7 Foods to Avoid With Overactive Bladder

Medically Reviewed By William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
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Diet Can Make a Difference

If you are living with overactive bladder (OAB), you already struggle with the need to urinate suddenly and frequently. The last thing you want to do is make an already difficult condition even worse. But that’s what consuming certain foods and beverages can do. They function as overactive bladder triggers. You might experience an even more urgent need to go, one which you can’t control. Or you could have bladder spasms or pains. But if you can avoid those foods, you might find yourself able to relax a little more.

Re-evaluate your diet to avoid overactive bladder triggers.

Overhauling your diet to eliminate your overactive bladder trigger foods may be one of the best lifestyle changes you can make. True, it may be hard to give up some of your favorite foods and beverages. But think about how much those small sacrifices may improve your ability to manage your overactive bladder. You may come to appreciate rather quickly how much an OAB diet improves your quality of life. The best way to figure out your triggers is to keep track of your diet and your toileting needs, either with a smartphone app or a journal. Once you know what tends to send you running to the toilet or wincing in pain, you can make sure to skip those items.

1. Spicy Foods

Spicy foods can be flavorful and delicious. But as tempting to your tongue as they are, they’re less appealing to your bladder. Here’s why: the spice tends to inflame the lining of your bladder, which sets it off. Spicy food can sometimes cause bladder pain, too. Dial down the spice in your favorite dishes and you can still enjoy them in a tamer but much more bladder-friendly fashion.

2. Citrus Fruits and Juices

The citric acid in citrus fruits and juices can be a no-go for people who have overactive bladder. Acidic foods in general tend to be problematic, since the acid can lead to urine with a higher acid content. When more acidic urine sits in the bladder, it tends to irritate the bladder, which sets off the symptoms of OAB. You may develop some bladder spasms or have to go more urgently. You might even experience some leaks. With that in mind, avoid or reduce your consumption of:

  • Oranges
  • Lemons
  • Limes
  • Grapefruit

Another possibility: try choosing low-acid juices if you absolutely can’t bear the thought of permanently giving up the occasional cup of orange juice.

3. Tomatoes and Tomato-Based Products

Tomatoes and many tomato-based products are also acidic. The acid in tomatoes, marinara sauce, or salsa can irritate your bladder, causing spasms, pain, increased urgency, and a more frequent need to urinate.

4. Caffeinated Foods and Beverages

This one is probably going to be extra hard for some of you, but yes, you might need to ditch the caffeine. Your morning cup (or three) of coffee might help you perk up, but it can also aggravate an already sensitive bladder. The caffeine can make you need to go earlier and more often than you might otherwise need to go. That goes for other foods and beverages that contain caffeine, such as tea and chocolate–and even some medicines. Also, be careful about decaffeinated coffee and tea. They do contain a small amount of caffeine, and if you are sensitive to caffeine, it may still cause trouble for you.

5. Carbonated Beverages

You might want to find alternatives to soda, seltzer water, or any type of carbonated drink. The carbonation can irritate your bladder, which can increase OAB symptoms. Decline sparkling water and stick to still water, instead. In fact, still water is a good choice because you don’t want to make the mistake of drinking too little fluid. That can lead to highly concentrated urine, which can be irritating to the lining of your bladder and increase the urge to go.

6. Sweeteners

If you have a sweet tooth, you may need to be careful about what you’re satisfying that sweet tooth with. Artificial sweeteners, sugar, and honey can irritate your bladder and make symptoms harder to manage.

7. Alcohol

If a beer, a glass of wine, or a martini is your preferred way to celebrate the end of a hard day’s work, it might be worth reconsidering your beverage of choice. Alcoholic beverages are notorious for triggering the symptoms of overactive bladder. Alcohol can be dehydrating, which can lead to more concentrated urine, and that can be irritating to your bladder.

Watch out for other foods, too.

You may not be sensitive to all of these foods. And there may be other foods that don’t appear on this list that trigger symptoms. Living with overactive bladder can sometimes be a matter of trial and error when it comes to diet. And everyone is different. You may have to see what is problematic and what isn’t and then tailor your diet accordingly.

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Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2021 Mar 19
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THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.
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