Although some people who suffer from incontinence or bed wetting may be able to improve or even eliminate their bladder issues through medical treatment, there are many people for whom this isn’t an option. It is for such people that long-term incontinence products and incontinence lifestyle changes are indicated – and at AvaCare Medical, we aim to serve our customers by offering guidance in both of these areas.
One important lifestyle change for anyone who is suffering from an overactive bladder is dietary changes. There are many foods and eating habits that significantly affect bladder movement. The following are some important things to know if you’d like to take an active part in dealing with incontinence, whether it is for yourself or for a loved one.
Foods to Avoid
As with most diet changes, it is a good idea to start by eliminating these products completely from your diet. Then, if desired, you can slowly re-introduce these foods to learn how much your body can handle. One great way to make your diet changes more effective is to keep a bladder diet which helps you keep track of the foods and drinks you consume so you can track which are good for you and which aren’t.
- Alcohol. Alcohol is often related to health-related issues, and bladder problems are no exception. When an individual consumes alcohol, they are both more likely to have a need to urinate and less likely to know when they need to do so. This is because alcohol reduces the control over the natural signals that let you know when your bladder is full and needs to be emptied. (For those who also experience fecal incontinence, alcohol is a double whammy, since it is a natural laxative.)
- Caffeine. Caffeinated food and drinks cause a stronger urge to urinate and also prompt the body to get rid of fluids. Caffeine is also a bowel stimulant, which can be a problem for anyone also suffering from bowel incontinence. If you can, try to eliminate caffeine from your diet, or at least aim for less than 100mg/day – but whatever you do, be sure to avoid all caffeinated foods and drinks after 7 PM. Caffeinated foods and drinks to avoid include – but are not limited to – the following list:
- Carbonated drinks
- Energy drinks
- Spicy foods. Avoid super spicy foods like horseradish, chili, hot peppers and Mexican and Chinese dishes, because like caffeine, these foods can irritate the lining of the bladder and cause increased urinary incontinence problems. For those with bowel issues, spicy foods can also affect stool, speeding up the time it takes for it to move through the bowel.
- Acid. Citrus fruits and drinks, as well as tropical fruits (like pineapple) and tomatoes are acidic and are bladder irritants, causing you to feel a stronger urge to urinate. Other places you’ll find acid: coffee, dark chocolate and condiments like soy sauce, vinegar, ketchup (as well as any other tomato-based products) and mayonnaise.
- Carbonated Drinks. Even caffeine-free fizzy beverages can aggravate a sensitive bladder, due to the carbon dioxide present in the drink, so it may be a good idea to avoid these.
- Sweeteners. Things like sugar, honey, corn syrup and artificial sweeteners can also prove to be a bladder pitfall for some, so be sure to consume in moderation.
- Dairy products. Milk and other dairy products are often found to be a bladder irritant. In addition, lactose may cause looser stool, leading to bowel incontinence, and other parts of milk such as the whey and casein can aggravate the colon. Rich, creamy cheeses, especially sour cream and aged cheese, may be too much for your bladder to handle – if it is, try processed, non-aged cheese or imitation sour cream.
- Processed foods. Additives, preservatives and artificial flavors are often bladder irritants, so be careful to read nutrition labels before indulging.
- Apples, bananas and grapes. For some people, these fruits can trigger the urge to go, so these are best avoided until you know your body is okay with them.
- Cranberry juice. Because cranberries help avoid bladder infections and UTIs, many people incorrectly assume that it can help with incontinence. The truth is, though, that because of its acidic pH, it’s not good for overactive bladder and should generally be avoided.
- Prunes. Urinary incontinence can often come along with, or be exacerbated by, constipation. Before you go running for the fix-it-all prunes, keep in mind that prunes aren’t easy on the bladder, so you’d be better off tackling constipation by introducing more fiber into your diet.
- Raw onions. Raw onions are rough on the system, so make a point of eating only cooked onions, or try substituting your yellow and red onions for the milder shallot.
- Medications. As always, be sure to discuss your incontinence symptoms with your doctor before beginning (or, if the incontinence issues are new, continuing) and medications. Certain medications including some blood pressure reducers, muscle relaxants, heart medications, sedatives and more can exacerbate incontinence issues by causing an overload of fluid in the bladder. Also look out for caffeinated medicines, since these can affect your bladder just like coffee does.
In addition to these foods, smoking is a habit that should be avoided by anyone experiencing bladder sensitivities. This is because cigarettes aggravate the bladder and increase the risk of developing bladder cancer. Another issue caused by smoking: it can cause coughing spasms that negatively affect those with stress incontinence.
If you’ve read this far, you’re likely feeling very overwhelmed by the list of foods that aren’t all that easy on the bladder. The good news is twofold, though: (A) With trial and error, you may find that many of the above foods, in limited quantities, may not be a problem for you, and (B) there are many other foods which are not only okay for incontinence, but may actually improve your bladder function.
To learn more about these foods, continue on to Part II of this series: Foods to Help with Incontinence >>