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8 Foods That Irritate the Bladder

A medley of colorful fruits and vegetables on a platter

Kara Miller |

If you have a constant and strong urge to urinate, empty your bladder more than eight times a day, or use the bathroom frequently during the night, you may have bladder irritation or overactive bladder. Overactive bladder (OAB) is characterized by these intense symptoms and the need to go, even if you’ve just emptied your bladder.

This challenge is a common one, as over 33 million Americans live with OAB and its symptoms. Thankfully, there are many ways to treat an overactive bladder. One of the easiest ways to treat this is by controlling your diet!

In this article, you will learn the basics of overactive bladder and bladder irritation, which foods to avoid that may irritate your bladder, and how to treat your symptoms so you can get your life back!

Basics of Bladder Irritation

The bladder is the part of our body that holds urine. It plays an important role in our renal system and helps get rid of waste! Your bladder is a balloon-shaped muscle located behind the pelvic bone. It can become irritated for a variety of reasons, and this irritation can lead to overactive bladder or even incontinence.

One cause of this irritation is our diet. When we eat and drink, our bodies filter out the leftovers through our renal system. Made up of our kidneys, bladder, and urinary tract, this system is responsible for the formation and filtration of solute through our urine.

However, if you eat certain foods that are more irritating to your bladder, this could result in muscle spasms and false signals that your bladder is full, which is when overactive bladder and even incontinence can occur!

Overactive Bladder

Overactive bladder happens when these signals message your detrusor muscle to release or contract when your bladder may not actually be full. The detrusor muscle is responsible for contracting your pelvic floor muscles and releasing your bladder of urine. Your brain sends signals to the detrusor muscle when the nerves in your bladder sense that your bladder is full, and thus your detrusor empties your bladder.

However, if you’re eating foods that irritate your bladder, these signals can miscommunicate with your detrusor and cause OAB. This might be due to a disruption in signals or muscle spasms that take place in your bladder.

Urinary Incontinence

If bladder irritation is intense enough, overactive bladder can lead to urinary incontinence. UI occurs when the signals sent to the detrusor muscle are too intense, and the body is unable to hold in urine. It can also happen if you’re unable to make it to the restroom or if you experience leaking due to the strong urges of an irritated bladder.

If OAB does lead to incontinence, there is a world of resources and tools to help. From adult incontinence products to skincare products that are gentle and cleansing, living with incontinence doesn’t have to disrupt your life.

8 Foods That Irritate the Bladder

Thankfully, changing your diet can be a simple way to calm your bladder. Let’s talk about which foods to avoid that may irritate the bladder!

1. Sweeteners

Avoiding sweeteners may seem like an odd correlation, but our bodies filter sugar through our urine. If we consume too much sugar, our renal system works over-time to filter it out and keep our bodies in balance. Sweeteners such as sugar, artificial sugar, honey, or syrups can be irritating for the bladder.

2. Caffeine

Another common bladder irritant is caffeine. While it’s important to stay away from caffeinated drinks such as tea, coffee, soda, and energy drinks, caffeine is also present in some medications. Caffeine may have a diuretic effect on the bladder’s smooth muscle. In other words, they may cause involuntary bladder contractions and make you have to urinate more often.

Cutting out caffeine can be difficult, so start slowly and replace your cup of coffee in the morning with a cup of warm water with lemon or decaffeinated tea!

3. Citrus

Citrus foods can be harsh on the bladder and cause discomfort and bladder irritation. For instance, oranges, lemons, limes, grapefruit, and mandarins can cause irritation. Other citrus foods such as tomatoes and tomato-based sauces may cause irritation.

4. Other Fruits

More acidic fruits can also cause irritation. For instance, strawberries and pineapple may also be responsible for your bladder irritation.

Everyone is different, so as you’re cutting out fruits, some may not irritate your bladder. You can slowly reintroduce certain fruits to see which ones irritate you and which ones don’t! It’s also important to keep some fruits in your diet while you’re cutting others out.

Try eating less acidic fruits like bananas to get nutrients while avoiding bladder irritation! You might also try a multivitamin during this time to help provide the vitamins and minerals your body needs while you experiment with cutting certain foods out of your diet!

5. Raw Onion

Raw onion can also cause irritation for your bladder. Raw onions are the most irritating due to their pungent smell, so you can continue to incorporate them when cooked in food. Try avoiding raw onions in salads, sandwiches, or other foods.

6. Certain Sauces

There are many sauces that can irritate your bladder. For instance, any citrus or vinegar-based sauce can be an irritant, such as soy sauce, vinegar-based salad dressings, tomato sauce, spaghetti sauce, or lemon sauces. Dairy based sauces can also be a bladder irritant, such as mayonnaise, cheese sauce, and butter-based sauces. Some jellies or fruit sauces can also irritate the bladder.

7. Spicy Foods

Spicy foods are one of the more obvious foods to avoid. Just like they can burn our tongues and mouths, they can irritate the lining of our bladder! Spicy seasonings, sauces, and even peppers are best avoided while you figure out which foods irritate your bladder.

8. Chocolate

It may come as a surprise, but milk chocolate contains about ¼ the amount of caffeine found in a cup of coffee. However, you may not have to cut out chocolate completely. Try eating white chocolate or dark chocolate instead to avoid the caffeine content. If you want to avoid sweeteners as well, dark chocolate is likely the best choice.

Identifying What Irritates Your Bladder

As you are learning which foods irritate your bladder, it can help to go through the list one at a time and then slowly reintroduce the food to see if it is an irritant. For instance, if you commonly eat citrus fruits, go a few days without eating them. Slowly reintroduce citrus fruit the next day and pay attention to how often you urinate or any discomfort in your bladder.

Everyone is different, so where one food may irritate you, it may be just fine for someone else. It may take a little bit of trial and error to see results and figure out what irritates your bladder!

Which Foods You Should Eat

It’s important to replace the foods you cut out with foods that calm the bladder and provide the nutrients your body needs!

Below are the foods you can still enjoy that promote the calming of your bladder muscles:

  • Protein-rich foods like chicken breast, turkey, fish, low fat beef, pork, and eggs.
  • Foods rich in fiber are great for relieving constipation and reducing pressure on the bladder.
  • Fruits and veggies other than citrus, strawberries, or pineapple. There are fruits that promote your bladder health such as bananas, apples, watermelon, coconut, and grapes are full of nutrients while also being gentle on your bladder. In addition, vegetables like lettuce, cucumbers, squash, potatoes, broccoli, carrots, celery, and bell peppers can also serve to provide a nutrient-rich balanced diet and avoid irritating your bladder!
  • Nuts are also a great way to incorporate protein and healthy fats into your diet while being non-irritating on your bladder.

Other Tips for Living with OAB

In addition to limiting these foods and figuring out which ones irritate your bladder, there are other simple ways to relieve bladder irritation. Here are a few!

  • Exercise. If you’re looking for more ways to promote bladder control, this exercise routine may help you strengthen your bladder muscles and regain control!
  • Empty your bladder twice. If you often feel the urge to go right after you’ve emptied your bladder, consider trying to empty twice. It may take a little longer but wait a few seconds after emptying the first time and try to empty your bladder again.
  • Keep a bladder diary! While cutting out foods, record which ones are irritating and which ones aren’t. Keep track of how often you use the restroom throughout the day and which foods you’ve eaten that day to see which cause you irritation.
  • If you also have incontinence from OAB, try a probiotic! This keeps your microbiome healthy and balanced and can soothe bladder irritation as well as prevent UTIs!


Overactive bladder doesn’t have to control your life. Avoiding these eight foods can help calm your bladder, promote your urinary health, and help you get back to living your life without the constant urge to go.

For more information on bladder control and promoting your urinary health, check out Because Market’s tools and resources here!



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Cleveland Clinic. (n.d.). Bladder Irritating Foods.
University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics. (n.d.). Bladder Irritants.
National Association for Continence. (n.d.). The Overactive Bladder Diet.