When someone is diagnosed with overactive bladder, or OAB, doctors will begin by recommending conservative treatments that change the patient’s lifestyle. One of the most common first-line treatments is to change a patient’s diet. A reduction in fluid intake is an obvious intervention for OAB, but there are also foods that can either promote better bladder function or worsen OAB symptoms by increasing urges or irritating the bladder.
In this article, we’ll cover the basics of the best diet for reducing overactive bladder symptoms, including what to eat and drink and what to avoid. Note that a treatment plan for OAB may include these treatments in combination with more advanced therapies, such as medication or a surgical procedure.
The best diet for overactive bladder
Fluid intake monitoring
One of the first recommendations you may get from your treating doctor or urologist in regards to a diet for overactive bladder is to reduce or modify your fluid intake. More and more evidence shows that reducing fluid intake – especially caffeinated and alcoholic beverages – can improve OAB symptoms. This intervention may include any or all of the following:
- Drink a smaller volume of fluids throughout the day
- Change the types of fluids you drink – for example, replacing caffeinated tea with non-caffeinated herbal tea, or switching to non-carbonated beverages
- Avoid diuretics (including caffeinated beverages like tea and coffee, and alcoholic beverages)
- Avoid drinking fluids close to bedtime
It is also important to stay hydrated. Though drinking too much of any fluid, including water, can contribute to increased urgency or frequency of urination, being dehydrated can cause the urine your body produces to become highly concentrated, which can irritate the bladder and exacerbate OAB symptoms.
What to eat
Altering fluid intake isn’t the only dietary intervention that can improve OAB symptoms. As with all body systems, eating a well-balanced, nutritious diet helps promote healthy bladder function. This is especially true when dietary changes are paired with other first-line OAB treatments, such as bladder training and pelvic floor exercises.
To promote healthy bladder function, patients should make sure to include plenty of fruits and vegetables in their diets. Fruits and vegetables provide important sources of vitamins and fiber, both of which are necessary to keep the bladder and bowel working properly. Such foods include:
- Fruits: Bananas, apples, grapes, coconut, watermelon, strawberries, raspberries, and blackberries
- Vegetables: Asparagus, artichoke, broccoli, cucumbers, kale, carrots, celery, lettuce, and peppers
- Other Fiber-Rich Foods: Lentils, beans, barley, bran, oats, and almonds
In addition to promoting healthy digestion through a nutritious diet, patients may also want to incorporate foods and drinks that studies have shown to be specifically associated with bladder health. A healthy diet for overactive bladder includes pumpkin seeds and diluted squash as well as beverages like Kohki tea, soy milk, cranberry juice, low-acidity fruit juices (like apple juice), and barley water.
What to avoid
Adding food and drinks to your diet that promote bladder health is only one part of creating the best diet for your overactive bladder symptoms. It’s also important to avoid foods and drinks that exacerbate OAB symptoms by irritating the lining of the bladder or increasing frequency and urges to urinate. The most common foods and drinks that patients with OAB often avoid include:
- Highly acidic foods: tomatoes, citrus fruit
- Spicy foods
- Caffeine: coffee, tea, soda, chocolate
- Foods containing gluten: pasta, noodles, bread
- Artificial sweeteners and flavorings
- Artificial preservatives
- Raw onion
Not all OAB patients have to avoid all the foods and drinks in this list. Figuring out the foods and drinks that most exacerbate your OAB symptoms often requires some trial and error. Many patients start by avoiding most or all the items on the list above but are able to slowly reintroduce or increase intake of certain foods and drinks based on their individual symptoms. Again, work closely with your treating doctor to find the best diet for your overactive bladder symptoms.
Other treatment options
Often paired with other behavioral therapies like bladder training and pelvic floor exercises, fluid intake management and dietary changes are common first-line treatments for OAB symptoms. However, sometimes patients do require more advanced treatments than simply altering their diet for overactive bladder.
The second-line treatment for OAB is typically prescription medication. There are a number of medications with different mechanisms that can reduce OAB symptoms. The right medication for any given patient depends on their unique medical history, medical profile, and symptoms. Since medications usually come with side effects, some trial and error is usually required to figure out which medication is best tolerated and most effective for you.
Finally, if behavioral therapies and medication both fail to resolve OAB symptoms, advanced therapies are available. One effective, guideline-recommended therapy is Sacral Neuromodulation, also called Sacral Nerve Stimulation. Keep reading to learn how the Axonics System uses Sacral Neuromodulation to treat OAB symptoms.
Sacral Neuromodulation for OAB
Axonics therapy helps restore healthy bladder function through a small implant that delivers electrical pulses to the sacral nerve, an important part of the system that regulates bladder control in the human body. After a minimally invasive procedure to implant the device and an evaluation period to monitor the effectiveness of the procedure, patients can enjoy the benefits of their treatment for at least 10 -15 years.
If you haven’t been able to resolve your OAB symptoms through behavioral therapies or medication alone, Sacral Neuromodulation might be right for you. Learn more today.
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