Bladder health is something you might take for granted until you have bladder problems.
Bladder problems can be especially problematic for men due to issues with the prostate, a gland located close to your bladder.
Besides following the recommendations of your healthcare provider, there are some natural ways to support your bladder health. Keep reading to find out what they are.
What causes bladder problems in men?
Bladder problems are common among both men and women. Some of the more common types of bladder problems in men include:
An overactive bladder can be caused by several neurological health conditions such as Parkinson’s, multiple sclerosis, bladder cancer, stroke, or nerve damage. Nearly two-thirds of overactive bladder cases in men are due to an enlarged prostate.
Interstitial cystitis is similar to an overactive bladder because it causes frequent urination. However, unlike overactive bladder, interstitial cystitis can also cause pelvic pain and discomfort.
Some of the symptoms of interstitial cystitis include:
- Pain between the scrotum and anus (perineum)
- Chronic pelvic pain
- A persistent, urgent need to urinate
- Frequent urination, often of small amounts, throughout the day and night (up to 60 times a day)
- Pain or discomfort while the bladder fills and relief after urinating
- Pain during sex
Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia (BPH)
Benign prostatic hyperplasia is a common condition among older men. As you age, your prostate can become enlarged. An enlarged prostate puts pressure on your bladder and blocks the flow of urine.
One of the common symptoms of BPH is frequent urination and a flow of urine that stops and starts.
If you have a tumor on your prostate, it can press into your bladder and disrupt the flow of urine.
Urinary tract infections
Urinary tract infections are less common in men compared to women. They can still happen and can turn into a serious kidney infection if left untreated.
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The link between the bladder and your diet
Some foods are more acidic, which can make your urine more acidic. Acidic foods can be bladder irritants and cause an increase in symptoms like pain and urinary urgency.
Studies have found a link between certain vitamins and their relation to bladder health, like:
- Vitamin D deficiency is linked with increased urination.
- Large amounts of vitamin C may worsen increased urinary urgency, while more moderate amounts may help symptoms.
Your hydration status can also play a role in your bladder health. Dehydration can increase the risk of urinary tract infections while drinking too many fluids can worsen problems like an overactive bladder.
Some foods have anti-inflammatory properties. These foods may help ease inflammation and pain associated with bladder irritation.
Foods and drinks to avoid that may irritate your bladder
Everyone is different when it comes to food and drink triggers for bladder problems. The foods and drinks in this list are more common/potential bladder irritants. However, not all foods and drinks on the list will be triggers for you.
It’s important to track your foods and drinks to better understand how your diet impacts your bladder health. A food & symptom log can be a helpful tool to learn which foods and drinks cause bladder irritation.
Common bladder irritants
Some common bladder irritants include:
- All alcoholic beverages, including beer and champagne
- Apple juice
- Brewer’s yeast
- Canned figs
- Chicken livers
- Chilies/spicy foods
- Citrus fruits
- Corned beef
- Fava beans
- Lemon juice
- Lima beans
- Nuts (hazelnuts, pecans, and pistachios)
- NutraSweet™ (artificial sweetener)
- Onions (raw)
- Pickled herring
- Rye bread
- Saccharin (artificial sweetener)
- Sour cream
- Soy sauce
- Tea — black or green, regular or decaffeinated, and herbal blends that contain black or green tea.
- Vitamins buffered with aspartame (an artificial sweetener)
Diet, light, and no sugar added products
It’s not well known why artificial sweeteners are linked with bladder problems. If you notice your bladder irritation increases after eating foods with artificial sweeteners, it’s worth avoiding them to see if your symptoms improve.
Some foods that can have artificial sweeteners include “light” yogurts and other products, things labeled “no sugar added”, and “diet” products including diet sodas and other beverages.
Carbonated drinks can be a bladder irritant for sensitive bladders. You may want to avoid carbonated drinks like soda, seltzers, sparkling waters, and other carbonated drinks if you’re experiencing bladder irritation.
Caffeine is a diuretic, which means it makes you urinate more often. If you’re already dealing with an overactive bladder and are suffering from urgency, this is something you probably want to avoid. Coffee, tea, and certain sodas are all potential sources of caffeine.
Foods to include in your diet
While there isn’t a standard diet specifically for bladder health, including whole, unprocessed foods might help. Foods rich in antioxidants and healthy omega-3 fatty acids can fight inflammation and might help reduce painful bladder symptoms.
A Mediterranean-style diet is rich in plant-based foods rich in antioxidants. Some particularly beneficial foods that may help with bladder irritation include:
Blueberries get their rich color from anthocyanins, a type of antioxidant. Anthocyanins are the largest category of water-soluble pigments in plants.
Anthocyanins have antioxidant, anticarcinogenic (cancer-fighting), and antimicrobial properties. They’re also anti-inflammatory, which means they might help fight bladder inflammation and the pain associated with bladder problems.
While all berries are nutritious, blackberries are especially rich in antioxidants. Blackberries have a greater antioxidant content compared to blueberries, strawberries, and raspberries.
Non-acidic fruits & vegetables
Foods are classified as acidic or alkaline based on their pH level. The typical pH range of stomach acid falls between 1.5 and 3.5. For reference, the pH of lemon juice is around 3.
- Basic/Alkaline: A pH of more than 7 means that the food or drink is basic (not acidic)
- Acidic: A pH of fewer than 7 means the food or drink is acidic – the closer to 0, the more acidic
- Neutral: A pH of 7 is neutral
Acidic foods are potential bladder irritants, so try to choose fruits and vegetables that are higher on the pH scale, such as:
- Avocados (pH 6.27-6.58)
- Dates (pH 5.49)
- Figs, Calamyrna (pH 5.05-5.98)
- Honeydew (pH 5.42)
- Honeydew melon (pH 6.00-6.67)
- Kiwi (pH 4.84)
- Mangoes, ripe (pH 5.80-6.00)
- Olives, black (pH 6.00-7.00)
- Papaya (pH 5.20-6.00)
- Pear, Bosc (pH 5.15)
- Persimmon, Fuyu (pH 6.25)
- Pumpkin (pH 4.99-5.50)
- Watermelon (pH 5.18-5.60)
- Acorn squash (pH 5.18-6.49)
- Asparagus (pH 6.00-6.70)
- Broccoli (pH 6.30-6.85)
- Brussels sprouts (pH 6.00-6.30)
- Cabbage (pH 5.20-6.80)
- Carrots (pH 5.88-6.40)
- Cauliflower (pH 5.60)
- Celery (pH 5.70-6.00)
- Corn (pH 5.90-7.50)
- Cucumbers (pH 5.12-5.78)
- Eggplant (pH 5.50-6.0)
- Hearts of palm (pH 5.70)
- Mushrooms (pH 6.00-6.70)
- Okra, cooked (pH 5.50-6.60)
- Parsnip (pH 5.30-5.70)
- Potatoes (pH 5.40-5.90)
- Radishes (pH 5.85-6.05)
- Soybeans (pH 6.00-6.60)
- Spinach (pH 5.50-6.80)
- String beans (pH 5.60)
Research shows that people who eat foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids (like salmon) are less likely to develop inflammatory conditions, which could include bladder irritation, pain, and bladder cancer.
Salmon is also one of the few natural sources of vitamin D, a fat-soluble vitamin necessary for bone health. Three ounces of salmon provides 75% of the daily value of vitamin D for adults under age 70.
As mentioned earlier, there may also be a link between vitamin D deficiency and urinary incontinence.
Olive oil is rich in healthy monounsaturated fats. Monounsaturated fats have pain-fighting properties as opposed to pro-inflammatory saturated fats which are prevalent in a typical Western diet.
Diets rich in saturated fats are associated with chronic inflammation and a higher likelihood of developing inflammatory-induced diseases like diabetes and heart disease. On the other hand, a healthy, bladder-friendly diet rich in foods like olive oil has a lower risk of inflammation-related diseases.
Other natural remedies for bladder problems
Pelvic floor physical therapy can be beneficial if you’re struggling with incontinence or have had bladder or prostate surgery. A physical therapist specializing in pelvic floor rehabilitation can help you strengthen muscles in your pelvic floor in order to improve bladder control.
Losing weight if you’re overweight may help improve your bladder health, especially if you have stress urinary incontinence.
Bladder training & scheduled restroom trips
Scheduling restroom trips can help get you into a good routine for emptying your bladder instead of waiting until you feel the urge to urinate.
If you have control of the muscles needed to hold in urine, practice waiting to go to the restroom for a few minutes beyond when you feel the urge to go. This can help strengthen the muscles in your pelvic floor and allow you to reduce the number of times you have to use the restroom for an overactive bladder. These techniques may also help prevent bladder leaks.
Bladder problems in men may occur due to an overactive bladder or issues with your prostate. Certain foods act as bladder irritants and should be avoided if they cause symptoms. Keeping a food/symptom log is the best way to identify your unique food and drink triggers for your bladder health.