Avoiding Bladder Irritants

citrus fruits may be bladder irritants

Citrus fruits may be bladder irritants for some people – but not everyone.

There are a number of foods and drinks that most people eat or drink every day that can irritate the lining of your bladder.  We call these bladder irritants.  These foods and drinks may cause people with sensitive bladders to have to go to the bathroom more often and need to get to the bathroom sooner.  Sometimes this may cause incontinence.

An easy way to check if any food or drink is causing bladder problems is to do a special diet, called an “elimination diet”. Stop eating and drinking all the foods and drinks listed in our “10 Bladder Irritants You Can Avoid” below for two weeks. Also take out any other foods or drinks that you think may be causing a problem.

If your bladder gets better, then begin to add back to your diet one product each week. If you notice your bladder is acting up again, stop using the food or drink that you just added back. Wait two weeks before adding any of the other products. Then, start again to add one new food at a time.

10 Bladder Irritants You Can Avoid

Here is a list of foods that may irritate your bladder and that you can avoid.  If your incontinence gets better, you know to keep these out of your diet:

  • Caffeine (often in coffee, tea, iced tea, soda, and chocolate)
  • Carbonated beverages (sodas, carbonated water)
  • Coffee (including decaf)
  • Citrus fruits (orange, lemon, lime, grapefruit, etc.)
  • Fruit juices
  • Alcoholic beverages
  • Milk, yogurt and other dairy foods
  • Cranberries and cranberry juice
  • Apples and apple juice
  • Spicy foods

It is hard to stop eating and drinking things we love, but it isn’t painful and it doesn’t cost anything, so most people with incontinence are encouraged to try this as a first step. If something that you are eating is the main problem, drugs and surgery may not help, so it is best to see if this could be part of the problem.  Restoring calm to your bladder is a very helpful first step in managing incontinence!

There is no cost to removing foods from your diet, other than finding and buying new foods and drinks to replace the ones that your find to be irritating to your bladder.  This diet is completely non-invasive and can be done at your own pace.  It may be hard to go without eating or drinking something that you like, but having reduced incontinence symptoms is worth it!

While avoiding bladder irritants can help, sometimes it doesn’t stop all leaking, so continue to use your incontinence management products while doing this diet.

Medical Reviewer: Diana Hankey-Underwood, MS, WHNP-BC

Diana Hankey-UnderwoodMs. Hankey-Underwood, MS, WHNP-BC, is Executive Director of Grace Anatomy, Inc. She is the recipient of two National awards: the Nurse Practitioners in Women’s Health Bayer Health Care 2007 Inspiration in Women’s Health Award and the National Association For Continence 2007 Continence Care Champion (CCC) award.  Her current work includes research on results of pelvic floor surgery, teaching classes on incontinence and working with international surgeons on improving the outcomes for children born with birth defects of the genitourinary and GI systems.

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