What Your Bladder Thinks About What You Ate & Drank for Dinner Last Night


We know that the foods we eat affect our well-being far beyond the simple calorie equations and their contribution to weight gain or loss. Different foods are converted to energy differently and individuals experience and process foods in vastly different ways. What is considered a delicacy in one culture might seem totally unappetizing or even gross to someone with a different upbringing.

As a result of experiences and exposure, genetic differences, availability of foods, as well as cultural and religious preferences, everyone has different tastes and preferences. Foods can be associated with hormonal and neurotransmitter release, making us happy or sleepy, energetic or even sad. And most people have foods that do not ‘agree’ with them, this may simply represent an intolerance but, in some cases, allergic reactions exist to foods and these can range from mild to life-threatening.

It should be no surprise that every system in our body is impacted by our dietary choices and the bladder is no exception. Urine is part of the body’s cleansing and waste system and is made as the kidneys filter our blood. Depending on a number of things, urine will have different constituents and be more or less dilute. The bladder, as its most simple function, stores urine until we are ready to empty it at an appropriate time and place.

We have all experienced the unpleasant sensation of holding too much urine because we couldn’t find a bathroom. This can be quite painful and can be associated with lower pelvic spasms, leakage, or even more generalized symptoms such as flushing or headache. Also, because we don’t all come in the same size, some people may have these feelings at relatively low volumes of urine and, if there is an infection, at no or almost no urine volume at all.

CPPS & IC & other Pelvic Pain Conditions

There are several health conditions associated with recurrent or persistent bladder discomfort, including constipation, uterine fibroids, endometriosis, Interstitial cystitis, CPPS (chronic pelvic pain syndrome) and fibromyalgia. While there are a variety of medications and treatments for these more persistent or severe situations, many people experience intermittent bothersome urinary symptoms related to the foods or beverages that they ingest. Awareness of these along with simple lifestyle modifications may lead to elimination of these episodes and may help patients with more severe conditions manage or prevent recurrences. Occasionally, bladder symptoms can underlie a more serious condition so comprehensive evaluation by an expert of recurrent or ongoing urinary symptoms and pelvic pain is critical.

Fluids & Artificial Sweeteners

Caffeine and carbonated beverages are the number one offenders related to urinary symptoms. These can be associated with more frequent urination, more urgent urination and even pain or burning with urination in some cases. Coffee type drinks and tea are the most common caffeine containing drinks but caffeine can be found in other types of drinks as well as certain foods, even decaffeinated coffee may have modest amounts of caffeine. Caffeine can affect the bladder both directly and indirectly because of the diuretic effect whereby it actually promotes additional urine production.

Alcohol is another significant irritant for many people. It has a diuretic effect similar to caffeine and will increase the production of urine for some time after consumption. It also functions directly as an irritant to the bladder lining as well.

Artificial sweeteners have been linked to a number of harmful health impacts including obesity, malignancy and are implicated in Interstitial cystitis and irritative voiding symptoms as well. These should be avoided and, like caffeine, can pop up in unexpected places. Thus, it’s important to read food labels!

‘Trigger’ Foods

Not surprisingly perhaps, hot peppers and spicy foods are triggers for many people. Perhaps less intuitively, acidic foods such as citrus fruits and juices are also among those which cause bladder discomfort. Interestingly, tomatoes are actually quite acidic, and some patients notice worsened symptoms when they eat pizza or red sauces. And Bloody Marys might be best to avoid if you frequently have bothersome urinary symptoms.

You will need to remove foods and beverages for several weeks to establish whether they are contributing to your symptoms. It is helpful to keep a diary of what foods and beverages you eat everyday, as well as how often you void and any urinary symptoms including burning, discomfort, or pressure. Download food diary PDF

Treatment Alternatives

There are some over the counter products such as calcium glycerophosphate that can help reduce acid in foods and studies have demonstrated that this has been effective in decreasing symptoms of bladder irritation associated with dietary triggers.

Contact Snippa if you have bothersome urinary symptoms or pelvic pain.

Written by Dr. Mara Holton and Kathleen Mackey, CRNP – founders of Snippa, a web-based telehealth company focusing on improving quality of life for women dealing with bothersome conditions including UTIs, Overactive Bladder, Incontinence, and Female Sexual Dysfunction. As active women and mothers themselves, Mara and Kathleen empathize with the burden these conditions cause and are passionate about empowering and educating women to take control of their symptoms and improve their quality of life. hellosnippa.com offers expert consultation with licensed specialty medical providers and a full range of products to treat these conditions.

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