Bladder leaks? Avoid these 4 drinks

As we approach the holiday season, we want to enjoy time with friends and family — not stress over bathroom breaks or pad changes. But many beverages we enjoy during the holidays are bladder irritants. Bladder irritants can cause physical symptoms that feel like a strong urge to pee (urgency), the need to pee more often (frequency), and pain in the lower abdomen and pelvic region. If you want to avoid these uncomfortable symptoms and the increased likelihood of leaks, here are four drinks to limit or avoid. (Don’t worry: you don’t have to completely eliminate these refreshments. Keep reading for tips to both savor the season and lessen bladder worries!)

#1: Caffeine

Did you know that high levels of caffeine are associated with urinary incontinence? Caffeine is a strong bladder irritant. Caffeine has a diureric effect on the bladder, meaning, the coffee you consume causes your kidneys to flush extra sodium and water from the body through urine. It not only increases the amount of urine you make, it also increases the urge to go. This is a problematic combination for women with bladder leaks.

What’s a coffee, tea or soda lover to do? Evaluate how much caffeine you are drinking compared to what else you are consuming. Most of our fluid intake should be water — aim for about 2/3 water, 1/3 other fluids. To start, follow up each sip of coffee/soda with a sip of water to help dilute your urine and reduce how much it bothers your bladder. You can also wean down to modest servings, such as just one cup of coffee per day.

#2: Citrus

Citrus drinks such as orange juice, lemonade, grapefruit juice, pineapple juice, tomato juice, and cranberry juice are highly acidic. Acidic beverages tend to irritate the lining of the bladder causing increased urgency, frequency, and incontinence. Here are a few bladder-friendly alternatives: diluted fruit juice, coconut water (can combine this with some juice for a tasty mocktail!), or an herbal decaffeinated tea.

#3: Carbonation

Carbon dioxide in fizzy drinks can irritate the bladder and exacerbate underlying bladder symptoms. This is true for sparkling water (even though it’s healthier than sweetened drinks) as well as sweetened sodas. “Lite” or “diet” carbonated drinks also contain artificial sweeteners that bother the bladder.

#4: Cocktails

Alcohol including cocktails, wine, and beer can be problematic for women with bladder issues: First, alcohol is acidic and a diuretic, and can trigger symptoms of urgency and frequency. Second, alcohol can also lead to the relaxation of the bladder muscles, possibly inducing unintentional leaks. Finally, it can impair the signal between the bladder and the brain, interfering with bladder control and increasing the likelihood of leaks. In practical terms, this could mean that you don’t get the warning signal that it’s time to go in time to prevent accidental leaks.

Tips for balancing your beverage choices

You’re probably thinking, am I limited to just water? What can I drink? While it’s true that anything that is not water has the potential to irritate the bladder, it doesn’t mean you have to cut everything else out. Here are some ways to find balance and what works for you.

  • Find your triggers. Avoid these bladder irritants for a week and note if your symptoms improve. Gradually and methodically add them back into your diet (one every one or two days), noting any changes in symptoms (urgency, frequency or bladder leaks).
  • Smaller portions. Simply cutting down on serving sizes can have a positive effect on how much your bladder is irritated.
  • Watch the pace. Drinking too much of anything too quickly can create a strong sense of urgency. Be mindful of how fast you are drinking.
  • Dilute and alternate with water. Not ready to give up your favorite beverage? Dilute instead or alternate sips. Take a sip of your favorite beverage, then a sip of water, repeat.
  • Stay hydrated. Many people with urgency and bladder leaks mistakenly limit their fluid intake, but this lack of fluid can also cause bladder problems. We need about eight, 8-ounce cups of water per day (or half our body weight in ounces). If we don’t get the amount of fluid our body needs, urine can becomes concentrated (dark in color and have a strong-smelling odor). Concentrated urine that sits in the bladder can irritate the lining of the bladder, and send mixed signals to us that it’s time to empty our bladder before it’s actually full. This can also lead to dehydration. Focus on staying hydrated, having normal bathroom intervals (5-8 times/day or every 3-4 hours), and enjoy the holiday season with those that mean the most to you!

Tired of dealing with leaks?

Even “small” bladder leaks affect women’s activities, social life and confidence. If you’re tired of bladder leaks, check out this article from our on-staff pelvic floor physical therapist about why you need to seriously consider treating leaks, rather than just coping.