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Written by

Kate Dyson


Kate is a content specialist who is passionate about women's health. She's also mum to three kids, two dogs and unsurprisingly, a lover of wine.

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For words you might want to know more

Bladder Irritants

Refers to the inflammation or discomfort experienced in the bladder due to various factors such as acidic foods or artificial additives, leading to symptoms like urgency and frequency of urination.

Overactive Bladder OAB

A urinary condition characterized by a sudden and frequent urge to urinate, often leading to involuntary bladder contractions and potential leakage, significantly impacting daily life and quality of life.

Artificial Sweeteners

Sugar substitutes like aspartame and saccharin, often found in processed foods, which can irritate the bladder lining and exacerbate symptoms of urgency and incontinence.

Do tomatoes cause leaks? 6 foods that make you dash for the loo

You might wonder how the food that you consume is affecting your loo habits, and certainly when it comes to our bladders, there are some key foods to avoid. From tomatoes to chilli, knowing the impact of specific bladder irritants might help you to improve your leaks and need-to-go urgency.

But what are the specific foods we should be avoiding, and how to do they affect the bladder? Let's take a look

1. Tomatoes

Tomatoes are nutrient-rich but highly acidic, which can irritate the bladder and worsen symptoms of urgency and incontinence. Whether consumed on their own or used in dishes such as bolognese as the base for a sauce, tomatoes can be a major irritant that causes urgency.

That's because tomatoes affect the bladder primarily due to their high acidity, which can irritate the bladder lining and exacerbate symptoms such as urgency, frequency, and discomfort. The acids in tomatoes can act as a bladder stimulant, causing involuntary contractions that increase the need to urinate and potentially worsen incontinence. Additionally, tomatoes contain compounds like solanine and oxalates, which can contribute to bladder irritation and stone formation in some individuals, further aggravating bladder sensitivity.

2. Grapefruits (and other citrus fruits)

Grapefruits, as well as oranges, lemons and limes, are packed with citric acid, which can trigger bladder discomfort and increase the frequency of urination.

Citric acid affects the bladder by irritating its lining and increasing symptoms such as urgency, frequency, and discomfort. The acidic nature of fruits like grapefruit and lemons can act as a bladder stimulant, leading to involuntary contractions that heighten the need to urinate and may exacerbate incontinence. Additionally, the high acid levels can alter the pH balance of urine, making it more irritating to the bladder, particularly for individuals with sensitive bladders or conditions like interstitial cystitis.

3. Chillies

Chillies, hot sauces, and other spicy foods can irritate the bladder lining, exacerbating symptoms of urgency and leaks.

But what is it about chillies that specifically affect the bladder? Capsaicin, the active component that gives chillies their heat, can irritate the lining of the bladder. This irritation can lead to increased bladder sensitivity, causing symptoms such as urgency, frequency, and discomfort. For individuals with sensitive bladders or conditions like interstitial cystitis, the consumption of chillies can exacerbate these symptoms, making it harder to manage bladder control. The spiciness of chillies can stimulate the bladder, leading to involuntary contractions and an increased need to urinate, which can worsen incontinence and overall bladder discomfort.

4. Aspartame

While often think reducing sugar is a good thing in our diet, sugar substitutes like aspartame, saccharin, and sucralose, found in diet snacks and low-calorie foods, can aggravate bladder symptoms.

Unfortunately, sweeteners are found in many processed foods, and aren't always obvious until you read the labels. These sweeteners can act as bladder stimulants, leading to involuntary contractions and causing you to dash to the loo. For individuals with sensitive bladders or conditions like overactive bladder, the irritation caused by artificial sweeteners can worsen bladder control issues, making it more challenging to manage symptoms.

5. Chocolate

If you have a sweet tooth, you might find this one challenging! While delicious, chocolate contains caffeine, a known bladder irritant. It's not just caffeine though - theobromine does the same thing too. Theobromine is a naturally occurring alkaloid and belongs to the same chemical family as caffeine and it has a mild stimulating effect on the central nervous system.

These stimulants can increase bladder activity and irritate the bladder lining, leading to symptoms such as urgency, frequency, and discomfort. For those of us with sensitive bladders or conditions like overactive bladder, consuming chocolate can exacerbate urgency and worsen incontinence. Additionally, the sugar in chocolate can contribute to bladder irritation, making it more challenging to manage bladder health effectively. A triple threat to our bladders!

You can try white chocolate if you need a sweet treat - it's kinder on your bladder when consumed in moderation and doesn't contain the same effects as milk and dark choc!

6. Sugary Cereals

If you love starting your day with a bowl of Crunchy Nut Cornflakes or CocoPops, you might want to think again and swap for a healthier, whole-grain alternative.

These sugary cereals are 'ultra-processed foods - or UPFs - food products that undergo extensive industrial processing, often containing multiple ingredients and additives, including preservatives, artificial colours, flavours, sweeteners, and hydrogenated oils.

But why does it matter to reduce your UPF intake? Well, many UPFs contain artificial sweeteners, which are known to irritate the bladder lining and increase symptoms of urgency, frequency, and discomfort. Often, these foods have a high salt content as well, leading to increased fluid intake and subsequently higher urine production. This increased urine production can put additional pressure on the bladder, exacerbating symptoms of overactive bladder and incontinence.

UPFs are also typically low in fibre and essential nutrients, which can lead to digestive issues such as constipation. Constipation can place extra pressure on the bladder, causing irritation and making it harder to control bladder function. The artificial additives and preservatives found in UPFs can also trigger inflammatory responses in the body, including the bladder, leading to increased sensitivity and discomfort.

The good news is that not all cereals are bad for your bladder so making the switch to a bladder friendly alternative is easy. Look for whole grain cereals that are low in sugar and free from artificial additives as these are less likely to cause bladder issues, and boost your consumption of fibre.

3 foods to add to your diet today for better bladder health

While some foods can worsen bladder symptoms, others can support bladder health - and these are easy to pick up at the supermarket today to give your bladder a happy and healthy boost!

Berries: Blueberries and cranberries are rich in antioxidants and can support urinary tract health.

Whole Grains: Foods like oats, brown rice, and whole wheat bread can help regulate your digestive system and reduce bladder pressure.

Bananas: These are low-acid fruits that can be a bladder-friendly option.

Jude’s clinically proven supplements give you better bladder and pelvic floor control, helping you sleep through the night and regain the freedom to live life on your own terms. With just one capsule morning and night, you'll have relief from need-to-go urgency in just 12 weeks.

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