Worried About Overactive Bladder? Diet Changes Could Be The Answer

In the United States, approximately 33 million people experience overactive bladder. Overactive bladder (OAB) is not a specific condition, but it is a symptom of another issue. The most common manifestation is having a sudden and uncontrollable urge to urinate. When the urge occurs, some people may leak urine. This is referred to as incontinence.

Overactive bladder happens when the bladder muscles involuntarily contract. These contractions can occur even when there are low urine levels in the bladder. The urgency to urinate is a direct result of these contractions.

Many factors can contribute to overactive bladder. Multiple sclerosis and other neurological disorders, diabetes, acute urinary tract infections and issues that obstruct bladder outflow can contribute to OAB. Some people experience this issue due to bladder abnormalities. Other factors include consuming excessive amounts of alcohol or caffeine.

There are diet changes that can be made to improve the symptoms of overactive bladder. These are relatively simple changes that anyone can use.

The 6 Questions

Q: What is the Ideal Fluid Intake for OAB?

1. The ideal fluid intake varies, but there are a few quick guidelines that can be helpful. Patients should maintain a fluid diary. This keeps track of what they are drinking and how much. On average, it is recommended that people reduce their fluid intake by about 25 percent. It is important to not drop below one liter a day, however, as this could lead to dehydration.

About two hours before bed, reduce fluid intake. This can decrease nighttime urination. During the day, try to drink small amounts more frequently instead of large amounts every few hours.

2. Which Vitamins Can Help OAB?

A: Vitamins C and D may be beneficial for overactive bladder. Reduced urinary urgency has been linked to sufficient vitamin C intake. The research mostly looked at eating vegetables and fruits high in this vitamin and not at taking a supplement. In fact, vitamin C in supplement form might have the opposite effect and actually increase urination.

It is best to get vitamin C from non-acidic fruits and vegetables since acidic foods may irritate the bladder. Ideal choices include watermelon, cantaloupe, spinach, sweet potatoes and broccoli.

Increased urination is a possible symptom of vitamin D deficiency. Eating more foods high in this vitamin may be beneficial. Food sources include fortified yogurt and milk, and fish. If those aren’t normally on your shopping list, it may be time to add them.

3. Are Certain Beverages Worse for OAB?

A: Caffeine and alcohol may both increase urinary frequency and urgency due to aggravating the bladder, resulting in this issue. Carbonated beverages may also be problematic for some people with OAB. Urologists often recommend that people completely eliminate carbonated drinks when bladder issues are present.

Urinary urgency and frequency can also get worse with artificial sweeteners and regular sugar. Consuming too much regular sugar may also increase the risk of bladder infections due to encouraging bacteria growth. This type of infection can worsen OAB.

4. Which Foods Can Worsen OAB?

A: Certain foods may cause urinary symptoms to get worse. These include tomatoes and products that contain this fruit, raw onions, chocolate and honey. Artificial flavors might increase overactive bladder symptoms for some people. It is ideal to eliminate them one by one to see which cause issues for individual patients.

Some people with OAB have troubles with dairy products. To determine if this is the case, temporarily remove these products from the diet to see if OAB symptoms improve.

5. Which Foods Can Benefit OAB?

A: Several foods may help a patient’s OAB symptoms. Constipation can cause increased OAB symptoms. The bowel and bladder are located close to each other in the body. When the bowel is full due to constipation, this can put pressure on the bladder, aggravating urinary urgency and frequency.

Foods to help prevent constipation are important. Look for those that are high in fiber, such as whole grains and nuts. It is best to get fiber from the diet instead of from fiber supplements whenever possible.

Fruits that are not acidic are a good choice. Examples include apples, watermelon, blackberries, bananas, grapes and strawberries. Certain vegetables are often recommended to people with OAB, including asparagus, cucumbers, carrots, lettuce, broccoli, kale and celery.

6. Which Spices Can Aggravate OAB?

A: It is possible for certain spices and spicy foods to aggravate the bladder. Urologists particularly mention spicy peppers and any sauces that contain them. A good rule of thumb is to eliminate the spices and spicy foods that cause the lips to burn and eyes to water. If symptoms improve, slowly reintroduce these foods back into the diet.

It is best to reintroduce foods one by one. This makes it easy to determine which foods and spices could be irritating to the patient’s bladder.