Food and drink to avoid when living with incontinence

A healthy diet is important to maintain bladder and bowel health. As part of a continence management plan you may need to change your lifestyle and pay closer attention to your diet. Here’s a handy guide to figuring out what you should and shouldn’t be consuming.

Can I still eat fruit?

Absolutely. Fruit is an important part of a healthy diet and provides you with the essential fluids and nutrients your body needs. Chose at least two serves of fruit everyday (eat the skin if possible). You can vary by having fresh, stewed, frozen, dried or canned fruit in natural juice. Some fruits have been identified to regulate bowel movements; these include figs, kiwifruits, prunes and dates. Fruits with high acidity – such as oranges and tomatoes – can irritate the bladder and affect your level of incontinence.

Can I enjoy spicy food?

Yes, with caution. Hot chilies, pepper and sauces that irritate the eyes and burn your mouth are likely to do the same to your bladder, particularly when those sauces contain acidic ingredients like tomato. However, everyone is different, so be sure to check with your doctor to see what’s best for you.If you experiencefaecal incontinence you may find that a spicy diet could irritate your skin.

What about hamburgers?

Hamburgers often contain ingredients that irritate the bladder,such as onionsand tomato, while fast food burgers contain artificial ingredients likeflavouring and preservativesthat may exacerbate your symptoms. That’s not to say you can’t enjoy a nice lean beef burger once in a while. Again, because every individual is different, it’s always safest to check with your doctor on what to avoid if you are unsure.

Can I still eat snacks?

You should avoid salty snacks, such as potato chips and salted nuts, because they retain water which eventually flows through to the bladder.Some suggested snacks could include trail mix (unsalted nuts and dried fruit) or popcorn.

Can I still drink coffee?

Coffee containscaffeine, which is a diuretic.You can significantly improve incontinence by cutting down and eventually eliminating coffee consumption.Speak to your healthcare advisor if you have any concerns.

What about tea?

Tea also contains caffeine, although brewed tea has significantly less caffeine than coffee. Check with your doctor to see what amounts of tea – if any – are safe for you and the type of incontinence you have.

Can I still eat chocolate?

Milk chocolate contains around 20mg of caffeine per 100g[1]. Dark chocolate contains even more, while some chocolate bars have much less. To continue enjoying this sweet, you’ll need to carefully inspect the packaging for caffeine, but you might want to err on the side of caution.

Can I still have fizzy drinks?

Carbonated beveragescan aggravate sensitive bladders, making them troublesome if they contain caffeine as well. They can still be enjoyed sparingly, but you’ll need to work out your limit or whether your bladder can tolerate them at all.

What about honey and sugar?

Some urologists and continence organisations recommendavoiding sugar, artificial sweeteners, and honey[2]among other things. It’s also best to check with a medical professional about what substitutes can be used – if you want to retain that sweetness in your life.

How much water should I drink?

Staying hydrated is extremely important to your health.

It is recommended for adults over 35 years of age to consume 30ml of water per kg body weight in fluids and food, preferably with still and little carbonated water, fruit, and herbal teas.[3]

Living with incontinence might mean cutting back or giving up some food and drinks you usually enjoy, but it can ultimately improve your quality of life. Keep track of what is exacerbating your symptoms with a bladder diary and then modify your diet and lifestyle accordingly.