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Kate Dyson


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For words you might want to know more

Stress incontinence

The involuntary leakage of urine is triggered by activities such as coughing, laughing, sneezing, running or jumping. Despite the name, stress incontinence is not caused by emotional stress, but by weak pelvic floor muscles.

Urge incontinence

The involuntary leakage of urine caused by a sudden, intense urge to pee.

Pelvic floor physio

A therapy programme designed to improve pelvic floor function. It includes assessments, exercises, treatments and education.

Ask an expert: Can your diet affect bladder incontinence?

There’s no dietary cure for incontinence. However, what you eat and drink can have a profound impact on, well, how it comes out.

Making simple nutritional changes can help you minimise your intake of products that cause bladder irritation so that you can improve your bladder control.

We’ve all experienced that heart-stopping moment after you’ve sneezed or laughed, and then…peed. Urinary incontinence may feel embarrassing to address, but it shouldn’t be — it’s very common.

But why does this happen? And can our diet make bladder issues worse?

Here at Jude, we ask an expert to explain all.

What is incontinence and how common is it?

Around14 million in the UK people of all ages are living with bladder problems, roughly the equivalent size of the over 60 population in the country. An estimated 34% of women alone are living with urinary incontinence.

But it’s not as straightforward as you may think. There are three different types of urinary incontinence, including:

  • Stress incontinence. This means people may accidentally pee a little bit when their bladder is under stress, for example when they cough, sneeze, exercise or laugh.

  • Urge incontinence. We’ve all been here — when you have a very sudden and immediate urge to rush to the toilet, often with seconds to spare.

  • Mixed incontinence. A combination of stress and urge incontinence

The link between diet and bladder health

What you eat and drink can have an effect on your bladder. Regarding liquids, there's definitely a lot you can do that doesn’t require that much effort to help reduce unwanted bladder leaks. 

Ultimately, it’s all about reducing your caffeine and alcohol intake. 

Stella Ivaz, a Consultant Urologist at The London Clinic with a special interest in Female Urology, told Jude: “Caffeine intake plays a major role."

“It’s important not to restrict yourself, but to instead offer ‘healthy swaps’ as this is a much more sustainable way to make long-term changes. For example, opt for lemon and ginger tea, or peppermint instead of your usual cup of tea or coffee.

“Some fizzy drink brands also offer a non-caffeine alternative, like the gold coke, which is caffeine-free and tastes similar. But ideally, do try and avoid carbonated drinks if you can.”

However, there is also evidence to show that artificial sweeteners and sugar substitutes can act as bladder irritants. Try not to overindulge in fizzy drinks which are laden with artificial sweaters. 

Ms Ivaz also said that: “Citrus fruit and tomatoes may also act as irritants as does spicy food, so if you have a particularly sensitive bladder, try cutting down on these foods too.”

Regarding foods, there are certain culprits which can irritate the urinary tract. But this is very personal and specific to each person. As a result, it may be worth keeping a food diary to see if you can spot any patterns.

Gluten intolerance or allergy is often one of the most common causes of overactive bladder You can test this by avoiding these foods and seeing if it makes any difference:

  • Cereals and oats

  • Bread and breaded dishes

  • Noodles 

  • Most alcohol

When you’re tallying up your liquid intake for the day, also try to make sure that you factor in fluids from fruit, vegetables and soups. You can check the colour of your urine to see if it is the ideal shade of light yellow.

Lifestyle tips to relieve incontinence

We all know about how popular those pelvic floor exercises are, but Ms Ivaz said that they really do work. 

Pelvic floor physio is very important — as is a balanced fluid intake, healthy bowel movement and avoiding constipation”.

An overly-full bowel due to constipation can increase pressure on the bladder, making you feel like you need to go to the toilet more urgently. 

You can stay regular and avoid constipation by incorporating more fibre-rich foods into your diet, such as: 

  • Whole grains (oats, barley, rye)

  • Potatoes

  • Beans 

  • Seeds

  • Lentils

  • Artichokes

  • Leafy greens

  • Raspberries

Ms Ivaz also urged women who are overweight to try and lose a few pounds as this can also increase pressure on the bladder.

“Weight loss is really important,” she said. “It can reduce abdominal pressure, and can reduce incontinence by up to 30%.” 

Maintaining a healthy weight is not only beneficial for bladder health but can also cut the frequency of urinary incontinence episodes by almost a half.

“Seeing the GP to exclude urine infections and other underlying problems such as diabetes is also recommended,” Ms Ivaz added. 

According to the Royal College of Nursing, a typical symptom of diabetes can include passing urine more often than usual, particularly at night (nocturia). 

Whilst both type 1 and type 2 diabetes are characterised by having higher than normal blood glucose levels, the cause and development of the conditions are different. 

Healthy food swaps for bladder health

By making simple changes to your diet, food choices and lifestyle, you can minimise the impact on your bladder and do more to stop any unwanted leaks. Try swapping:

  • Coffee and tea for non-caffeinated versions as well as herbal teas

  • Spicy food for chilli flakes or powder as seasoning

  • Fizzy drinks for fruit-infused water or coconut water

  • Tomatoes or other acidic foods for bell peppers, carrots or cucumber

  • Citrus fruits, like oranges and grapefruit for berries and bananas 

Identifying your food triggers is an important way to manage and control your diet.

If you think your diet may be making your symptoms worse, keeping a food diary can help you keep on top of what’s exacerbating the issue. And remember not to overdo it on the caffeine and fizzy drinks! 

Do you plan your life around toilet trips? With a powerful blend of pumpkin seed and soy germ extract, Jude's Bladder Strength Supplements are clinically proven to improve bladder control and reduce unwanted leaks. Try today for better nights and happier days!

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