8 Foods and Drinks That Irritate Your Bladder

Some foods and drinks can trigger a sudden bathroom trip.

Eating or drinking certain things can cause bladder irritation—and this can be the case even if you don't have an overactive bladder. Basically, your bladder is sensitive to irritants that can trigger the urge to go.

Paying attention to these triggers—and avoiding them if possible—can go a long way toward cutting down on sudden bathroom trips. Here are eight types of food and drink that can aggravate your bladder.

Citrus

The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) noted that, for some individuals, bladder irritation and inflammation might occur due to consuming foods high in acid.

Thus, it's possible that acidic fruits and juices, such as grapefruits and orange juice, can irritate your bladder, said Harvey Winkler, MD, former co-chief of urogynecology at North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health System in Manhasset, NY.

But don't let citrus steer you away from other fruits that provide key nutrients and a healthy dose of fiber—such as apples, blueberries, and pears. Eating fruit also helps stave off constipation, which can sometimes affect people with overactive bladder.

Tomatoes

Like citrus, tomatoes are considered an acidic food. So, you should avoid tomatoes or tomato-based foods if you don't want an irritated bladder, as noted by the authors of a 2019 Nutrition study.

If you can't bear the thought of not having tomato sauce, add a little sugar to the sauce to help tone down the acidity.

Other strategies include adding shredded carrot (or just leaving a carrot or potato in the pot for a while to "soak up" the acid), stirring in some heavy cream, or even sprinkling in a bit of baking soda (1/4 teaspoon per gallon or so) to neutralize the acidity.

Caffeinated Beverages

Drinking caffeine has been associated with bladder issues—especially among older individuals—according to a 2016 study published in Current Urology. In the study, 48.1% of patients over 60 years old and who reported complaints of bladder overactivity had consumed more than 300 milligrams of caffeine daily.

"It is both a diuretic and a bladder irritant," said Dr. Winkler, meaning it causes your kidneys to make more urine and makes your bladder more sensitive. "I tell patients, 'If you're going to have a cup of coffee, expect to have to go to the bathroom.'"

So if you're a coffee or tea lover, stick to one cup—and also be aware that cocoa and chocolate also pack a caffeine punch.

Alcohol

Alcohol can be another culprit for bladder problems.

Like caffeine, alcohol is a diuretic and a bladder irritant. The researchers of a Nutrients study published in 2017 noted that alcohol has been shown to trigger the need for more bathroom trips. They also found that, on a short-term basis, consuming moderate amounts of alcohol had a diuretic effect on the participants.

Dr. Winkler advised his overactive-bladder patients who drink alcohol to stick to a single glass of wine or liquor per day.

Added Sugar and Artificial Sweeteners

Natural sugar—and artificial versions such as Splenda—can worsen the symptoms of overactive bladder for some people, said Dr. Winkler. (That means if you decide to use sugar in your tomato sauce, you'll need to watch how much you use.)

If sweeteners give you bladder trouble, try to cut them out of your diet or use them as little as possible.

Carbonated Drinks

You may have to cut back on sodas or other carbonated drinks to avoid an irritated bladder. Carbonated beverages have been associated with worsened digestive and bladder symptoms, according to a 2022 study.

What's more, soda often contains some combination of caffeine, sugar, or artificial sweeteners—all of which are overactive-bladder triggers in their own right.

MSG

Monosodium glutamate, or MSG, is mainly known as a flavor enhancer and lurks in other foods in and beyond restaurants. MSG is also considered to be an additive that irritates the bladder.

If you are MSG-sensitive, carefully read the labels of soups, stocks, salad dressings, canned vegetables, frozen entrées, and foods containing whey or soy protein to make sure they are free of the additive.

Too Much (or Too Little) Liquid

There's no reason for you to overload too much on liquids, which for obvious reasons, can aggravate your bladder. Drinking too little liquid can be a problem as well because it can lead to overly concentrated urine. Concentrated urine increases your need to urinate.

"Six to eight glasses of total fluids a day is acceptable," said Dr. Winkler. "It also depends on activity level, and you should drink if you are thirsty, as your body is telling you something."

Your healthcare professional can help if you avoid or eliminate the foods and drinks on this list and still have bladder issues. They'll be able to help determine the underlying causes of your bladder problems and what treatment plan will work best for you.

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Sources
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  2. CDC. How to Use Fruits and Vegetables to Help Manage Your Weight.

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  5. Polhuis KCMM, Wijnen AHC, Sierksma A, Calame W, Tieland M. The diuretic action of weak and strong alcoholic beverages in elderly men: a randomized diet-controlled crossover trialNutrients. 2017;9(7):660. doi: 10.3390/nu9070660

  6. Baptiste-Weiss T, Cuzin B, Schmidtberger K. Integrative medicine approaches: irritable bowel syndrome, interstitial cystitis (painful bladder syndrome) and infertility in women’s health. Women Health Open J. 2022; 8(1): 1-8. doi: 10.17140/WHOJ-8-146

  7. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Eating, Diet, & Nutrition for Interstitial Cystitis.

  8. UpToDate. Patient education: Urinary incontinence treatments for women (Beyond the Basics).

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