Urinary incontinence has become one of the biggest hassles in your life, wreaking havoc among a laugh with friends, your daily jog, or even playing with your kids. Anxiety about bladder leakage dictates nearly everything you do. You may feel powerless to stop these leaks, but did you know there are specific diet guidelines you should (and shouldn’t) follow for incontinence?
Diet guidelines for incontinence: foods to add
Being aware of certain nutrients can help you balance your diet for incontinence, assisting your body in naturally reducing leaks.
Magnesium is an important mineral that supports nerve and muscle function and is known to reduce bladder muscle spasms. Supplements ensure that you’re receiving your target daily allowance, but diet can also incorporate magnesium by eating bananas, avocados, dark leafy greens, nuts and seeds, fish, beans, and whole grains. In addition to bladder control, magnesium can also help with energy level, sleep quality, and bone and muscle health.
Fiber is important for maintaining bowel health. If you have occasional bladder leakage, constipation may be the culprit. When your bowels are full, it can put significant pressure on the bladder. Fiber helps keep things moving. Try adding fibrous foods, such as nuts, seeds, oats, beans, lentils, and vegetables. Fiber also can help with controlling blood sugar, lowering cholesterol, and weight loss.
Vitamin D deficiencies can increase pelvic floor disorders, which can contribute to bladder control issues. A 2016 study at the University of Alabama Birmingham found a clear association between Vitamin D and urinary incontinence in older adults. So get some sun (don’t forget the sunscreen)! Time outside is the easiest way to get vitamin D, but recommended foods include eggs, fortified dairy, and fish. Of course, supplements also help increase Vitamin D levels.
Diet guidelines for incontinence: foods to avoid
Removing foods you love is probably more difficult than adding healthy foods, but targeting a diet for incontinence can have an impact. Check out some of the foods to avoid when suffering from incontinence.
Alcohol is a diuretic, which means it increases the production of urine and causes more frequent urination. Alcohol consumption also affects messages from the brain to the bladder that signifies when it’s time to urinate. So when you’re drinking, you have less control over your body’s natural signals, which can increase the chance of an accident for individuals who already struggle with bladder incontinence.
Caffeine comes in many forms, including sodas, teas, chocolate, and coffee. As with alcohol, caffeine triggers your body to eliminate liquids, causing more frequent urination. This increase in urination can irritate the bladder and increase the symptoms of incontinence.
Sugar also can lead to greater urine production, which can be harmful to women with urinary incontinence because it exacerbates the existing symptoms. Eliminating or significantly decreasing sugar is one of the most challenging dietary adjustments. The U.S. consumes the most sugar per capita in the world, with an average of two pounds per week! Check out these no sugar recipes for ideas on how to cut down on sugar.
High acid foods also irritate the bladder, making you feel like you have to urinate more often than normal. Common examples of acidic foods are citrus, tomatoes, and pineapples, but less obvious acidic sources include coffee, alcohol, and soda. Learn more by reading this list of foods high in acid.
Myths about diet guidelines for incontinence
“Drink less water.” A natural precaution for women with incontinence is to drink less water before going on a run or leaving the house. Logic says that drinking too much of any liquid increases the risk of having an accident. However, your water intake is not the issue. You can treat bladder incontinence without depriving yourself of proper hydration. Drinking less water will make your urine more concentrated and could cause irritation to the bladder. Staying hydrated is key to healthy living, so instead, look for other ways to treat your incontinence symptoms.
“Drink cranberry juice.” Cranberry juice is another myth surrounding bladder issues. Although unsweetened cranberry juice can improve urinary tract and kidney health, it doesn’t help with bladder incontinence. Its high acidity may actually increase incontinence symptoms.
Listen to your body
Changing your diet guidelines because of incontinence is not easy, especially when avoiding things we enjoy. Alcohol, a substance that often represents relaxation and socializing, can be difficult to eliminate, even if your pelvic floor health is at stake. Caffeine has been integrated into many of our diets from an early age and helps most of us have the energy to take on the day. Maybe you’ve relied on highly acidic foods or cannot imagine a life without sugar. We get it!
Cutting out these staples is a challenge for everyone, but even one or two changes can make a difference. Try logging your food and trips to the bathroom to see if dietary changes help your leaky bladder. And if you don’t see any improvement, it might be time to explore treatment options. Do not be discouraged! There are many solutions for incontinence.