So, what are bladder irritants anyways? Bladder irritants are anything that causes the inner liner of the bladder and the muscles of the bladder (mainly the detrusor muscle) to contract, causing a feeling of urgency to empty. In most instances, this isn’t any problem at all. You feel you need to urinate, possibly with some urgency, and you find your way to the restroom. However, in individuals with increased sensitivity to the bladder or urinary tract this can become a symptom that controls their life. Diagnoses such as “Overactive Bladder” (OAB) or Interstitial Cystitis can become extremely frustrating, however these diagnoses aren’t the end-all-be-all. These diagnoses can be controlled with food restrictions/choices, pelvic floor physical therapy, exercise, and cognitive-behavioral changes.
Now, back to the main title – what do I eat/drink the most often that are bladder irritants?
- Coffee: I LIVE off coffee. However, the acidity in this drink causes an irritation of the bladder, which leads to a sense of urgency for urination.
- Carbonated Beverages: Sodas and carbonated water are bladder irritants, however the reason behind their irritation to the bladder is not well known. In my case, this is carbonated water – I just can’t get enough of the bubbles!
- Chili and Spicy Food: The reason behind this irritation is the acidity, which irritates the bladder causing a need to empty (and rid the bladder of this irritation). I love the challenge of not sweating through my clothes when eating spicy foods! Or acting like my mouth is not in complete agony.
- Alcohol: This irritant can be caused by the diuretic properties of the solute, which causes more urine to end up in the bladder. Also, the sweeteners and fruit juices that can be combined with alcohol are also bladder irritants. My alcohol of choice? IPAs – hipster or not, the bitterness of the beer and the sweetness of the fruit of choice is delicious.
- Acidic Fruits: Tomatoes, oranges, strawberries – all of these fruits have some degree of acidity associated with them. As such, they cause irritation to the bladder liner and urinary tract, which leads to more frequent urination. I eat strawberries/blueberries everyday in my oatmeal and yogurt!
Overall, consuming these foods/drinks won’t cause you to have to run to the restroom. What’s the explanation for that? Solvent! Water! The more water you drink, the more dilute the solution and the less likely your bladder is to become irritated by the acids, sweeteners, and carbonation. The more you understand about your pelvic floor and your digestive system, the better able you are to spot a problem and the better you understand yourself!
If you’re noticing a urinary frequency that is higher than 5-7 times per day, or an inability to control voiding (leakages)– this may be a sign of bladder irritation or pelvic floor dysfunction. At no point is leakage “normal” – regardless of the number of children you’ve carried. If you’re concerned about anything you’ve read or noticed, contact your primary care physician or contact Dr Tristan Faile, PT, DPT at Tristan@vertexpt.com for more information.