Diet and lifestyle can play a huge role in managing urinary incontinence. In general, the more healthy we are, the less prone we are to experiencing incontinence. Establishing a routine of exercise paired with a bladder friendly diet can greatly improve symptoms and help you to live a more normal and active lifestyle.
Healthy Habits That Ease Incontinence
When urine is concentrated (from not drinking enough fluids) it can irritate the lining of the bladder and urinary tract. Typically, 6–8 (eight-ounce) glasses of water per day is a healthy amount.
Try to spread your fluids out evenly throughout the day, but avoid drinking a large amount right before bedtime.
Check with your doctor to see how much daily fluid intake is right for you.
Maintain a Healthy Weight
It's easier said than done but the benefits cannot be overstated. Carrying around excess weight can put extra pressure on the bladder causing leakage. This can also put extra pressure on the pelvic muscles causing them to weaken.
A healthy lifestyle including regular exercise reduces your risk factor for many diseases that can lead to incontinence, including diabetes.
Even a weight loss of as little as 10 pounds can help lower your sugars and improve your general health.
Strengthen Your Pelvic Muscles
Certain exercises can target the muscles of the pelvic floor and bladder, making them stronger and helping to avoid leaks.
One of the most common routines is called Kegel exercises.
Try to stop your urine flow midstream. Once you have done this you have identified the muscles you are targeting as well as how to work them out. Tighten those muscles for 5 seconds at a time, then relax. Repeat this 10 times in a row, three or more times each day.
You can do Kegels at any time, anywhere…because nobody can see that you're doing them!
Don't Hold in Your Urine
It is important that you recognize the signs that you need to urinate and go when needed.
Holding your urine can irritate the bladder, worsening the symptoms of urinary incontinence.
It can also lead to infections of the urinary tract.
You want to make sure you empty your bladder completely each time you urinate.
Typically, the bladder holds about 2 cups of urine and it takes around 20–30 seconds to fully empty during urination.
This process can take longer than normal if you suffer from urinary incontinence, so make sure you give yourself enough time in the restroom.
Cigarettes and tobacco smoke are known bladder irritants. In addition to that, smoking increases coughing episodes which weakens the bladder and can worsen stress incontinence.
Food & Drink That Aggravate Incontinence
It's super important that we are putting good, healthy and nutritious foods into our bodies every day. However, it can be a bit of a balancing act when it comes to incontinence and what we eat/drink.
A good way to find the balance that works best for you is to keep a food diary. Note which foods you like, what time you ate them, and if eating them caused your symptoms to worsen or not.
You can adjust the amount of the food to get to a level that works for you if you do not want to cut that food out of your diet completely.
Alcohol itself not only irritates the bladder, but it can lead to dehydration as well because alcohol interferes with the chemicals in your brain that regulate urination. This causes the urine to become more concentrated and can lead to infections of the urinary system.
Avoid beer, wine, and liquor as much as possible when experiencing serious incontinence.
Acidic & High Sugar Fruits & Juices
This includes citrus, strawberries, cranberries, apples, guava, cantaloupe, pineapple, and peaches.
These can increase the PH of the urine, irritating the bladder and increasing the urge to urinate more often.
Bananas have been known to cause irritation as well.
This includes sparkling waters, sodas and seltzers; even decaffeinated ones. The carbonation increases the frequency and the feeling of urgency to urinate.
Chilis, peppers, raw onions, spicy sauces, and curries. Try to limit the amount of spiciness in your dishes by listening to your body.
The heat from these foods can make it all the way down to the urinary system.
Learn how much you can tolerate without it affecting your urinary habits so you can still enjoy the foods you love in moderation.
Believe it or not, even though milk products are typically basic (non-acidic) they have been found to irritate the lining of the bladder.
Caffeine found in colas, energy drinks, tea, coffee, chocolate, and even some medications can act as a diuretic, increasing the frequency and the urge to go to the bathroom.
Drinks that contain caffeine can also be acidic which can irritate the bladder further.
Try to stick to decaffeinated versions of your favorite drinks. White chocolate is a great caffeine-free alternative as well
Sugars & Artificial Sweeteners
High-sugar content drinks and foods (even those made with honey) may increase the symptoms of urinary incontinence. This includes artificial sweeteners as well they have been known to irritate a sensitive bladder.
Tomatoes & Tomato-Based Products
Tomato products are very high in acid content and sugar. This includes salsas, pasta sauces, pizza sauce, ketchup, etc.
Food & Drink That Ease the Symptoms of Urinary Incontinence
Now that you know what foods/beverages can irritate the urinary system, let's take a look at some choices that can actually improve it. A good rule of thumb is to avoid as many processed foods as possible by making meals and snacks yourself. Here are some options that you should include in your diet:
Fiber can come from a wide variety of foods giving you tons of ways to incorporate it into your diet.
Fiber is important to urinary health because it helps to maintain a good bowel pattern, which reduces stress on the bladder.
It is recommended that women intake about 25 grams of fiber daily and men intake 38 grams daily. High-fiber content foods include:
- Whole-grain bread, cereals, and crackers
- Brown rice
- Beans and legumes
- Oats, oatmeal and barley
- Chia seeds
- High-fiber vegetables (especially raw)
- Potatoes and Sweet potato with the skin
- High-fiber (low acid) fruits
- Passion fruit
A diet high in protein is a great foundation for a healthy lifestyle as it has many benefits. Aside from being gentle on the bladder, protein also allows the body to heal itself more efficiently and can help maintain a healthy weight.
The usual recommended daily intake is 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight (or 0.36 grams per pound of body weight). So a person who is 180 pounds should take in roughly 65 grams daily of protein.
Lean meats, fish, shellfish, and eggs are great options to include in a high-protein diet. Some meat-free alternatives include dried beans, lentils, quinoa, seeds, and oats.
Water is the best option for keeping hydrated as it is no calories, no sugar, non-acidic, it's non-carbonated, and has no caffeine.
Try to include 6–8, 8 ounce glasses of water in your diet per day (unless you are on a fluid-intake restriction from your doctor).
Some other drinks that are gentle on the bladder include grape juice and cherry juice.
Fresh or dried herbs can be a great substitute for spices that were mentioned earlier that irritate the bladder. Adding garlic, rosemary, dill, parsley, etc, to your dishes can help keep them flavorful and pleasing to the palate, without upsetting your urinary system.
Vitamins, Herbs, & Minerals That Ease Urinary Incontinence
Many times, we are not able to get everything we need from our diet alone and a supplement is necessary.
Supplements can have great results when it comes to our health and well being, however, they are not to be taken without some level of consideration.
Most herbal or supplemental treatments are not regulated by the FDA for quality and dosing measures. Always speak to your physician first when deciding which supplements you plan to take as some supplements may interfere with your current medical conditions or medication regimens.
Keeping a consistent amount of vitamin D in the diet has been proven to help avoid pelvic floor and muscle disorders in women.
Some foods high in vitamin – D such as fortified milk products – may irritate the bladder, so a good vitamin D supplement is a great alternative. You can also find vitamin D in eggs and fish.
Another great way to get some vitamin D? Take a walk! Our skin absorbs vitamin D from the sunlight so get outside and soak it up!
Magnesium has been proven to reduce muscle contractions in the bladder, easing the symptoms of overactive bladder.
Popular in Europe, this extract may help to reduce an enlarged prostate as well as calm the nerves in the urinary tract, reducing the urge to urinate.
The herb looks just like its name suggests, a horsetail. As we age our bladder tissues can become fibrous and worn. Horsetail can slow down and even reverse this process to an extent, although there is little research to support this entirely.
Cranberry juice can irritate the bladder, so taking it in the pill form can give you the benefits without the irritation. There are enzymes in cranberries that help to reduce the pain and burning associated with bladder irritation (especially if caused by a UTI). Keep in mind that cranberries can also increase the frequency of urination as they can act as a mild diuretic.
This Japanese herbal compound has been shown to reduce the urge and frequency to urinate after about 8 weeks of use.
Disclaimer: The information presented here is purely for educational purposes and should not be used in place of the advice of your doctor or physician.