Whether you are living with incontinence or caring for a child or parent who is, diet is a key factor in promoting a healthy bladder that often goes overlooked. While abs may be made in the kitchen, the same goes for incontinence - what you eat and drink, and what you don’t, directly affects your bladder.
If you're wondering how to calm an irritated bladder, you've come to the right place. And don’t worry, you won’t have to give up all of the good stuff - we’ve included some tasty snack and meal ideas you can easily add into your weekly grocery haul.
1. Stay Hydrated
Staying hydrated is one of the most important steps you can take to improve your bladder health, unfortunately it’s also one of the most overlooked. It may seem counterintuitive to drink more fluids if you are living with incontinence, however reducing water intake can actually increase the incidence of incontinence. Drinking less water may initially decrease the need to urinate but ultimately increases the risk for urinary tract infections (UTIs), which in turn, increases the frequency with which you need to urinate.
2. Eat More (Healthy) Carbs
Who doesn’t love hearing to eat more carbs? (Just make sure they’re the healthy ones) Filling your diet with foods high in whole grains such as oatmeal, whole grain breads, and cereal and brown rice will help to keep your bladder and bowel movements regular.
Recipe Tip - Mix in fruits and nuts with your oatmeal for a tasty, filling breakfast.
3. Increase Your Fiber Intake
Eating more fiber-rich foods is one of the tastiest tips for promoting bladder health. Fiber is an essential part of an effective overactive bladder diet, and can be found in an array of foods from the beans and lentil family as well as some of the whole grain foods you’ve already added to your grocery list.
Recipe Tip - Black beans are a great addition to many of your existing meals. Love eating a quesadilla? Add black beans to your chicken quesadilla for a meal packed with fiber - extra points for making it on a whole grain wrap! Do you crave pasta? Try lentil pasta for your next spaghetti night - you won’t even notice the difference!
4. Go Bananas for Fruit!
We’ve all heard that cranberries and cranberry juice are great for bladder health - don’t forget about the other tasty fruits and fruit juices that also help to improve bladder function. Apples, bananas, berries (strawberries, blueberries) and pears are all healthy, filling snacks that are also high in fiber.
Recipe Tip - Smoothies are a great way to get a wide variety of nutrients into one tasty drink. Mix in a banana, berries, spinach (you won’t even taste it!), oats and a bit of apple juice for the ultimate bladder health smoothie!
5. But Avoid Citrus
Citrus fruits (and juices) such as oranges and pineapples are on the list of foods to avoid with overactive bladder. These fruits are high in acid and have been known to cause bladder irritation. Tomatoes (which are also a fruit!) are also high in acidity and should be avoided.
Recipe Tip - If you love tomato sauce on your (lentil) pasta, try swapping it out for a lighter sauce made of olive oil, garlic, oregano and feta.
6. Eat Your Veggies!
Adding more vegetables to your diet is great for many reasons - one of which is improved bladder health. Vegetables such as kale and cauliflower are high in vitamin C and calcium to support kidney function while corn and potatoes are high in magnesium which help your bladder to fully empty.
Recipe Tip - Get an air fryer! Air fryers are a great way to add tasty, crispy veggies to any meal. Grab your veggies (sweet potatoes, green beans, asparagus), toss with some light olive oil and garlic and you’re ready to go!
7. Cut Back on Caffeine
We had to get to the areas to avoid at some point. Foods and drinks high in caffeine often act as diuretics, which encourage the release of water in urine - meaning you’ll have increased urges to visit the bathroom. Going cold turkey on all caffeine can be rough - go for small changes at first such as swapping out your afternoon coffee with an herbal tea. Be sure to also avoid all caffeine after 7 p.m. - this will help limit the urge to get up at night to visit the bathroom.
8. Go Easy on the Alcohol
Among beverages to avoid, alcohol falls near the top of the list. Similar to drinks high in caffeine, alcohol also acts as a diuretic and will increase your urine production. While drinking alcohol, you may also be less aware of your urge to use the restroom, causing an increased risk of leakage or accidents.
9. Be Mindful of Dairy
While vitamin D is actually great for bladder health, lactose is a pain point for many individuals. Food and drinks high in lactose can cause loose stool and may irritate the colon. Opt for dairy-free alternatives that are high in vitamin D such as eggs, almond milk and salmon.
Recipe Tip - Love to cook but many of your favorite recipes require whole milk? Swap out milk for almond or soy milk - you won’t even notice the difference! Vanilla almond milk is also great for adding extra flavor to your oatmeal or whole grain cereal.
10. Cool It on Spicy Foods
Spicy foods may taste great but as many of us have experienced, they often lead to an upset stomach. Similar to caffeine, spicy foods work to irritate the lining of the bladder causing an increased urgency to rush to the bathroom. If you love spice, you don’t have to entirely eliminate it from your diet, but do your best to cut back on foods such as spicy mexican dishes, hot wings, and horseradish.While there is no direct cure for incontinence, updating your daily diet to include just some of these tips will drastically help to improve your bladder health. Weight loss, one of the best ways to positively affect your incontinence, may also be an added benefit to the food swaps listed above.