The Intimate Relationship Between Your Diet And Bladder
How many times a day do you go to the bathroom to empty your bladder? Do you get up at night to go? Do you have pain associated with emptying your bladder? Do you ever have such a strong urge to go to the bathroom that you are afraid you might not make it in time? Have you noticed that particular foods or drinks make you go to the bathroom more frequently? All that you consume, including both food and beverages, can have an effect on the function, health, and happiness of your bladder. Whether you suffer from pain associated with the filling or emptying of your bladder or from running to the bathroom more often and urgently than you would like, taking a look at your diet and potential irritants could make a substantial difference to your everyday quality of life.
So, how can food and beverage affect the bladder? Even healthy bladders can become irritated by certain consumables, such as high acid foods. However, diet becomes ever more paramount when one has an injured bladder, which can occur for several different reasons. In this situation, urine, which is made up of water, toxins, and excretory products that the body wishes to get rid of (1), can permeate into the bladder, as well as stimulating cells that release chemicals responsible for creating inflammation (2). This, in turn can lead to increased frequency of urination, increased urgency to empty the bladder, and to a cycle of pain with the filling and emptying of the bladder.
Common foods that may be responsible for irritating your bladder:
– Caffeine- caffeine, found in coffee, tea and energy drinks, is a diuretic, which means that the body produces more urine when these drinks are consumed, resulting in more frequent trips to the bathroom. Furthermore, caffeine stimulates the nerves that make you feel the need to empty your bladder, meaning you may feel this need more frequently than normal and with more urgency than you would like (2,3).
– Acidic foods and beverages- foods high in acid such as citrus fruits and juices, decaffeinated coffee and tea, vinegar, alcohol, and tomato based foods to name a few can irritate the bladder lining (2,3).
– Histamine- foods such as chocolate an red wine have high levels of histamine and can therefore trigger urinary frequency, urgency, and pain (2).
– Artificial Sweeteners- have been found in many studies to contribute to bladder irritation and pain (2,3).
(a more complete list of possible irritants can be found at: http://www.ic-network.com/patient-resources/diet/the-ic-food-lists/)
In order to pinpoint which of these potential culprits is responsible for one’s urgency, frequency and/or pain, an elimination diet could be completed. To do this, remove one item from your diet for a week and note if symptoms have improve. If they do, you can either choose to eliminate that particular food from your diet for good, or gradually add it back in to your diet in small amounts to see if your bladder can tolerate any amount of it. Alternatively, you could complete a food and bladder diary, where you record your urination habits, symptoms, and what and when you eat and drink, in order to establish patterns in your diet that could be contributing to your bladder symptoms.
Pelvic floor physiotherapists are trained to help clients who experience urinary frequency, urgency, and/or pain associated with bladder function. Seek one out today to help you get started on your journey towards better managing your symptoms!
Cara McDougall, Registered Physiotherapist
1. Fibroid Treatment Collaborative (Internet). Chicago Urogynecology. Bladder Diet. Available from: http://www.fibroid.com/bladder-diet/
2. The IC diet- Why some Foods Hurt the Bladder (Internet). California: IC Network; 2016. Diet Modification Can Reduce Bladder Symptoms and Pain. Available from: http//www.ic-network.com/patient-resources/diet/the-ic-diet-why-some-foods-hurt-the-bladder/
3. Shorter B, Lesser M, Moldwin RM, Kushner L. Effect of comestibles on symptoms of interstitial cystitis. J. Urol 2007; 178: 123-132