You may think that alcohol is the main culprit to be avoided over the festive season but it isn’t alone in aggravating an overactive bladder:
Caffeine – relaxes the muscles in your pelvis and urethra increasing symptoms of urgency or frequency, it can also interrupt sleep and make you more likely to wake in the night to urinate. The common concern is coffee, however many of the alternatives contain caffeine including black tea, green tea, hot chocolate, cola and energy drinks. While decaf versions can reduce the effect, they often contain trace levels of caffeine so should still be limited. Studies have shown that reducing caffeine intake to below 100 milligrams per day, the equivalent of one coffee or two teas a day, may help reduce urge incontinence symptoms. Herbal teas can be a good alternative to those pesky caffeine laden versions but be aware that some varieties have a diuretic effect that can increase urination, these include dandelion, elderflower, rose, wild blackberry and nettle. While some have laxative effectives including liquorice and peppermint.
Bubbles – whether in sparkling water or sparkling wine the carbon dioxide in drinks with fizz can irritate a sensitive bladder increasing the urge to urinate. Stick with still drinks or water and pass up on the offer of a mimosa.
Artificial Sweeteners – often found in flavoured drinks (or popped into your tea) including aspartame and saccharin, may irritate the bladder. Keep sodas to a minimum and opt for artificial ingredient free drinks.
Acidity – may make the mouth water but can also irritate the delicate nerves of the bladder muscle, which can exacerbate urgency symptoms. When opting for a soft drink avoid citrus, cranberry, pineapple and tomato juices; rather try switching to something less acidic such as apple or pear juice diluted with water. If you like to flavour your water, try using mint or cucumber instead of lemons and limes.
Alcohol – has a triple impact, as it’s a diuretic, can irritate and over stimulate the bladder, and impair the messages between the bladder and brain. Minimise its effects by limiting your consumption to one drink and avoid drinks with other aggravating factors such as sparkling wine and mixers.
While you may need to limit or cut out some drinks to keep symptoms under control it’s important to stay hydrated in the summer heat, remember to:
- Drink when you are thirsty
- Sip don’t gulp
- Spread out fluid intake throughout the day including between meals.
- 20% of your fluids come from the foods you eat
If you're drinking enough water, your urine should be light yellow or almost colourless.