Eating your way to a healthier bladder

When my older sister started leaking drops of urine in her mid-50s, she decided to use incontinence pads, much like the sanitary pads, to absorb the flow. 

She suffered from what’s called stress incontinence (SI), where she leaked almost every time she laughed loudly or sneezed. 

After some time, her symptoms worsened, as it happens in SI, putting her life virtually on hold. She stopped going out much, stopped jogging, and almost lost her marriage due to relationship issues.

What she and other women suffering quietly with leakage problems don’t know is that incontinence is yoked to pelvic floor health and can be vastly improved just by changing what you eat and drink. 

In this article, I have flagged the most beneficial and detrimental foods to look out for in your journey to a happy, healthy pelvic floor which is incontinence -proof.

Foods and drinks to avoid for bladder health

  • Caffeine and caffeinated beverages– Caffeine is found in coffee, tea, colas and chocolate. Why you need to have less of caffeine is because it’s a diuretic and can irritate your bladder leading to an increase in its activity, which means that you have to run to the toilet more often. Diuretics also encourage the kidneys to produce more urine.
    If you can’t quit coffee completely, just cut down on its consumption by having just one cup a day and do switch to dark chocolate which has more cocoa and less coffee. 
  • Acidic foods – Tomatoes and citrus foods can cause your urine to become more acidic, leading to bladder irritation and increased urgency. Cranberry juice is also acidic and is therefore bad for bladder health.
  • Alcoholic drinks – Alcohol is dehydrating and can irritate your bladder as well as lead to concentrated urine. It also accelerates the rate that kidneys gather water and causes the bladder to empty more often- a seriously bad combination for your pelvic health.
  • Soft drinks – These can cause an overactive bladder as the carbon dioxide in these fizzy drinks can irritate a sensitive bladder, increasing urgency. They also contain caffeine and artificial sweeteners which also act as bladder irritation triggers. 
  • Spicy foods – Your bladder and bowel both find spicy foods too hot to handle as these irritate the bladder lining and can contribute to chronic bladder pain. 
  • Sugar and sweeteners – Sugar can increase urge incontinence and the synthetic sugar alternatives can worsen symptoms of an overactive bladder by irritating the bladder lining.
  • Salt- Salty foods can over-stimulate your bladder leading to more trips to the toilet both through the day and at night, worsening your pelvic health.

Hacks for bladder health

  • Drink more water
    Water is the perfect antidote to bladder incontinence. Drinking less H2O can be counter-productive as this can lead to more concentrated urine and constipation, which can increase bladder irritation and feelings of urgency. However, don’t go overboard and stick to just 6-8 glasses of water a day to keep your urine clear and neutral. 
  • Eat more fibre 
    The bladder and the bowel work in tandem. This means if your bowel is unhealthy, so will be your bladder. 
    A constipated bowel can press on your bladder, making your incontinence worse.
    So what you should do is to start increasing your soluble fibre and insoluble fibre intake, for a healthy digestive tract.
    This means having more whole grains like barley and oatmeal, fresh and dried fruit, green veggies, and beans.
    You can also use a laxative if a high-fibre diet does not help in relieving constipation.
  • Lower your BMI

Weight loss is the one most effective way to improve your pelvic floor health.

Why? Because this will straightway help to reduce the pressure on your pelvic floor muscles, as well as provide better support to your bladder and bowel and improve your ability to control the bladder sphincter muscles. 

Multiple studies also suggest that weight gain and pelvic floor health are intrinsically linked and that shedding excess kilos can reduce the symptoms of stress incontinence and an overactive bladder both as it alleviates the pressure on all organs in the abdomen, including the bladder.

By losing 10% of your body weight, you can increase the strength of your pelvic floor by as much as 50% and fix incontinence issues.

You can lose weight by cutting down on carbs and fats and by practising calorie restriction which means eating fewer calories than you burn daily, and strength training regularly to lose flab and gain muscle.

Well, this is what my cousin did and it worked out well for her. She is now 5kg lighter and she has got rid of her leakage problems.

About the Author

Shikha Gandhi