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6 Foods That Can Irritate The Bladder, From A Urogynecologist & Pelvic Floor Expert

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March 18, 2022

Curious about how to support your pelvic floor? We've got an article for that. Itching to learn how to train and strengthen the bladder? That, too, we've covered: Generally, experts recommend waiting a few minutes to go to the bathroom in order to increase bladder capacity, staying hydrated, and enjoying fiber-rich foods. But this raises the question: Is there anything in our daily routines we might want to avoid for the sake of bladder health?

According to urogynecologist and pelvic floor expert Betsy Greenleaf, D.O., the answer is a resounding yes. "There are some foods that can actually irritate the bladder," she declares on the mindbodygreen podcast. Below, Greenleaf breaks them down.

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Foods that can irritate the bladder.

"There are components of these foods that when they're processed, they go through the kidneys and then become part of the urine," Greenleaf explains. We should note: These foods are not inherently bad, but if you are struggling with your bladder health already, you might want to limit them:

  • Acidic foods: If you're experiencing bladder issues, one of the key characteristics to look out for in foods is acidity content. "Acidic foods can tend to irritate the bladder, like citrus fruits and tomatoes," she explains. Chocolate and wine also make it onto the list, as both are acidic.
  • Carbonated drinks: In addition to acidic foods, carbonated drinks1 can also exacerbate bladder problems. Says Greenleaf, sparkling beverages can make you feel like you have to go sooner.
  • Caffeine: Caffeine is a diuretic and bladder stimulant, but if you are experiencing any bladder issues, you may want to steer clear. "Even decaf coffee can really irritate the bladder," Greenleaf notes, as it still contains trace amounts of caffeine. "So if you are somebody who is already having bladder problems, you may want to stay away from coffee," she adds.

Greenleaf does emphasize, however, that if you aren't having any bladder issues, these foods are completely fine to enjoy: "I'm not going to tell people [to never] eat those things because if you don't have a problem with your bladder, there's a lot of health benefits in those foods," she says.

But if you are looking to strengthen the muscle, you might want to limit them and see how you feel. "Unfortunately, a great Italian dinner with tomato sauce and wine is probably one of the worst [meals] if you already have bladder problems," Greenleaf adds. Perhaps focus on other pelvic-floor-supporting foods instead.

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The takeaway.

According to Greenleaf, it's important to eat with your bladder health in mind. And if you are experiencing any bladder problems, you might want to avoid acidic foods like citrus fruits, tomatoes, chocolate, and alcohol, as well as caffeine and carbonated beverages. That's not to say these foods don't have worthy health benefits on their own, but limiting them can make a difference for someone who needs a bit more bladder support.

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