Irritation of the bladder and urethra isn’t an uncommon problem.
It affects men and women, although females are more likely to develop these problems due to shorter urethra.
The first and most important factor in the management of irritated bladder and urethra is diet modification.
Avoiding foods that irritate the bladder and urethra can make a huge difference in the severity of symptoms you experience.
Below, you’ll learn more about foods to eat and avoid.
What are the symptoms of bladder irritation?
Bladder or urethral irritation can cause symptoms such as (2, 3):
- Urinary urgency or a strong urge to pee
- Urinary frequency or the need to urinate more often
- Pain in the lower abdominal area
- Pain while urinating
- Pain during sexual intercourse
- Penile discharge
- Itchiness at the tip of the urethra
21 foods that irritate the bladder and urethra
Some foods can irritate the lining of the bladder or upset the nervous system that controls both the bowel and bladder. They can also irritate the urethra and worsen symptoms of infection and inflammation.
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.
To manage these problems adequately, you may want to reduce intake or avoid the following foods and beverages.
Alcoholic beverages exhibit dehydrating effects that irritate the bladder and urethra. Since it also functions as a diuretic, alcohol increases urine production and results in more frequent trips to the bathroom. This can lead to dehydration and more concentrated urine, which can wreak havoc on the urinary tract.
2. Citrus fruits and juices
Citrus fruits and juices can make the urine more acidic and thereby irritate the bladder and urethra.
You may want to avoid or reduce your intake of oranges, lemons, limes, grapefruits, and other citrus fruits and juices if you have an irritated bladder or urethra.
Like citrus fruits, tomatoes can make your urine more acidic. These foods can further irritate the bladder and urethra.
People with an overactive bladder may experience worsening of their symptoms. Besides tomato, you should also avoid tomato-based products.
4. Spicy foods
Spicy foods can inflame the lining of your bladder and the urethra. As a result, it can become difficult to control symptoms such as urinary frequency and urgency. Try to avoid chili peppers and other spices.
Caffeine acts directly onto the smooth muscle of the bladder. Consumption of caffeine may irritate the tissues of the bladder and lead to an involuntary bladder contraction. This results in urge incontinence.
Like alcohol, caffeine is also a diuretic. All these things combined explain why caffeine isn’t friendly to your bladder or urethra (1). 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.
Chocolate contains small amounts of caffeine, which functions as a bladder stimulant and a natural diuretic.
In turn, bladder or urethral irritation worsens. Ideally, you should avoid chocolate but if you can’t do so, try to keep its intake to a minimum.
7. Carbonated drinks
Carbonated drinks irritate the bladder and urethra due to their carbon dioxide content. Basically, carbon dioxide irritates the lining of the bladder. Since the lining is irritated, your urinary symptoms become worse. You may want to avoid carbonated drinks like soda, seltzers, sparkling waters, and other carbonated drinks if you’re experiencing bladder irritation.
A high intake of sugar, especially artificial sweeteners, can irritate the bladder or urethra.
Sugar is a stimulant. That’s why it can increase the urgency and frequency of urination. For that reason, you may want to avoid sugar-laden products.
While cranberry and its juice are often used as remedies for urinary problems, they can also contribute to them. It’s all due to their acidic pH.
Moreover, evidence shows that cranberry can help reduce urinary symptoms, but not as a juice.
Cranberry supplements can help with that, whereas juice doesn’t really. You’d need high amounts of the fruit itself to experience the effects.
10. Artificial Sweeteners
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.
11-21. Other irritants
Besides the above mentioned foods, other bladder irritants may include:
- Dairy products
- Vitamins buffered with aspartame (an artificial sweetener)
Not all foods contribute to bladder or urethra irritation in all people. It’s useful to have a food journal, especially if you struggle with frequent urinary problems.
Log your symptoms and all foods and beverages you consume. Do so for a few weeks to identify foods that worsen your symptoms. You may find that some of these fruits don’t aggravate your symptoms, whereas others do.
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- Daily bladder diary
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- Step-by-step guide
Irritation of the bladder or urethra can be quite frustrating. You go to the bathroom frequently, but each trip seems like the biggest emergency. Other symptoms are also frustrating.
Some foods can worsen these symptoms because they irritate the bladder and urethra. Whether you already have irritation of the bladder or urethra, or you just want to prevent it, you may want to reduce your intake of some foods.
This post focused on foods you should avoid, eat, and other things to do for optimal bladder and urethral health.