Are there dietary changes I can make to deal with overactive bladder?

Answer From Jennifer K. Nelson, R.D., L.D.

Diet may play a supportive role in helping with symptoms of overactive bladder, such as the need to urgently and more frequently. Sometimes overactive bladder is accompanied by leaking urine (urinary incontinence).

First, talk to your doctor about your symptoms. You'll likely get a thorough exam and specific recommendations, which may include exercises to train your bladder. In some cases, medication may be prescribed.

In addition, the following dietary changes may help you manage urinary urgency and frequency:

  • Monitor your fluid intake. Start by keeping a fluid diary. Write down how much and when you drink during the day. Most experts recommend decreasing total fluid intake by 25 percent. In particular, cutting back on fluids before bedtime is recommended. However, don't drink less than 1 liter a day (about 34 ounces, or a little over four 8-ounce cups).
  • Cut out carbonated beverages (regular, diet, caffeine-free, sparkling waters). It's well-documented that carbonated beverages are associated with overactive bladder.
  • Cut back on caffeine. There's conflicting evidence about the effect of caffeine on urinary urgency. Experts have found that some people who cut back or avoid caffeine experience relief of their symptoms.
  • Limit alcohol. Evidence of a connection between alcohol and urinary urgency is inconsistent. Experts may recommend cutting back or cutting out alcohol to see if symptoms improve.
  • Skip artificial sweeteners (in beverages and foods). Artificial sweeteners (acesulfame K, aspartame, sodium saccharin) seem to increase urinary frequency and urgency.
  • Eat a vitamin-rich diet. Vitamin C from fruits and vegetables is associated with decreased urinary urgency. However, supplemental vitamin C, especially at high levels, is associated with worsening symptoms. Studies have found that vitamin D deficiency is associated with increased urination. So, getting enough vitamin D may be protective. Good sources of vitamin D include fish (swordfish, salmon, tuna and sardines), fortified milk and yogurt, and eggs.
April 17, 2020 See more Expert Answers

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