based on research published in a recent 2011 issue of the Journal of Nutrition1 in which results of the Boston Area Community Health Survey reported that 19% of the roughly 1,500 men aged 30 to 79 who participated had moderate-to-severe lower urinary tract symptoms (LUTS), or the symptoms of urgency and frequency associated with a diagnosis of overactive bladder and/or enlarged prostate. But those who consumed high dose and total dietary vitamin C of at least 250 milligrams were 83% more likely to have LUTS than those with daily supplemental and total vitamin C intake < 250 mg. If lowering vitamin C intake below 250 mg from your daily diet reduces your symptoms of urgency and frequency, the causal factor most likely was the irritation of more acidic urine.
Top Choices in Fruits
Editorial staff of the June 2011 health letter issue of Nutrition Action creatively calculated an individual score for each of some 50 fruits by adding up its percentage of the recommended daily intake for five leading nutrients - vitamin C, folate, potassium, calcium, and iron - plus its delivery of fiber and carotenoids. The fruits were then ranked by their composite score. The top five were: guava, watermelon, kiwi, papaya, and pink or red grapefruit. None in the top ten delivered more than 100 calories per serving, assessed generously for watermelon at two cups diced. If you really want to focus on your bowel health and specifically combat constipation, select from the eight fruits on the list delivering 20% or more of the daily value of recommended fiber: guava (3), kumquat (7), raspberries (1 ¼ cup), blackberries (1 cup), persimmon (1), pomegranate (1/2), pear (1), and Asian pear (1). The article includes tips on how to select, store, and serve nearly 30 of the fruits assessed, based on information adapted from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and United Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Association.