Holiday Eating When You Have Overactive Bladder

From festive parties to family feasts, it’s the season for holiday eating. But when you have overactive bladder (OAB), it pays to think before you eat. Between the spicy appetizers, chocolate treats, and alcohol-spiked eggnog, you could end up spending your holidays in the bathroom. Plus, you could end up with unwanted pounds. And excess weight may just increase your OAB symptoms.

Fortunately, with a little planning, you can still eat, drink, and be merry this holiday season. You just need to keep OAB in mind when deciding what to indulge in—and what to skip. The guidelines below can help.

Watch Your Weight

During the holidays and all year long, smart food choices help keep your weight in check. The key is choosing foods that pack a lot of nutrition into a relatively small number of calories. Such foods include vegetables, fruits, whole grains, fish, lean meats and poultry, and fat-free or low-fat milk and dairy products.

If you’re overweight, losing weight may lessen your OAB symptoms. One recent study included 338 overweight women with bladder control problems, including OAB. The women were randomly assigned to either an intensive weight-loss program or a control group. After six months, those in the weight-loss group had lost an average of 8 percent of their body weight, compared to 2 percent for the control group. The weight-loss group also had a greater decrease in their frequency of urinary accidents.

Choose Your Foods

Certain foods and drinks have a more direct effect on OAB. Don’t let the wrong choices sabotage your holiday cheer.

First off, learn how to avoid problem foods and beverages that irritate the bladder, contributing to urine leaks. Sensitivity varies from person to person, but these are common culprits:

  • Alcoholic beverages

  • Carbonated beverages

  • Caffeine

  • Artificially sweetened drinks

  • Coffee (even decaf)

  • Tomatoes and tomato products

  • Citrus fruits and juices

  • Highly spiced foods

  • Corn syrup

  • Honey

  • Chocolate

Managing your fluid intake is key as well. On the one hand, drinking too much makes you urinate more often. On the other hand, drinking too little leads to very concentrated, dark yellow, strong-smelling urine. Such concentrated urine irritates the bladder, and it also promotes the growth of bacteria. Aim for a healthy balance—about six glasses a day, ideally spaced evenly throughout the day. Water is the ideal choice. For a festive drink that’s gentle on your bladder, try cranberry juice.

Plan Your Strategy

Keeping your diet on track at holiday parties and family gatherings is easier if you plan ahead. These strategies may help:

  • Don’t arrive hungry. Eat a healthy snack at home first so you aren’t as tempted to nosh on everything in sight.

  • Scope out the buffet. Before you pick up a plate, survey the offerings and decide which ones fit into your diet.

  • Bring a favorite dish. You’ll know there’s at least one food that you love—and that loves you back—on the table.

Medical Reviewer: Susan Shaw, MD
Medical Reviewer: Susan Shaw, MD Last Annual Review Date: 2010-10-27 Copyright: © 2000-2010 The StayWell Company, 780 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.

Reference: Overactive Bladder section on Better Medicine


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Which of the following is NOT a symptom of overactive bladder?