Updated 31 January 2018

6 everyday things to avoid if you have urge incontinence

Urge incontinence can be tricky to manage but did you know that some foods, drinks and medications could be making the situation worse? Watch out for these 6 triggers...

Urge incontinence is one of the four main types of urinary incontinence.

It involves the loss of urine as a result of strong, uncontrollable urges to urinate. Certain foods, drinks and medications can worsen those urges and therefore increase the severity of your incontinence.

Consider reducing your intake of these 6 things if you suffer from urge incontinence:

1. Caffeine

caffeine causes urinary incontinence

A number of studies have shown caffeine to worsen urinary incontinence. Caffeine is a diuretic which means it can increase your need to urinate. For those who suffer from urge incontinence, caffeine may make the urges worse, Health24's resident GP Dr Owen Wiese explains.

Try limiting your intake of caffeine by cutting down on coffee, certain teas, energy drinks and caffeinated fizzy drinks.

Read: Caffeine linked to leaky bladder in men

2. Spicy foods

spicy foods can contribute to incontinence

Spicy foods are commonly known to irritate the stomach and bowel but they have been found to have a similar effect on the bladder, Dr Wiese explains. Try to avoid cooking with chilli and other spices for a while to test if your symptoms improve.

3. Certain medication

medication associated with incontinence

There are a number of different medications that can increase the frequency or urgency to urinate. These include:

Hypertension medication:

Diuretics such as Hydrochlorothiazide (Ridaq) and Furosemide (Lasix)

ACE inhibitors such as Enalapril maleate (Pharmapress; Renitec) and Captopril (CaptoHexal; Zapto)

Alpha-antagonists including Doxazosin maleate (Cardura) Prazosin (Pratsiol) 

Muscular pain medication:

- Muscle relaxants including Baclofen (Lioresal) and Orphenadrine (Norflex, Disipal)

Read: Common medicines tied to urinary incontinence

4. Sweeteners

sweetener linked to incontinence

Artificial sweeteners such as aspartame that are commonly found in diet drinks and sugar-free foods can also cause incontinence. Like spicy foods, sweeteners are known to irritate the bladder. Try adding honey or agave syrup to your tea instead of sweeteners to prevent uncontrollable urges.

Read: How safe are artificial sweeteners?

5. Alcohol

alcohol linked to urinary incontinence

If you suffer from incontinence, alcohol intake is another lifestyle factor that could be aggravating your symptoms.

Like caffeine, alcohol is a diuretic and therefore increases your need to urinate. Also, being intoxicated can prevent you from realising that you need to go to the bathroom or from getting to the bathroom in time.

Try to reduce the amount of alcohol you consume to better control your urges.

Test yourself: What's my risk of developing urinary incontinence? 

6. Citrus fruit

citrus fruit

Citrus fruits cause the same problem as spicy foods and sweeteners. The acidity caused by the vitamin C in the fruit irritates the lining of the bladder which can increase the urge to urinate.

Try replacing citrus fruits with less acidic alternatives such as apples, watermelon and apricots.

While these different foods, beverages and medications can worsen urge incontinence, they can also have little affect on your incontinence at all. Some people are affected by alcohol and caffeine but not by citrus fruit or spicy foods.

You can test what, if any of these things affect your incontinence by eliminating them one at a time and monitoring whether your continence improves or not.

Read more:

Preventing incontinence
4 types of incontinence
Over half of seniors affected by incontinence

Images all from Shutterstock


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Incontinence Expert

Dr 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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