According to the National Association For Incontinence, over 33 million Americans live with overactive bladder. Overactive Bladder (OAB) is characterized by the frequent and strong urge to urinate, even if you’ve just emptied your bladder. Living with an overactive bladder might cause you to go to the bathroom more than eight times a day. You may feel as though you’re unable to empty your bladder completely, even when you feel full. You may also feel frustrated at the interruption overactive bladder can cause in your life.
There are many ways to treat an overactive bladder. Medications that calm the urges to urinate and certain exercises can help treat the symptoms of overactive bladder, but the most popular and effective way to treat it is with the overactive bladder diet! In this guide, you will learn the basics of overactive bladder and how the overactive bladder diet can help you treat your symptoms and get your life back! Be sure to check out our website for even more wellness support.
What is Overactive Bladder
Overactive bladder is caused by an overactivity of your detrusor muscle. 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.
Overactive bladder occurs when these signals message your detrusor muscle to release or contract when your bladder may not actually be full. This might be due to a disruption in signals or muscle spasms that take place in your bladder.
This causes the frequent and intense urges to urinate, characteristic of an overactive bladder. In addition, an overactive bladder may lead to urinary incontinence. Because of the intensity of the signals, your detrusor muscle begins to release the urine, even if you aren’t near a bathroom.
According to the National Association For Incontinence, over 33 million Americans live with overactive bladder, and half of these also live with urinary incontinence.
Symptoms of Overactive Bladder
There are a variety of symptoms unique to the overactive bladder that can help you differentiate it from urinary incontinence.
- Urgency. if you experience the sudden urge to urinate, even if you just emptied your bladder, you may have an overactive bladder.
- Unintentional loss of urine. If you experience the unintentional loss of urine after feeling the urges that accompany an overactive bladder, you might have OAB.
- If you urinate more than eight times per day. A good way to measure overactive bladder is to count how many times you urinate per day. If it is more than eight and accompanied by any other symptoms in this list, then it is likely you have OAB.
- Urinating in the middle of the night. When we sleep, the signals that cause our detrusor muscle to contract are less likely to occur. If they are occurring frequently and causing you to get up multiple times in the night, you may have an overactive bladder.
Causes of Overactive Bladder
Most causes of the overactive bladder have to do with disrupted communication between your signaling mechanism and your bladder muscles or muscle spasms that take place in your bladder.
Your kidneys are responsible for filtering out minerals and nutrients from your blood, and so they produce waste in the form of urine. The urine then travels to your bladder, where it is stored until your brain sends the appropriate signals for your detrusor muscle to contract and your urinary sphincter to relax. This is how our bodies know when to urinate.
When these signals get mixed up or when muscle spasms occur, this can confuse the nerves in your bladder and result in an overactive bladder. The signals are characterized as being urgent and intense, even when your bladder isn’t full. For instance, most people can hold up to 2 cups of urine in their bladder before they have to urinate. For people with overactive bladder, you may get an urge to urinate with the same intensity as if your bladder was full, but it may only be half or less than half-way full.
The Overactive Bladder Diet
Overactive bladder is caused by a mix-up in your signaling system. This often causes muscle spasms in your bladder, but one of the causes of these spasms may surprise you.
What we put into our bodies has a big impact on the overactive bladder. When we eat and drink, our bodies filter out the leftovers via our waste systems. One of these systems is our renal system. Made up of our kidneys, bladder, and urinary tract, this system is responsible for the formation and filtration of solutes 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.
This is where the overactive bladder diet can be incorporated. This diet is a general outline of foods to avoid that may cause extra irritation to your bladder and foods to replace them with to promote calming of your bladder muscles and the regulation of your bladder signals.
It is important to remember that everyone is different. Where one food may irritate you, it may be just fine for someone else. Don’t hesitate to engage in some trial and error. It may take a few tries to see results from the overactive bladder diet and learn exactly what’s best for your body!
Foods to Avoid
While on the overactive bladder diet, here are some of the foods you should consume in moderation:
- Sugar or honey
- Artificial sweeteners
- Caffeinated medicines or foods.
- Spicy foods
- Soy sauce
- Dairy products
Drinks to Avoid
The things we drink also have an effect on our bladder. Caffeinated beverages, carbonated beverages, and sodas with a lot of sugar can cause our bladder to be irritated and thus overactive.
However, while eliminating drinks from your diet, it’s important to stay hydrated! Dehydration can lead to illness and other negative health conditions. Dehydration can also be a cause of an overactive bladder. Not drinking enough water can cause your urine to be more concentrated. This means that the solutes and minerals it filters out of our bodies become much denser. This can cause irritation in our bladders, which leads to overactivity.
In order to remain hydrated, it is recommended to drink at least six glasses of water a day. So, as you’re cutting out the beverages that irritate your bladder, be sure to substitute them with water! Here are the beverages to consume in moderation:
- Alcoholic beverages such as liquor, beer, or wine.
- Yeast-related drinks such as fermented lemonade or kombucha.
- Carbonated beverages
- Milk or dairy products
Foods and Drinks to Substitute
After reading that list, you may feel like there’s nothing left for you to eat or drink. But there are many foods you can still enjoy that promote the calming of your bladder muscles. These include:
- Proteins such as chicken breast, turkey, fish, low-fat beef, pork, and eggs
- Foods rich in fiber can help your bladder remain calm. Your bladder may be experiencing more frequent urges due to constipation. By consuming a fiber-rich diet, you can relieve constipation and potentially relieve some of the stress on your bladder muscles.
- Fruits and veggies can actually promote your bladder health! For fruits, focus on choices other than citrus or strawberries. For instance, bananas, apples, watermelon, coconut, and grapes are full of nutrients while also being gentle on your bladder. Similarly, vegetables such as lettuce, cucumbers, squash, potatoes, broccoli, carrots, celery, and bell peppers can all serve to provide a rich, balanced diet while being non-irritating to your bladder
- Nuts are also a great way to incorporate protein and healthy fats into your diet while soothing your bladder.
- Whole grains that are not gluten-based such as oats, quinoa, barley, farro, and almond flour, can be a great way to soothe your overactive bladder symptoms.
How to Incorporate the Diet
With any diet, it may take time to see results. You will also likely need to incorporate some trial and error into your process. The National Association for Incontinence recommends eliminating the irritating foods and drinks first and then reintroducing them back into your diet gradually and one at a time. This allows you to see if one food is more irritating than another, and you can tailor this diet to fit you!
Journaling may also help you keep track of what foods you reincorporate, their effects on your bladder, and which foods have no effect.
Before beginning the overactive bladder diet, speak to your doctor. If you are on an overactive bladder medication, this could affect what you eat and drink.
Overactive bladder is a frustrating condition, but if you live with OAB, you are not alone. Over 33 million Americans live with OAB as well. The overactive bladder diet is essentially a diet to help you eliminate foods and drinks that may irritate your bladder and cause muscle spasms and increased emptying signals. When you eliminate these foods, you can incorporate calming foods to ensure you get enough nutrients and reduce the symptoms of OAB.
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