OAB: How What You Drink Affects Your Bladder

August 09,2022 |
Older couple having coffee.

Millions of men and women are affected by one or more types of urinary conditions each year. While some issues are more severe than others, it’s important to remember you’re not alone. Unfortunately, conditions like overactive bladder (OAB) may lead to disruptions in your daily life, embarrassing situations, and a hesitancy to be away from home for too long. To help you manage your symptoms and live life on your terms, consider some of the ways that different drinks affect your bladder and OAB symptoms.


What is Overactive Bladder?

Overactive bladder (OAB) is a term that’s used to describe a range of urinary symptoms. Contrary to popular belief, OAB is not a disease in and of itself. It’s characterized by urinary incontinence along with the sudden and intense need to pass urine. OAB affects over 30 million men and women across the United States, but women tend to experience it more frequently than men. Some underlying conditions that may cause OAB include the following:

  • Urinary tract infections
  • Nerve damage
  • Neurological disorders
  • Neurogenic bladder
  • Infection
  • Hormonal changes
  • Diabetes
  • Bladder abnormalities
  • Bladder obstruction
  • Declining cognitive function
  • Medication use
  • Excess consumption of irritants
  • Smoking
  • Obesity
  • Difficulty walking
  • Incomplete bladder emptying
  • Weakened pelvic floor muscles


Symptoms can be unpredictable and range in severity, which can directly impact an individual’s quality of life. While the best way to alleviate any issues is to treat the underlying condition, there are plenty of other actions you can take to reduce symptoms in the process. A great way to promote bladder control is to focus on making lifestyle changes and reducing your consumption of irritants.


Drinks That Irritate Your Bladder

One of the best ways to manage OAB symptoms is to avoid beverages that irritate your bladder and trigger symptoms. You don’t need to completely eliminate these from your diet but reducing intake will help you keep your symptoms in control. Some of the most common drinks that irritate your bladder include the following.


Caffeine is a diuretic that can lead to a higher production of urine by the kidneys. This can make managing OAB more difficult, as you’re already trying to navigate confusing signals from the brain-bladder connection. Oftentimes, you may feel like you need to use the bathroom only to realize that your bladder is empty. This makes it difficult to differentiate when you actually need to go versus when you receive misleading signals. Caffeine can further agitate this process. While it’s important to stay hydrated and urinate as necessary, diuretics should be avoided to improve OAB symptom management. Caffeinated beverages are more than just coffee, so make sure you read the label on tea, soda, and various types of energy drinks before indulging.

Carbonated Drinks

There’s no clear indication why carbonated drinks irritate OAB, but research shows that they do. Drinks with high levels of carbonation have been shown to make it harder to control bladder spasms, increasing the risk of incontinence in individuals with OAB. Try to reduce your intake of carbonated drinks—including water—that are sugar-free or calorie-free. Since everyone is different, you may want to keep a food diary to better understand what is triggering your OAB. This will help you gain control over the situation and give you a better idea of what you can enjoy and what should be avoided when staying hydrated throughout the day.


While it’s okay to have an alcoholic beverage every now and then, you should be prepared for the irritation of OAB symptoms that will follow. Alcohol dehydrates your body while simultaneously increasing your urine output. This can lead to further bladder irritation and discomfort when trying to manage your OAB. Again, it’s not necessary to completely give up on happy hour but try to cut back as much as you can. A great way to do this is by only drinking an alcoholic beverage on special occasions. You may also notice that different types of alcohol affect your bladder more. Try to pay attention to signs or signals of OAB after each drink to provide you with a stronger understanding of how to indulge without succumbing to disruptive symptoms.  

Acidic Drinks

Acid has been known to irritate the bladder, which leads to further issues with OAB. Acidic drinks include anything that is heavily influenced by citrus, but also cranberry juice. While this may seem contradictory to all of the information saying that cranberry can help alleviate bladder infections, there’s not a lot of scientific backing to those claims. In reality, cranberry juice is acidic and irritates the lining of the bladder, which may increase your urge incontinence or frequency of urination. Other acidic drinks to consume in moderation include orange juice and anything that contains a high concentration of limes, lemons, grapefruits, pineapples, or tomatoes.

Sweetened Beverages

It seems that both artificial sweeteners and natural sweeteners may increase your prevalence of OAB symptoms. Try cutting out artificial sweeteners first and see how that affects your bladder. If you find relief from your symptoms, you can continue enjoying naturally sweetened beverages. However, if you’re still experiencing OAB symptoms after drinking these, cut them out to see if it makes a difference.


How to Alleviate OAB Symptoms

While you should greatly reduce consumption of drinks that can increase OAB symptoms, it doesn’t mean you have to completely eliminate them from your diet. Instead, aim to consume irritating drinks in moderation and live a well-rounded, healthy lifestyle.

Stick to Water

Staying hydrated is important for your health, but some people with OAB think that consuming fewer liquids can help mitigate symptoms. This is not the case. You shouldn’t purposefully dehydrate yourself, as doing so can actually worsen many of the symptoms associated with OAB. However, since what you drink has such an impact on overall bladder health, experts recommend sticking to water.

Drinking water regularly throughout the day will help you stay hydrated without exasperating your overactive bladder. This means you should be spreading out consumption evenly and slowing down your intake in the evening to avoid nocturia. Taking small sips of water regularly rather than gulping it down can help keep you hydrated without worsening symptoms. Keep an eye on the color of your urine to assess hydration levels. It should be a light yellow, translucent color. If you’re having trouble staying hydrated without worsening OAB symptoms, talk to your doctor for further recommendations.

Eat for Bladder Health

Beverages aren’t the only thing that can irritate your bladder. What you eat has a direct impact on your OAB symptoms. When you focus on the wrong foods, you may begin to notice a higher urge to urinate, increased frequency, bladder spasms, and more noticeable urinary incontinence. To help alleviate symptoms and optimize bladder health, try to adopt a diet that supports your condition rather than aggravating it. Some things to include in your meal plan include lean proteins, fiber rich foods, fruits, vegetables, nuts, and whole grains. You can also utilize an elimination diet to identify specific foods that cause irritation.

Train Your Bladder

Bladder training is another option to help alleviate OAB symptoms. This involves timing your trips to the bathroom to help your bladder muscles stretch and adjust to holding urine. Talk to your doctor for more information on how to begin bladder training and don’t overdo it at first. To increase the chances of success, you don’t want to spread the intervals out too far.

Perform Pelvic Floor Exercises

Pelvic floor exercises can help reduce the severity of your symptoms by increasing your control over the muscles associated with urination. While Kegels are some of the most common pelvic floor exercises, there are several movements you can incorporate into your routine to strengthen the pelvic floor. If you’re not sure whether you’re targeting the right muscles, work with a healthcare professional to undergo biofeedback physical therapy so you have a stronger understanding of which muscles are being activated.

Utilize Medications

Your doctor may also recommend a variety of medications to help with bladder control. Some of these include fesoterodine, tolterodine, oxybutynin, darifenacin, solifenacin, and more. These medications may cause further side effects, so don’t hesitate to reach out to your doctor if you feel like you’re struggling.

If you’re experiencing any symptoms of overactive bladder and are having difficulty controlling them, don’t hesitate to schedule an appointment with your urologist. Getting the proper diagnosis is essential to addressing any underlying causes. For more information on improving your urologic health, or for support of common urologic conditions like overactive bladder, contact Byram Healthcare today.

Byram Healthcare is a member of the National Association for Continence’s Trusted Partners Program, whose mission is to provide quality continence care through education, collaboration and advocacy. We continue to build partnerships in the clinical community to ensure we focus on what’s best for the patient.