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Written by

Anniki Sommerville


Anniki Sommerville is a published author of 5 books including 3 non-fiction books - How to Be a Boss at Ageing, More Orgasms Please and The Big Quit. She regularly writes for Red magazine and Grazia on women's health, ageing and more.

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How what we drink impacts our bladder health

It’s interesting that often when we think about bladder leaks or bladder weakness we tend to think that it’s the amount of liquid that we consume that impacts whether we need the toilet more frequently, or experience incontinence but it’s not just about the quantity, it’s also what we drink that plays an important role.

Here’s some more info on the ways in which drinks and other factors related to drinking can exacerbate bladder weakness and leaks:

Alcohol: One of the first things to consider is alcohol and cutting this down. Cutting down on alcohol obviously has other health benefits too and it’s worth remembering that the recommended weekly limit for alcohol is 14 units a week. A unit is roughly half a pint of normal strength beer or a single measure of spirits. Alcohol is a diuretic, which means that in increases the production of urine and can also cause a person to need to use the toilet more often. It can also irritate the bladder which can make overactive bladder symptoms worse.

Time of day: If you have to urinate frequently during the night (nocturia), try drinking less in the hours before you go to bed. However, make sure you still drink enough fluids during the day so you feel hydrated by the time you go to sleep.

Caffeine: Caffeine can be unhelpful as it causes your kidneys to produce more urine and therefore irritates your bladder. This can make you go to the toilet more frequently. Studies show that reducing caffeine intake to below 100 mg a day - this would be the amount in one cup of brewed coffee may help reduce episodes of urge incontinence.

If you are dependent on coffee to get through the day then why not try half decaf and half regular and wean yourself off the habit gradually. There is also low acid coffee that might be more helpful in terms of avoiding bladder irritation and bladder weakness.

There are two types generally of low acid coffee- treated low acid coffee means the beans are processed with techniques that are designed to reduce acidity. So roasted slowly for example. Inadvertent low acid coffee is used where coffees are naturally low in acid. So coffee that is grown in low altitudes - look for beans from Indonesia, Peru and Nicaragua. 

Acidic drinks: Orange, grapefruit and tomato juices are all fairly high in acid and can irritate your bladder lining so your bladder thinks there is something in it and you feel the urge to pee even if you don’t actually need to.

Carbonated drinks: Fizzy or sparkling water contains dissolved carbon dioxide which results in an acidic solution and may increase urinary urgency. irritate your bladder; therefore it is advisable to limit your intake of these to one glass a day. 

Finally it is worth noting too that the amount you drink contributes to your bladder emptying and how frequently you need to go to the toilet. Ideally aim to drink between 4-8 cups of plain water a day. It’s better to reach these amounts through frequent sipping versus getting thirsty and then drinking larger quantities in one go. This can overwhelm the bladder. So think about drinking little and often and ideally stick to water if you notice that your bladder responds better to this. 

Cutting back on coffee can really help relieve symptoms

So in summary remember:

🧡 Cut back on alcohol

🧡 Reduce (gradually) your dependence on caffeine

🧡 Experiment with periods of drinking plain water to see if your symptoms get better, stay hydrated!

🧡 Don't drink too much before bedtime if you have to get up in the night a lot to pee

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