While medication can come to the rescue and help ease overactive bladder symptoms, you can also tweak your diet to manage your symptoms. What you eat counts, and that’s a relief. Since it’s not entirely clear what causes an overactive bladder, knowing that you can adjust your diet to limit bladder irritating food is extremely encouraging.
However, avoiding foods that irritate your bladder while consuming more of what promotes a happy bladder can help curb the constant urge for a bathroom break.
Food isn’t a cure-all. However, avoiding foods that irritate your bladder while consuming more of what promotes a happy bladder can help curb the constant urge for a bathroom break. Here are a few foods that can and should make regular appearances on your grocery list, and some general rules to keep in mind as you’re planning meals.
When It Comes to Fruit, the Less Acid the Better
Every list of what not to eat if you have an overactive bladder includes citrus fruits. Their high acidity can be a bladder irritant. However, sweeter, less acidic fruits are still on the table. But there are a few noncitrus fruits that walk the line.
For example, most berries (especially blueberries) are safe for an overactive bladder and provide antioxidants that promote overall health. But aim to consume strawberries in mindful quantities as the heavy dose of vitamin C may lead to irritation. Tread lightly and see what you can tolerate. Cranberries and cranberry juice are another conundrum. While typically touted as bladder-friendly, they’re beneficial because of their ability to flush out the bladder and urinary tract — not exactly ideal for overactive bladder.
Fiber and Nutrient-Rich Veggies are Your Friends
Both famous in the veggie category, leafy greens and artichokes also contain healthy amounts of fiber. Why does fiber matter? According to urologist Elizabeth Kornfield, maintaining healthy digestion is correlated with normal bladder emptying as well. Preventing constipation (with lots of healthy fiber) helps you avoid additional pressure on your bladder that can create an urge to go.
“The nerves that control how the bladder empties also control what the lower portion of the colon does,” says Kornfield. But those nerves don’t have it all figured out, leading to what she calls "cross-talk" between these areas. Therefore, anything you do to keep your bowels regular might also help regulate your urges to urinate. In addition to leafy greens and artichokes, experiment with winter squash, green beans, and potatoes. When it comes to other fiber sources outside of veggies, try oats, lentils, and beans. But again, everyone is different, so monitor how your body reacts and eliminate foods that trigger your symptoms.
Let’s Not Forget About Good-for-Your-Gut Foods
Fiber isn’t the only nutrient that helps you maintain optimal digestive health. When you’re living with an overactive bladder, probiotics and prebiotics are essential for a healthy gut and regular digestion. More in-depth research is needed to explain the connection, but studies have linked a lack of healthy and diverse gut bacteria to an increased urgency. That makes a regular serving of Greek yogurt a possible tactic for managing an overactive bladder. Just beware of some other probiotic-heavy foods that may also be bladder irritants. For example, sauerkraut is pickled in vinegar, which can be a bladder irritant, and thus, may not be the best choice despite being a probiotic.
How to Bring the Flavor
Foods and spices with heat can be bladder irritants, so you’ll likely want to proceed with caution and body attunement when eating ingredients and cuisines that are spicy or tomato-based (hey, acidity) and any chili-based seasoning. If you do find these ingredients to be bothersome, don’t worry; living with OAB doesn’t mean your food has to be bland. Fresh garlic is a great flavor enhancer when cooking, and it’s not known to irritate the bladder (again, always experiment and monitor how your body reacts). Fresh and dried herbs are also huge flavor enhancers.
Ultimately, listen to what your body tells you. “Everyone is different in terms of what causes problems,” says Kornfield. To find what works for you, she suggests steering clear of all possible bladder irritants, waiting until symptoms are under control. Then you can try adding foods back in one at a time to determine what actually makes your symptoms worse and what may fly. That way, you can continue enjoying the foods that play nice, and only dodge those that don’t vibe well with you.