Bladder health is rarely a topic of conversation, but all of us are likely affected by a bladder issue at some point in our lives. For women, urinary tract infections (UTIs) may be an issue at any age, and loss of bladder control can occur after childbirth or as you age. For men, urinary issues are common with age, generally because of an enlarged prostate. Men can also have a UTI, although they are more common among women.
Fortunately, there are many things that you can do to keep your bladder healthy. Follow this advice to keep your bladder strong.
Drink enough water
Although it may seem that you should limit fluid intake if you are struggling with bladder control, that is not necessarily true. Restricting your water intake can make it hard to develop a routine of urinating on a regular schedule, at least every 3-4 hours. Establishing a regular schedule to urinate may help you avoid UTIs and bladder leakage.
The amount of fluid that you need each day varies from person to person. An excellent way to tell whether you are well hydrated is to look at your urine. Urine color ranges from pale yellow to deep amber. If it is pale yellow, you are hydrated. If it is darker yellow, closer to a deep amber color, you are not well hydrated and need to drink more water. Don’t panic if your urine doesn’t look a shade of yellow. A lot of things can change the color of your urine, including foods or medications. For example, beets can turn your urine red, and certain food dyes can turn your urine green.
For those with an overactive bladder, experts recommend sipping small amounts of water throughout the day rather than drinking large quantities at once. It is also a good idea to stop drinking fluids about two hours before bedtime to prevent getting up multiple times at night to urinate.
Limit caffeine and alcohol
Alcoholic beverages and caffeine can irritate the bladder and have a diuretic effect, meaning they will cause your kidneys to temporarily produce more urine. Caffeine is found in coffee, tea, chocolate, sodas, and even some over-the-counter and prescription medications.
If you drink caffeinated coffee, consider limiting yourself to one cup a day, or experiment to determine the amount you can tolerate without irritating your bladder. If you drink alcohol, limit your intake to one drink a day.
Exercise Your Pelvic Floor Muscles
Your pelvic floor muscles support your bladder, and they lose strength with age, as well as with pregnancy and childbirth. You can strengthen your pelvic floor muscles by doing Kegel exercises. Contrary to popular belief, Kegel exercises are not “just for women.” Men can also have issues with these muscles, and Kegel exercises can help keep urinary leakage, bowel issues, and even erection problems away.
To find the right muscles:
- Imagine that you are trying to stop urinating mid-stream.
- Contract the muscles and hold for 3 seconds, then rest for 3 seconds.
- Work up to 3 sets of 10-15 repetitions and try to do them each day.
Foods for a Healthy Bladder
If you have a sensitive bladder, certain foods may cause your symptoms to worsen. The key is to determine which foods irritate your bladder and try to limit or avoid them. Not everyone will have the same irritants. Some common bladder irritants are coffee, alcohol, citrus foods, tomato-based foods, artificial sweeteners, and spicy foods. It may take some trial and error to see what foods are “bladder friendly” for you. Below are some general guidelines.
Focus on Fiber
Eating more fiber-rich foods is an essential part of a diet for a healthy bladder. Getting enough fiber in your diet is crucial for preventing constipation, which has been linked to overactive bladder and urinary incontinence. Aim to keep your bowels regular by including at least 25 grams of fiber into your daily diet if you are a woman and 38 grams if you are a man. A high-fiber diet includes:
- Vegetables– green beans, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage,potatoes (with skin), squash, spinach, collard greens, and more.
- Fruits- Pears, bananas, apples, berries, and melon are all great sources of fiber.
- Legumes- beans (lima beans, black beans, chickpeas, and others), peas, and lentils are nutritious, fiber-rich legumes.
- Whole Grains- whole grain bread, whole-wheat pasta, brown rice, buckwheat, barley, oats, and quinoa are good choices.
- Nuts and Seeds- almonds, walnuts, cashews, pistachios, chia seeds, pumpkin seeds, and sunflower seeds are all rich in fiber, protein, and healthy fats.
Include Protein and Healthy Fats
Aim to include lean proteins and healthy fats at each meal or snack, as these are less likely to bother your bladder. Some examples are:
Bladder Health Snack ideas:
- Hummus and vegetables
- Cheese and whole-grain crackers
- A small handful of nuts or seeds and dried fruit
- Peanut butter or almond butter on slices of apple or banana
- Boiled egg
Bladder Health Meal ideas:
- Oatmeal with nuts and berries
- Eggs scrambled with spinach and red peppers
- Salad with sunflower seeds, leafy greens, tomatoes, peppers, broccoli, and carrots
- Grilled fish or poultry, vegetables, and brown rice
Find more quick, easy, and healthy meal ideas here.
Don’t miss an article! Sign up for our newsletter below and we’ll let you know when our next article comes out.