Eat Well to Be Well: Eating your way to bladder health – Osage County Online | Osage County News

Eat Well to Be Well: Eating your way to bladder health

Bladder health should be a top priority for all of us, ranking alongside heart, brain, and bone health. And one way to promote bladder health is by making smart food choices. From urinary incontinence to overactive bladder, your dietary choices are an important part and play a supporting role of fending off these quality-of-life issues. That’s because what you eat and drink directly affects your bladder and it’s functioning.

Get to know your bladder

Before discussing food and dietary changes helping manage bladder and urinary issues, let’s get to know your bladder better.

Every single day, all of us use our bladder multiple times. Located in the lower abdomen, the bladder is a hollow organ, much like a balloon, that stores urine. It is part of the urinary system, which also includes the kidneys, ureters, and urethra. Urine contains wastes and extra fluid left over after the body takes what it needs from what we eat and drink.

Over time, the bladder can change. The elastic bladder tissue may toughen and become less stretchy. A less stretchy bladder cannot hold as much urine as before and might make you go to the bathroom more often. The bladder wall and pelvic floor muscles may weaken, making it harder to empty the bladder fully and causing urine to leak.

Because bladder problems are common and can disrupt day-to-day activities, you may find yourself avoiding social situations or having a hard time completing tasks at home or at work.

Top dietary habits your bladder will love

To achieve and maintain good bladder health, a good start is by what you eat and drink. Adopt the following healthy bladder dietary habits to help avoid overactive bladder and urinary incontinence:

Stay well hydrated

Up to one third of the water we consume comes from food like fruits, veggies, and soup. So how much water do you need to drink each day? As a general rule of thumb, take your weight in pounds and divide it by two, and that’s the number of ounces of water you should consume daily. So if you weigh 160 pounds, you should aim to drink 80 ounces of water every day.

Why is staying hydrated important for urological health? Drinking sufficient water is essential for helping balance salts and sugars within the body and to flush out toxins and wastes through the urinary system. When dehydrated, the buildup of minerals can irritate the lining of your bladder and the concentration of wastes can lead to frequent and urgent urination or pelvic pain.

Reduce foods and beverages that irritate the bladder

Certain foods and beverages can aggravate bladder conditions such as overactive bladder or urinary incontinence. To prevent irritation of the bladder, here’s a list of foods and beverages to reduce or avoid:

Caffeine – Coffee, tea, cola, and chocolate can increase bladder activity and act as a diuretic, which can increase the amount of urine made. It’s best to completely eliminate caffeine if possible, or at least reduce intake to no more than one cup a day.

Acidic foods – Tomatoes, citrus fruits, and pineapple can cause urine to become more acidic leading to bladder irritation and increased urgency.

Alcoholic beverages – Alcohol can lead to dehydration making urine more concentrated, while at the same time, it acts as a diuretic increasing urine production. When drinking alcohol it may also make you less aware of your urge to use the restroom, resulting in an increased risk of urinary incontinence. Limit alcohol intake or if necessary, avoid completely.

Fizzy or bubbly drinks – Carbonation from carbon dioxide in beverages such as soda, seltzer or sparkling waters can trigger irritation and sensitivity in an overactive bladder. Most urologists recommend avoiding sipping on these beverages all day long and instead cap them at no more than 25 percent of your daily fluid intake.

Spicy foods – While you may like your foods “hot,” your bladder and bowel will likely not. The lining of the bladder is easily irritated by spicy foods and can contribute to bladder pain. Excessive amounts of spicy foods can also upset the bowel.

Sugar and artificial sweeteners – Sugar and sugary foods are believed to act as stimulants on the bladder that may increase urinary urgency and frequency. Artificial sweeteners (acesulfame K, aspartame, sodium saccharin) seem to do the exact same thing as regular sugar.

Eat your veggies

To help reduce urinary urgency and frequency, adding more vegetables to your diet is a perfect solution. Vegetables such as spinach, kale, broccoli, or cauliflower are high in vitamin C and calcium helping to support good bladder health. Calcium, in particular, helps with muscle contraction, including the detrusor muscle found in the bladder walls that allows the bladder to store urine and to contract when releasing it. The mineral magnesium, found abundantly in foods such as pumpkin seeds, almonds, peanuts, soymilk, black beans, and edamame, helps the bladder empty itself completely.

Be vitamin D sufficient

Do you know your vitamin D status? If not, get tested as it appears to matter to bladder health. Research published in International Urogynecology Journal found that insufficient vitamin D is linked to overactive bladder, urinary incontinence, pelvic floor disorders, and lower urinary tract symptoms. At this time, information is still being gathered as to the effect of vitamin D supplementation – discuss this with your healthcare provider for their advice. The best non-food source of vitamin D is sunlight, while best food sources of this fat-soluble vitamin include fortified vitamin D milk, salmon, tuna, beef liver, and egg yolk.

Cheryl Mussatto MS, RD, LD is a registered dietitian with a master’s degree in dietetics and nutrition from the University of Kansas, and a bachelor’s degree in dietetics and institutional management from Kansas State University. She is a clinical dietitian for local clinics, an adjunct professor at an area community college where she teaches basic nutrition, and a freelance health and nutrition writer. She is the author of The Nourished Brain: The Latest Science On Food’s Power For Protecting The Brain From Alzheimers and Dementia, The Prediabetes Action Plan and Cookbook and The Heart Disease Prevention Cookbook,. Visit her website at

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