10 Foods to Avoid if You Have an Overactive Bladder

It's not necessarily how much you drink and eat, but what.
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Decreasing fluids is often the first thing tried by someone seeking to control an overactive bladder. After all, if you drink less overall, you reduce the need to use the bathroom often or the chance of having an accident before you can get there. Right?

Yes -- but if you drink too little (fewer than about six cups a day), urine becomes concentrated, which can cause even more bladder irritation. That's why equally important to managing bladder problems is what you're drinking and eating.

Whether you're plagued by the frequent need to pee, actual leaking of urine, or some other form of overactive bladder (OAB) syndrome, eliminating some foods and beverages may provide some relief of your symptoms.

Know that clinical research hasn't proven that avoiding all of these foods improvides overactive bladder symptoms. Every bladder is individual. You'll learn the most about what works for you if you:

  1. Keep a diary of symptoms before and after you eliminate a possible trigger, so you can see whether it has had an impact.
  2. Only eliminate one item at a time. Doctors often recommend eliminating a given food for at least 3 to 7 days.

Still, all of the following foods and beverages are known to exacerbate bladder problems in some people, so it's worth seeing if they have a direct effect on you.

Try Avoiding Oranges, Grapefruit, Pineapple to Reduce Irritation

Citrus is thought to irritate the bladder (even though, in general, it's wise to eat plenty of fruits and vegetables for their healthy, vitamin-rich liquid and fiber). Beware especially of oranges, grapefruits, lemons, limes, and tangerines. Pineapple, not technically a citrus fruit (even though it often appears in the same tropical salads), is also a culprit because it's highly acidic.

Also avoid citrus in juice form (orange juice, grapefruit juice, lemon juice).

Better: Try substituting nonacidic whole fruits, such as bananas, apples, pears, and berries.

Try Avoiding Chocolate to Help Overactive Bladder

This one may be painful to chocoholics, but chocolate contains caffeine, a substance that in higher quantities may annoy the bladder in some people who are especially sensitive to it. That's why some doctors recommend putting it on your try-to-eliminate list.

Better: Go dark. If you must have your chocolate, have dark chocolate -- above 70 percent cocoa -- as it's more likely to satisfy a choco-tooth in very small (one- to two-ounce) amounts. Beware, though, that dark chocolate has higher caffeine, so portion size matters.

Try Avoiding Coffee and Black Tea (Even Decaf) to Help With OAB

Coffee is a diuretic, which can cause you to urinate more often, and it contains caffeine, which in high doses -- just three cups a day or more, according to recent research -- stimulates the bladder. The surprise: Even decaf versions may have this effect. That's because decaffeinated coffee and tea are seldom caffeine-free. (Avoid iced tea and coffee, as well as hot forms.)

Better: Try drinking herbal tea, which has no caffeine. If your bladder is very caffeine-sensitive, you may notice an improvement in symptoms.

Try Avoiding Spicy Foods for Less Bladder Irritation

Spicy nachos, hot peppers, jambalaya, kabobs, curries . . . some like it hot, hot, hot, though they maybe should not. Among the many physical effects super-spicy foods have on the body (like watering eyes and burning lips) is a tendency to irritate the lining of the bladder. Spicy food can contribute to chronic bladder pain and may affect incontinence symptoms, so see what happens if you avoid them.

Better: Try choosing cooled-down versions of favorite dishes, using herbs, garlic, and other strong flavors in place of spicy ones.

Try Avoiding Sugar and Honey to Help With Overactive Bladder

While it's challenging to completely eliminate sweets, it's worth cutting back, since some urologists believe that sugars stimulate the bladder. Leave the extra spoonfuls out of your cereal bowl or teacup, and read labels to avoid packaged goods that list simple sugars high in the ingredients list. Know that for some people, even artificial sweeteners (such as aspartame) irritate.

Better: Try Stevia, a natural sweetener 100 times sweeter than table sugar. Or even better, aim to adapt over a couple of weeks of withdrawal to a less-sweet taste.

Try Avoiding Tomato Products to Help With Overactive Bladder

Tomatoes are acidic; hence their bladder-irritating quality. The effect varies by individual, but if you're vulnerable, try cutting out all tomato forms, including sauces, paste, juice, spaghetti sauce, taco sauce, and salsa.

Better: Substitute mushrooms and other vegetables, a thin white sauce, beans, or other ingredients wherever you'd use tomatoes or tomato sauce.

Try Avoiding Alcohol to Help With Overactive Bladder

Whether in the form of wine, beer, champagne, or hard liquor, alcohol interferes with brain signals that tell you when to "go." It's also a dehydrator that makes you need to go to the bathroom more. Since reducing overall fluid intake by 25 percent has been shown to improve overactive bladder symptoms, this may be one area you want to try cutting.

Better: Drink cranberry juice on the rocks (unless you're sensitive to cranberry; if so, you could try herbal tea on the rocks).

Try Avoiding Dairy to Help With Overactive Bladder

Dairy products tend to affect people differently. For some, all dairy is a bladder-baddie. Others are bothered only by very rich and creamy milk products, such as cream cheese, sour cream, or aged cheeses.

Better: Tinker to see which products you tolerate best.

Try Avoiding Energy Drinks to Help With Overactive Bladder

You'd think these powerhouse beverages would make you stronger and help you last longer -- but the source of their "energy" is usually caffeine, which bothers the bladder. Read labels carefully. Energy drinks also add extra fluids.

Better: Get enough exercise and sleep to boost your energy naturally.

Try Avoiding Carbonated Drinks to Help With Overactive Bladder

Quenching your thirst with a carbonated beverage (colas, other flavors, fizzy water, seltzer) is counterproductive if you have an overactive bladder. The carbonation is a bladder trigger, an effect that's intensified if the drink also contains caffeine.

Better: Drink straight water on the rocks or flavored (flat) vitamin waters.

Paula Spencer Scott

Paula Spencer Scott is the author of Surviving Alzheimer's: Practical Tips and Soul-Saving Wisdom for Caregivers and much of the Alzheimer's and caregiving content on Caring. See full bio

8 months, said...

up 8 times a nite more or less,doc suggests CAPA free diet,col weigh 145 lbs don't need to diet

10 months, said...

Myrbetriq did not work for me either. Made me really depressed, actually, and my symptoms did not improve. I try to avoid most of these foods, but sometimes my bladder still acts up regardless. -Male, 23

10 months, said...

Now I have to start taking something for depression! I am also on medication Mybetrique. It didn't work last night after a pasta dinner.

almost 2 years, said...

How do I empty my blatter

almost 3 years, said...

Hmmm, so it's a diet of bread and water then! A couple of issues that make this advice confusing... The first point recommends we maintain a healthy fluid intake but in the alcohol section there's a suggestion to cut it by 25% ? Secondly, avoid acidic fruits is frequently mentioned, but then further on in the text, back on alcohol again, we are given cranberries as a good alternative, which are tart as hell!

over 3 years, said...

The conversation is very interesting an am happy to be finding out about these important facts that are very useful to me

over 4 years, said...

I am experiencing either bladder infection or Overactive bladder or both. I have no burning, although it seemed to start off with where you thought there would be a fountain, but there was just a drop. It was not constant. Now I feel more like it is overactive bladder. It hits, I can contrtol, but when I do relieve myself, oh, this is embarassing, there is a foul ordor. Could this be from an infection or something I am eating? I know nerves of course increase things. I do not drink enough water, and love, coffee, soda, and probably eating the wrong things. I am concerned about the odor. I have eaten foods that will cause an odor, but this time I do not think so.

over 4 years, said...

This is a great little post for seniors to read. Cutting back on the sugar may be more beneficial than asking your physician to add another pill to help with overactive bladder. James, Owner | VitalLifeSenior.com

almost 5 years, said...

Orange juice? Chocolate? Tomatoes? Diary? I'll put up with the OAB.

over 5 years, said...

The article cautions against taking most of the common day-to-day food items that a person is used to take as a routine, irrespective of his/her health condition.I am at a loss to know what one is supposed to eat, if all the 10 items of food are a taboo for any person with an overactive bladder. I find the article a bit 'overactive'. A review and moderation of the suggestions made in the article may be necessary, if not a 'must'. Dr.Parameswaran, Consuting Engineer.

over 5 years, said...

I have a problem every time I cough. What can I do to prevent this or help it.

almost 6 years, said...


almost 6 years, said...

The hard choices that I will need to make to make this work for me.Thank you for a great article.

about 6 years, said...

Food list

about 6 years, said...

I adore a cup of strong coffee in the morning, and what has helped is to make it with 50% ground coffee being decaf. Also, drinking 1/2 to 1 full glass of water first seems to pre-empt the irritation.

about 6 years, said...

If I avoided all of your suggested items, there would hardly be anything left in the pantry!!??

about 6 years, said...

Most of your articles are very very helpful. Some nutritional advice counter other benefits and so it's a coin-flip as to what to do with, for instance, tomatoes vis a vis this article. Perhaps quantity consumed is one of the keys to balancing between irritating/waking up the bladder: one or two coffees a day, tomato sauced pasta once every two days w 1/2 what might be regarded as a normal amount, and balancing with some of your suggestions here would work for most of us... Anyway, many thanks for all your effort into the wellbeing of others....!

about 6 years, said...

All of it, I was told only the citrus should be shelved. Now I know everything I like and hold dear is bad for me. Oh well, guess it's carrots, salad and cranberries.

about 6 years, said...

Asperagas A natural diuretic.

about 6 years, said...

This article rules out too many nutritionally important foods. Better to eat a good, varied diet and deal with bladder issues medically.

about 6 years, said...

I'm so glad there have already been a great number of people who've indicated their shock and horror about the extremely restricted diet this article prescribes for those people suffering from incontinence issues. First off, citrus fruits are supposed to be extremely good for you. If you take those off the table, you risk experiencing health problems from that. Second, there is absolutely no way of limiting all sugars from one's diet -- it may be a good idea not to consume mountains of it, but in moderate amounts from various sweet sources it can be a good thing. Third, you ask anyone who's trying to do anything with their lives to give up caffeine and you might as well ask them to curl up and die. I know I could not live without caffeine -- there are many days when I practically live off it -- and you cannot possibly ask me to sleep more because that would require my quitting work or putting my mom in a home or just quitting life, period. And I'm sure I'm not alone in this. Four, chocolate? You mad? Dark chocolate's the best, sure, but even at 60% cacao you're getting lots of health benefits, and even if you satisfy your chocolate cravings with chocolate milk, that's ok. Onto milk/dairy -- do you know how stuipd it'd be to cut that out from one's diet? A lot of people, especially Caucasians and people of Asian descent or people with a naturally thin body type, run the risk of osteoporosis when they age. Dairy helps develop stronger, osteoporosis-resistant bones, as well as helping build stronger teeth (which is good regardless of ethnicity/body type). I don't have chronic incontinence problems, though I do sometimes get situational incontinence when I suffer from bronchitis or some other similar illness. However, after reading this, I would much rather go through surgical, medical, or alternative health treatments to treat incontinence issues than have to stick with such a restrictive diet.

about 6 years, said...


about 6 years, said...

I have wondered what causes incontinence and i'm finding out!

about 6 years, said...


about 6 years, said...

good suggestions.I will sure give them a try straight-away.Would have been better if the list of baddies was given at the end page.I think so

about 6 years, said...

I have only read page 1 yet,I shall decide after having read all the article

about 6 years, said...

I eat a lot of citrus fruits and I do have an over active bladder. I had no idea that eating these fruits would increase my bladder movements! Thanks

over 6 years, said...

For the people who ask what is left to eat if you eliminate the foods mentioned here, the answer is: LOTS!!!! All alkaline fruits, all vegetables except tomatoes, cereals (oats, rice, quinoa, buckwheat etc.), pulses (lentils, beans, chickpeas), fish .............. This would be a healthy diet for anyone - with or without bladder problems.

over 6 years, said...

I work with seniors and know from them the embarrassment and distress they can feel as a result of incontinence. I will share this information with them and maybe it will help.