Updated 07 August 2015

Eat right for better bladder control

Urinary incontinence can sometimes feel like an unmanageable problem but simple dietary changes can actually go a long way in reducing symptoms.


Urinary incontinence may feel like an insurmountable problem, but it can be very well-managed if you’re armed with the right knowledge. 

What people don’t know, is that your diet can have an impact on your bladder – and there are some simple interventions you can institute to make sure you are eating the most bladder-friendly diet possible.

For starters, you do want to eat a diet that supports a healthy weight. Carrying excess weight puts a strain on the muscles of the pelvic floor, and being a healthy weight is one of the most modifiable risk factors for incontinence.

Second, don’t try and cut your fluid intake – this is actually counterproductive. When you don’t drink enough, your urine becomes concentrated, and highly concentrated urine can irritate he bladder surface, causing more frequent trips to the bathroom. It also encourages the growth of bacteria, which could result in a bladder infection – and more incontinence.

The trick to balancing your fluids is to keep an eye on your urine. It should be concentrated in the morning when you wake up, but thereafter it should be a pale straw colour. If it’s lighter, you’re drinking too much. If it’s darker, you need to up your fluid intake.

There are some foods that medical experts know to be bladder irritants, so if you have an incontinence problem, these are the foods you need to avoid:

- Alcohol

- Caffeine, which can be found in tea, coffee, chocolate, soft drinks and cough medicine

- Dairy

- Sugar, sweeteners, corn syrup, honey 

- Citrus fruits and juice

- Tomato-based foods

- Spicy foods 

It’s easier than you think to make the changes. You just need to be aware of what the irritants are and make slightly different choices at home, as well as when you’re eating out.

Bladder–friendly eating out

It can be difficult to eat healthily when you eat out – often our eating is much more unconscious because we’re focused on the people we’re with, and on having a good time. So it takes some discipline to bear the following in mind:

- Eat and drink as healthily as possible for the benefit of your condition

- Drink lots of water

- Don’t be afraid to leave food on your plate

- Research local restaurants for healthier food items on the menu

Also, don’t be afraid to ask to have food prepared the way you like it – within reason, of course. You can ask for a cheesy sauce to be left off your vegetables, for example. And most menus will have something light and healthy to choose from – the key is to focus on dishes that are packed full of fresh vegetables and salads and lean proteins. Give preference to fruit if available. 

But most importantly, enjoy your food – people who eat mindfully, eat less and make healthier choices in general.

For more information or advice about bladder weakness, please call TENA on 0860 673 377. Order your free TENA sample by visiting our website or shop online.

Read more:
10 things you didn’t know about urinary incontinence
TENA products offer the best protection against bladder weakness
Is your pregnancy causing bladder incontinence?


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Prenevin Govender completed his MBChB at the University of Cape Town in 2001. He obtained his Fellowship of the College of Urologists in 2009 and graduated with distinction for a Masters in Medicine from the University of Cape Town in 2010. His special interests include laparoscopic, pelvic organ prolapse and urinary incontinence surgery. He consults full-time at Life Kingsbury Hospital in Claremont.

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