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Managing an Overactive Bladder Through Diet

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Managing an Overactive Bladder Through Diet
What and when you eat and drink can make you less likely to have overactive bladder issues.

People living with an overactive bladder often can find relief just by changing their diet.

"We forget that some of the things we eat are causing our problems," says Jean Fourcroy, MD, a Washington D.C. urologist, a consultant to Walter Reed Army Hospital, and former Food and Drug Administration medical examiner. Avoiding things that irritate the bladder, regulating your amount of fluid intake, and increasing your dietary fiber are just a few of the ways you can help your overactive bladder by eating better.

Incontinence: Foods to Avoid

Doctors have identified a number of foods and drinks that can worsen overactive bladders, including:

Caffeinated beverages and foods Alcohol Spicy foods Citrus fruits and juices Carbonated beverages Milk and milk products Sugar or honey Artificial sweeteners All of these foods and drinks contain irritants that, when they collect in the bladder, can cause the bladder muscles to spasm. Those spasms can create the sudden urge to urinate and increase your frequency of urination.

On top of that, caffeine and alcohol are diuretics, which means they make your kidneys produce more urine. Even a moderate amount of alcohol, coffee, tea, or soda will increase the amount of urine your bladder must manage. Studies have shown that four cups of coffee a day will increase urinary urgency in most women, and as little as two cups will still have the effect in some individuals.

Smoking cigarettes also irritates the bladder and increases the risk of bladder cancer, so people struggling with overactive bladders should quit smoking. Smoking can also cause coughing spasms that increase problems with stress incontinence.

Incontinence: What Should You Eat?

Dr. Fourcroy recommends tackling incontinence by making your diet as simple as possible. "Very often, I have my patients start off with cream of wheat and baby food and then add back little by little to see what causes problems," she says.

Since constipation can cause or exacerbate urinary incontinence, you should make sure you're getting enough fiber by filling your daily diet with the following foods:

Non-citrus fruits Grains Legumes Vegetables There are a number of juices that won't irritate your bladder, including apple, grape, cherry, and cranberry juices. These juices also help by making urine more acidic, preventing the spread of bacteria and controlling urine odor. And remember to drink plenty of water, which is the best way to hydrate your body.

Overall, you should drink six to eight 8-ounce glasses of fluid every day. If you drink less, your urine might become concentrated and irritate your bladder. If you drink more, you might overtax your bladder and make matters worse.

To further ease your overactive bladder, avoid drinking a lot of fluid at one time. Sip two or three ounces every 20 to 30 minutes between meals. Cutting off fluid intake a few hours prior to bedtime also will help.

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