Overactive Bladder? Here Are Diet, Supplements, and Activities that Support Bladder Health

Do you find yourself waking up in the night to urinate or notice that you need to urinate more often than most people? If you cannot hold your urine or experience leakage when you cough, sneeze, laugh or when you need to empty your bladder, you may have an overactive bladder. 

Overactive bladder is a clinical syndrome leading to an urgency to empty your bladder with or without incontinence (lack of voluntary control over your bladder) and usually also leads to increased nighttime urination (nocturia). 

The overall prevalence of overactive bladder syndrome is approximately 12% of the population. In women, overactive bladder syndrome increases significantly with age. The risk rises from 2.0% in those aged between 18 and 24 to 19.1% in those 65 to 74 years of age. [1]

While an overactive bladder is quite common, it is not life-threatening; however, it can seriously impact your quality of life. [2]

Fortunately, there are dietary, supplement, and lifestyle recommendations that can help you improve bladder function and health:

Diet

Fluids

A literature review reported the need to avoid the ingestion of caffeine, carbonated drinks, and alcohol throughout the day, as they clearly show an association between these beverages and symptom severity. [3]

Another study examined 2900 healthy young women who had never become pregnant before. An overactive bladder is common in such women. This study found that urinary frequency was associated with consuming artificial sweeteners in coffee and tea. [4]

This could be due to the caffeine in the coffee and tea and not artificial sweeteners. However, another study showed that both might cause an overactive bladder. The study confirmed that carbonated drinks are also associated with incontinence and bladder disorders. [5]

Therefore I recommend avoiding “diet” beverages that have artificial sweeteners.

To learn more about this, see my article on artificial sweeteners HERE

I also recommend reducing all caffeinated drinks, including energy drinks, tea, and coffee if you suffer from an overactive bladder. Natural herbal teas such as peppermint, lemon balm, and licorice root are healthy and full of antioxidants supporting a healthy bladder. 

However, if you want to consume tea or coffee, it is best to avoid adding any sweeteners to your drinks. Taste buds replace themselves every 2-3 weeks. You can get accustomed to different tastes if you persist in sampling the unpalatable flavor over this short period, after which the flavor will become palatable.

However, if this is not an option for you, natural sugar is better than artificial sweeteners. 

Lose Weight

The same study mentioned above also found that being overweight (recorded through elevated BMI) was a risk factor for an overactive bladder. [4] 

If you are overweight, weight loss is crucial to improving an overactive bladder. There are many health risks to being overweight, and the discomfort and frustration of an overactive bladder are some of them. 

If you need support with weight loss, please visit the Guerrilla Diet weight loss program based on unbiased scientific evidence to ensure you reach your goal in the healthiest possible way. 

Allergy awareness

Some allergies may also cause an overactive bladder. The National Association for Continence reports that people with celiac disease are more likely to have bladder issues such as bladder leaks or incontinence when exposed to the allergen. Therefore, eliminating any foods or substances that you may be allergic to is good advice in any case, especially if the symptoms are affecting your quality of life. For more information on allergies, see my article on this HERE

Supplements

One study involving 6,371 women found that there are three nutrients associated with the onset of an overactive bladder.

Higher intakes of vitamin D, protein, and potassium were significantly associated with decreased onset risks.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D receptors are found in skeletal and smooth muscle cells in the bladder. 

A literature review found that most studies showed a significant association between vitamin D deficiency or insufficiency and the onset and severity of urinary incontinence. They concluded that vitamin D supplementation is effective for treating urinary incontinence. [6]

Another study showed that urinary flow rate was associated with levels of total vitamin D. [7]

Therefore, I recommend supplementing with 1000 IU of vitamin D five times a week if your skin is not exposed to sufficient UVB rays of the sun. See my article on this subject here XXX 

Vitamin D supplements are a simple and effective way to improve bladder function.

Potassium

One study with 82 participants from the Department of Urology, Süleyman Demirel University, in Turkey, showed that potassium citrate supplementation led to a significant decrease in the score of an overactive bladder. They suggest that potassium citrate treatment improves overactive bladder symptoms, especially in elderly patients. [8] 

Potassium deficiencies are more common in people who use diuretics, are physically very active, suffer from malnutrition (through eating disorders, celiac or inflammatory bowel diseases), smokers, and people abusing alcohol or drugs. If you suffer from an overactive bladder and belong to one of these populations, you want to increase potassium in your diet by consuming potassium-rich foods (avocado, bananas, tomatoes, potatoes, pineapple, chocolate, Jalapeno peppers, raisins, beans, lentils).

I usually do not recommend supplementing with potassium as this may lead to an imbalance of trace minerals. Still, if recommended for you, you may supplement with potassium citrate tablets of 8 mEq (or 600 mg).

Pumpkin seed oil extract

Pumpkin seed oil extract is rich in vitamins, oleic acid, micronutrients, and linoleic acid. In a study led by a team from Hokkaido Information University in Japan, research showed pumpkin seed oil could prevent and treat urinary disorders. The study evaluated and studied the urinary frequency and urgency of 45 subjects over a 12-week evaluation period. [9] You can take pumpkin seed oil in supplements several times a week.

Cranberry juice

Scientists once believed that cranberry juice’s acidity levels helped prevent and treat urinary tract infections. However, it is now known that cranberry juice contains A-type proanthocyanidins (PACs), which protect the urinary tract and bladder from bacteria, specifically E.coli, responsible for infections. Clinical research has shown that drinking cranberry juice (preferably without added sugar) daily can help prevent the recurrence of urinary tract infections and reduce bacteria by 50%. [10]

Lifestyle Habits

Stop smoking

In a recent study on the impact of smoking on bladder health, researchers from Yokohama City University Medical Center in Japan led an extensive investigation involving 10,000 participants with a smoking habit. The study concluded that smokers were more likely to experience urinary incontinence than those who did not smoke. [11]

Pelvic floor muscle training

According to a study led by a team from Poland, pelvic floor muscle training was an effective treatment for women with urinary incontinence. [12]

Pelvic floor muscle training, pelvic floor exercises, or Kegel exercises are not traditional exercises. The goal of these exercises is to strengthen the muscles around your bladder and pelvic floor muscles to help prevent urine leakage. To perform the exercise, pretend you have to urinate and hold it by tightening the muscles. It’s essential to focus on tightening the right muscles. Another method is to wait until you have to urinate. Start to empty your bladder but then tighten your muscles in the middle to stop the stream. 

Also, vitamin D deficiency causes a significant reduction in pelvic floor muscle strength, so supplementation may be beneficial if necessary.

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Dr. Galit Goldfarb

References 

  1. Irwin DE, Milsom I, Hunskaar S, et al. : Population-based survey of urinary incontinence, overactive bladder, and other lower urinary tract symptoms in five countries: results of the EPIC study. Eur Urol. 2006;50(6):1306–14; discussion 1314–5. 10.1016/j.eururo.2006.09.019
  2. Stewart WF, Van Rooyen JB, Cundiff GW, Abrams P, Herzog AR, Corey R, Hunt TL, Wein AJ. Prevalence and burden of over-active bladder in the United States. World J Urol. 2003;20:327–336.
  3. Robinson D, Hanna-Mitchell A, Rantell A, Thiagamoorthy G, Cardozo L. Are we justified in suggesting change to caffeine, alcohol, and carbonated drink intake in lower urinary tract disease? Report from the ICI-RS 2015. Neurourol Urodyn. 2017 Apr;36(4):876-881. doi: 10.1002/nau.23149. PMID: 28444711.
  4. Hajjar R, Tsolakian I, Chaaya M, Daher A, Bazi T. Overactive bladder syndrome in nulliparous female university students: prevalence and risk factors including waterpipe smoking. Int Urogynecol J. 2021 Nov 26. doi: 10.1007/s00192-021-05004-5. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 34825923.
  5. Dallosso HM, McGrother CW, Matthews RJ, Donaldson MM; Leicestershire MRC Incontinence Study Group. The association of diet and other lifestyle factors with overactive bladder and stress incontinence: a longitudinal study in women. BJU Int. 2003 Jul;92(1):69-77. doi: 10.1046/j.1464-410x.2003.04271.x. PMID: 12823386.
  6. Ronnie Baer, Lea Tene, Adi Y. Weintraub, Leonid Kalichman, The effect of vitamin D deficiency and supplementation on urinary incontinence: scoping review, International Urogynecology Journal, 10.1007/s00192-021-04963-z, (2021).
  7. Yung-Wen Cheng, Chun-Chi Hung, Tung-Wei Kao, Wei-Liang Chen, Beneficial relevance of vitamin D concentration and urine flow rate, Clinical Nutrition, 10.1016/j.clnu.2020.09.036, (2020).
  8. Uçar M, Akkoc A, Topcuoglu M, Ozturk SA, Demir M. The Effect of Potassium Citrate on Overactive Bladder Disease: A Cross-sectional Study. J Coll Physicians Surg Pak. 2020 Dec;30(12):1301-1305. doi: 10.29271/jcpsp.2020.12.1301. PMID: 33397057.
  9. Nishimura M, Ohkawara T, Sato H, Takeda H, Nishihira J. Pumpkin Seed Oil Extracted From Cucurbita maxima Improves Urinary Disorder in Human Overactive Bladder. J Tradit Complement Med. 2014;4(1):72-74. doi:10.4103/2225-4110.124355
  10. Hisano M, Bruschini H, Nicodemo AC, Srougi M. Cranberries and lower urinary tract infection prevention. Clinics (Sao Paulo). 2012;67(6):661-668. doi:10.6061/clinics/2012(06)18
  11. Kawahara T, Ito H, Yao M, Uemura H. Impact of smoking habit on overactive bladder symptoms and incontinence in women. Int J Urol. 2020;27(12):1078-1086. doi:10.1111/iju.14357
  12. Radzimi?ska A, Str?czy?ska A, Weber-Rajek M, Styczy?ska H, Strojek K, Piekorz Z. The impact of pelvic floor muscle training on the quality of life of women with urinary incontinence: a systematic literature review. Clin Interv Aging. 2018;13:957-965. Published 2018 May 17. doi:10.2147/CIA.S160057