Bladder irritants

What you eat and drink, certain medicine you take, and some medical conditions can affect your bladder. Here are some ways to decrease known bladder irritants as well as suggest good bladder health habits. The goal is to lessen any urinary urgency, frequency, and urinary incontinence and/or discomfort.

Diet

Many foods and drinks can cause bladder irritation. This can be from the amount or type of a food or beverage that you eat or drink. High acid food or drink and caffeine may irritate the lining of the bladder or upset the nervous system that controls the bladder and bowel.

Do not drink:

  • Any caffeinated drinks, such as:
    • Coffee (regular and decaf)
    • Tea
    • Soda/pop/colas (regular and decaf)
  • Alcohol (beer, wine and liquor)
  • Carbonated beverages, such as:
    • Sodas/pop/colas (diet and regular)
    • Carbonated water
  • Fruit juices
    • Apple
    • Cranberry
    • Citrus fruits, like orange or grapefruit

Do not drink large amounts of fluids.

  • You should drink 6 to 8 cups (8 ounce glasses) of fluid a day. 
  • If you drink more than that, know that what goes in must go out.

Do not eat:

  • Chocolate
  • Nutrasweet™and other artificial sweeteners
  • Stimulants
  • Vitamin B complex
  • Vitamin C
  • Acidic food such as:
    • Spicy foods, vinegar, pepper, chili, and chilies
    • Citrus fruits like:
      • Orange
      • Grapefruit
      • Lemon
      • Lime
    • Fruits such as:
      • Apples
      • Cranberries
      • Pineapple
      • Peaches
      • Strawberries
      • Tomatoes
      • Mango
      • Plums
      • Grapes
      • Guava
      • Cantaloupes

Better choices

Instead of some foods and drinks you can try:

  • Eat pears, apricots, papaya, and watermelon instead of acidic fruits.            
  • Drink Kava (low-acid instant coffee), Cold Brew from Starbucks or Pero coffee.
  • Drink non-citrus herbal and sun brewed tea.
  • Drink calcium carbonate co-buffered with calcium ascorbate instead of Vitamin C.

Coffee and caffeine

  • Getting rid of coffee and caffeine can be hard.
  • You can choose to wean yourself slowly by cutting back 1 cup a day.
    • Stay at that amount for 3 days.
    • Then cut back again by 1 more cup for 3 days.
    • Do this until you have gotten rid of drinking any coffee or caffeine.
  • You can also choose to stop drinking coffee or caffeine "cold turkey." 
    • People can have low energy, be upset faster, and have a throbbing headache that can last up to 72 hours when they stop caffeine.
    • You want to give yourself a 3-day weekend without many pressing responsibilities to rid caffeine from your diet. 
  • If you have a headache, you can treat it with a non-caffeinated aspirin.
    • Do not take Excedrin. It has caffeine. 
  • Coffee can also be a laxative for many people. When you stop drinking coffee, you may need to take other measures to keep from getting constipated.
    • Make sure you get plenty of fluid and exercise.
    • You may want to add fiber and/or prune juice to your diet.

Using a strict diet

  • If your bladder symptoms are due to your eating and drinking, a strict diet that gets rid of the products listed can give you relief in 10 days.
  • Once your symptoms get better, you can add things back in.
    • Do this one at a time. 
    • This way if something does cause you to have more symptoms, you will be able to tell which product is the problem.
  • When you do start to add foods back, you need to keep drinking the 6 to 8 glasses of 8 ounce glasses of fluids a day.
    • You should drink water.
  • If you follow the strict diet for 10 days and do not have any changes in your symptoms, your problem may not be due to diet and you can go back to your normal eating habits.

Stop or lessen your smoking

  • Nicotine is a bladder irritant as well as bad for your lungs, raising your risk of cancer, and bad for your general health.
  • No amount of smoking is healthy or safe.
  • Call the Quitline Iowa at 1-877-777-6534 or contact your primary care provider if you need help quitting. Ask us if you have questions.

Medicines and medical conditions

  • Medicines such as diuretics (“water pills”) for high blood pressure cause you to “get rid” of fluid that your body is keeping. 
  • If you take a diuretic, it will make your bladder fill up quickly and then you will need to pee more often. 
    • For some women, after taking the medicine, they stay close to a bathroom and pee more often to lower leakage. 
    • Do not take this type of medicine at bedtime. You will need to get up often during the night to pee.
  • Certain medicines or medical conditions may cause you to have a dry mouth or become thirstier. 
    • Try to limit the amount of fluids that you drink a few hours before you go to bed. 
    • Ask us about ways to lessen dry mouth if you have a problem.
  • If you have leg swelling, you can elevate (raise) your legs. The fluid from the swelling will go into your circulation and then into your bladder. 
  • You can lower the number of times that you have to get up at night to pee if you:
    • Raise your legs a couple of hours before you go to bed
    • Wear compression stockings to lower swelling
Last reviewed: 
March 2020

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