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Eating your way to better bladder health

Published by Cheryl Mussatto, MS, RD, LD on Nov 19, 2021

 

Bladder health is rarely discussed but all of us are affected by it

Bladder health should be a top priority 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, what you eat and drink directly impacts your bladder and it’s functioning.

Get to know your bladder

Before discussing food and dietary changes that help manage bladder and urinary issues, let’s learn more about your bladder.

Located in the lower abdomen, the bladder is a hollow organ, 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 experience changes. The elastic bladder tissue may toughen and become less stretchy. A less stretchy bladder cannot hold much urine causing you to make frequent bathroom visits. Weakened pelvic floor muscles and bladder wall cause other issues from difficulty in emptying the bladder completely to urine leaked if you cough or sneeze.

Bladder problems are common and can disrupt your day-to-day activities.  You may find yourself avoiding social situations or having difficulty completing tasks at home or at work.

Top dietary habits your bladder will love

Good bladder health starts with what you eat and drink. Adopt the following healthy bladder dietary habits to avoid overactive bladder and urinary incontinence:

Stay well hydrated

About one third of your fluid intake comes from foods like fruits, veggies, and soup. Drinking water should make up the majority of your fluid needs. How much water do you need to drink each day?  Take your weight in pounds and divide it by two for the number of ounces of water to consume daily. So, if you weigh 160 pounds, 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.  Water is also needed to flush out toxins and wastes through the urinary system. When dehydrated, the buildup of minerals can irritate the lining of your bladder. If there’s a concentration of wastes that have accumulated, this 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 increase bladder activity acting as a diuretic which can increase the amount of urine made. 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 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 – Carbonated beverages such as soda, seltzer or sparkling waters, contain carbon dioxide that can trigger irritation and sensitivity in an overactive bladder. Most urologists recommend to avoid sipping on these beverages all day long and capping 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

Adding more vegetables to your diet is a perfect solution for helping reduce urinary frequency and urgency. Vegetables such as spinach, kale, broccoli, or cauliflower are high in vitamin C and calcium helping support good bladder health. Calcium helps with muscle contraction of the detrusor muscle found in the bladder walls. This muscle allows the bladder to store urine and to contract when urinating releasing it. Magnesium helps the bladder empty itself completely. Good food sources of magnesium include pumpkin seeds, almonds, peanuts, soymilk, black beans, and edamame.

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 levels of 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 on use of vitamin D supplementation. Ask your healthcare provider for their advice on vitamin D supplementation.

Vitamin D can also be obtained from both non-food and food sources. The best non-food source of vitamin D is spending time in the sunlight.  The best food sources of this fat-soluble vitamin include fortified vitamin D milk, salmon, tuna, beef liver, and egg yolk.

 

 

 

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Cheryl Mussatto, MS, RD, LD

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 Cotton O’Neil Clinics in Topeka and Osage City; an adjunct professor for Allen Community College, Burlingame, KS where she teaches Basic Nutrition; and is a freelance writer and blog contributor for Dr. David Samadi, Urologic Oncologist Expert and World Renowned Robotic Surgeon in New York City. Cheryl is also the author of The Nourished Brain, The Latest Science on Food’s Power for Protecting the Brain from Alzheimers and Dementia and The Prediabetes Action Plan and Cookbook, both available on Amazon in Kindle and paperback editions.

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