9 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 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 nine types of food and drink that can aggravate your bladder.

01 of 09

Spicy Foods

You may want to reconsider reaching for hot pepper sauce at every meal or always eating sushi with wasabi. For pretty much the same reason that hot, spicy foods can make your mouth burn, it is thought they can irritate the bladder lining and worsen symptoms.

Research has also found that elimination of spicy foods, among others, can reduce symptoms for those with interstitial cystitis (bladder inflammation)—as noted in a December 2015 Translational Andrology and Urology article.

"If you want to eat foods with flavor, you can use some herbs instead of spices," said Harvey Winkler, MD, former co-chief of urogynecology at North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health System in Manhasset, NY.

02 of 09

Citrus

Acidic fruits and juices, such as grapefruits and orange juice, can also irritate your bladder, Dr. Winkler said.

But don't let citrus steer you away from other fruits that provide key nutrients as well as a healthy dose of fiber—per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)—such as apples, blueberries, and pears.

Eating fruit also helps stave off constipation, which can sometimes affect people with overactive bladder.

03 of 09

Tomatoes

Tomatoes, like citrus, are quite acidic; as a result, you should avoid tomatoes or tomato-based foods if you don't want an irritated bladder, as noted by the authors of a January 2019 Nutrition article.

If you can't bear the thought of not having tomato sauce, you can 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.

04 of 09

Caffeinated Beverages

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

"It is both a diuretic and a bladder irritant," Dr. Winkler said, 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.

05 of 09

Alcohol

According to MedlinePlus, alcohol is yet another culprit for bladder problems. Like caffeine, alcohol is a diuretic and a bladder irritant. Dr. Winkler advised his overactive-bladder patients who drink alcohol to stick to a single glass of wine or liquor per day.

06 of 09

Added Sugar and Artificial Sweeteners

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

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

07 of 09

Carbonated Drinks

You may have to cut back on sodas or other carbonated drinks in order to avoid an irritated bladder. Carbonated beverages have been associated with worsened digestive and bladder symptoms, according to a June 2022 Women's Health OpenJournal review.

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

08 of 09

MSG

Monosodium glutamate, or MSG, is mostly 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 per an October 2018 BMC Urology study.

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.

09 of 09

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, which is a bladder irritant.

"Six to eight glasses of total fluids a day is acceptable," Dr. Winkler said. "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 completely eliminate the foods and drinks on this list and still have bladder issues. They'll be able to help determine what the underlying causes of your bladder problems are, as well as what treatment plan will work best for you.

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