Food & Drinks to Avoid When Suffering Incontinence

Food & Drinks to Avoid When Suffering Incontinence
15 July 2020

Food & Drinks to Avoid When Suffering Incontinence

Small changes in our behaviour and lifestyle can be beneficial strategies in improving incontinence symptoms.

Since incontinence is not a health problem in and of itself and is instead caused by numerous health conditions, it’s hard to believe that symptoms could be managed through a change in diet and fluid intake. However, they can!

Below, we’ve compiled information regarding foods and drinks to avoid, and the impact which different types of substances have on different forms of incontinence. 

Managing fluid levels

Regardless of which type of incontinence you suffer from, it is vital to monitor fluid intake throughout the day and ensure you maintain fluid balance. 

Too much fluid can overwhelm your bladder and create a stronger sense of urgency to urinate.

On the other hand, too little fluid leads to dehydration, which ultimately irritates the bladder and can increase the urge to urinate or make it difficult to assess when you need to urinate.  

Water intake should be limited to 16 ounces (473 millilitres) at each meal and 8 ounces (237 millilitres) between meals. And if you are urinating regularly through the night, try to stick to a routine of drinking water in the mornings and afternoons, for less disturbed sleep.

It is also important to bear in mind that certain foods can contain a lot of water, so be wary of foods such as soups, fruits, and salad vegetables.

Urge Incontinence

Within foods and drinks, there are particular substances which can irritate the bladder and increase the urge to urinate.

For sufferers of urge incontinence, trialling the effects of different types of substances can be a useful exercise for negating those which cause irritation.

The below substances are useful to be aware due to their effects:

#1 - Caffeine

Caffeine is found in foods such as chocolate, and beverages such as tea, coffee, and soft drinks. It stimulates the bladder, and acts as a diuretic, meaning it makes you produce more urine.

Opt for alternatives such as herbal tea and decaffeinated coffee.

#2 - Alcohol

Alcohol causes dehydration by increasing the amount of urine the body produces and also interferes with the brain’s signals to the bladder, making it difficult to gauge when to urinate.

If you’d rather not completely cut out alcohol, you can at least opt for beverages which contain a reduced alcohol percentage.

#3 - Artificial sweeteners and preservatives 

Artificial substances such as aspartame and saccharin are known to cause bladder irritation. To avoid these, cook fresh, healthy meals and refrain from consuming convenience foods such as microwave meals, and soft drinks. 

#4 - Carbonated drinks 

Carbonated drinks can irritate particularly sensitive bladders, so it’s best to avoid them where possible.

#5 - Acidic foods and fruit juices 

Citrus, grapefruit, and tomato are reported by many incontinence sufferers to cause bladder irritation. You may find it useful to reduce these or cut them out entirely and see if this has a positive impact. 

#6 - Highly spiced foods 

These are also purported to irritate the bladder and increase the urge to urinate. So chillies and wasabi should probably be given a miss!

However, mild spices and herbs can still offer an excellent fragrance and taste to your meals. 

#7 - Salt

Consuming salt causes the body to retain water, which eventually goes to the bladder. It also makes you feel more thirsty, making fluid consumption all too easy to overdo.

Ensure you reduce your salt intake and opt for low-salt alternatives.

Stress Incontinence 

Over-eating can have a significant impact on stress incontinence, as being overweight can cause a greater strain on your bladder. This is a result of weight, and therefore additional stress, being placed on the pelvic floor muscles which surround the bladder and bowel. 

In fact, each 5-unit increase in BMI is associated with a 20% to 70% increase in the risk of adults developing daily incontinence symptoms. As a result, you should ensure you are avoiding foods which are likely to cause weight gain and monitor your calorie intake. 

Avoiding foods which are fatty or high in sugar is a good means of reducing the amount of fat your body stores. 

Over-flow incontinence

Over-flow can be seriously impacted by constipation, as pressure in the bowel leads to agitation of the pelvic floor, and thus irritation of the bladder.

Avoid foods which cause constipation such as:

  • Processed grains
  • Milk and dairy products
  • Red meat
  • Fried or fast foods

Ensure you eat foods containing fibre such as vegetables and whole grains.

Bowel incontinence 

Bowel incontinence is often the result of inflammatory diseases such as IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome). As such, it is a good idea to avoid foods that are known to inflame the bowel, including:

  • Dairy products, such as milk, cheese, and ice cream.
  • Fatty and greasy foods
  • Spicy foods
  • Drinks and foods containing fructose.
  • Any foodstuffs which contain a sweetener called sorbitol

Cutting down on high fibre foods may also be a reasonable approach, but it is essential to find the right balance – we would advise you to consult your doctor. 


We hope the above information has given you a good direction for removing possible bladder and bowel irritants.

To test which substances affect you, a good approach is to avoid these irritants for about a week to see if your symptoms improve. From there, you can gradually add one back in your diet every few days and note any changes in the urgency or frequency of your incontinence.

You may find that you do not have to eliminate your favourite foods and drinks entirely. Simply cutting down on the amount might help, too.