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Overactive Bladder Diet Essentials: Tips and Strategies from The Bladder Dietitian™

Living with an overactive bladder (OAB) can really throw a wrench into your daily life, messing with everything from work to socializing. Trust me, I can relate—I’m an Interstitial Cystitis (IC) Warrior myself, dealing with a bladder condition that can be just as disruptive. But here's the thing: managing OAB isn't just about popping a pill. It's about taking a holistic approach, and your diet plays a huge role in how you feel. That's where I come in. As The Bladder Dietitian™, I'm here to give you the lowdown on what works when it comes to your OAB diet. My goal? To help you kick those pesky OAB symptoms to the curb so you can get back to living your life to the fullest.


Understanding Overactive Bladder


When it comes to diagnosing overactive bladder, there are three main types: stress, urgency, and overflow. Sometimes you might even have a mix of these, which is called mixed OAB. It's a pretty common condition, affecting millions of people worldwide, with women being more likely to deal with it.


Many underlying factors can cause OAB, but let’s focus on the major risk factors:

  • Age

  • Obesity

  • Pregnancy (& mode of birth)

  • Family history

  • Certain medical conditions, like diabetes

  • High impact exercise

  • Diet

  • Smoking

  • Ethnicity

  • Microbiome of the urinary tract


While we can't control some of these risk factors, I can tell you that tweaking your diet is a proven overactive bladder therapy that you can put into action right away. Let's dig into the research and see what dietary changes can help with overactive bladder treatment.


The Role of Diet For Overactive Bladder


Research shows that giving the Mediterranean diet a go can really help with managing OAB symptoms. Unlike the typical Western diet, the Mediterranean diet focuses on whole foods like fruits, veggies, whole grains, nuts, and healthy fats, while cutting back on red meat and processed foods.


The Mediterranean diet has also been linked to lowering the risk of various diseases and obesity. This is important because being overweight, especially carrying extra belly fat, can worsen OAB in women


Various foods on the Mediterranean diet

Loading up on certain nutrients can help stave off OAB. Vitamin D, protein, and potassium, in particular, have been shown to do wonders in preventing and easing OAB symptoms.


When it comes to foods that trigger OAB, there’s been some conflicting research about caffeine and alcohol. Right now there isn’t a set consensus on the recommended intake of either (including or avoiding) when it comes to overactive bladder. 


We do know, though, that artificial sweeteners can have a negative impact on OAB.


There was a recent research study done that investigated if drinking more artificially sweetened beverages is associated with OAB symptoms.

 

They found that women who drank one or more servings of “diet” drinks per day had a 10% higher chance of reporting OAB symptoms compared to those who drank less than one serving per week.


Another study found that cutting back on daily salt intake can help improve symptoms in people with overactive bladder, especially if they were consuming too much salt to begin with.


Considering all this information, you might be wondering, how do I combine all of this information and follow the best diet for OAB? 


Let’s dive into my recommendations for the best overactive bladder diet—a natural approach to ease your symptoms that can complement other treatments.


Key Dietary Strategies for Overactive Bladder


The best diet for OAB is the Mediterranean and is the first-line diet recommended to treat this condition. 


To get started with the Mediterranean diet and make sure you're getting all the right nutrients for treating the symptoms of an OAB, here's the best approach:

  • Increase Vitamin D intake: Include foods rich in vitamin D such as fatty fish, fortified dairy products, and eggs.

  • Get adequate protein: Incorporate lean sources of protein such as chicken, turkey, fish, beans, and lentils into your meals.

  • Add more B Vitamins: Include sources of B6 and niacin, such as chickpeas, fish, poultry, potatoes, bananas, brown rice, and peanuts.

  • Include potassium: Consume potassium-rich foods like bananas, oranges, spinach, sweet potatoes, and avocados.

  • Reduce salt intake: Limit processed foods and opt for fresh, whole foods to lower your sodium intake. 

  • Use caution with caffeine & alcohol: If you consume either, pay attention to your OAB symptoms and adjust accordingly if you suspect a sensitivity to either one.

  • Remove artificial sweeteners: Skip “diet” drinks (which contain artificial sweeteners) and choose water or herbal teas for your beverage. Instead of using artificial sweeteners like Splenda or Equal, go for real sugar and make the following adjustments:

  • Reduce sugar in recipes, choose naturally lower-sugar foods, and adjust your serving size of sugar-containing foods if you’re carb counting.

  • Test tomatoes & spicy foods: Although current research findings aren't strong for these, some published articles mention tomatoes and spicy food as potential OAB irritants. Pay attention to your overactive bladder symptoms and limit (or omit) these foods if you suspect a sensitivity.


Now let’s implement the above recommended dietary strategies and see how to include these foods daily to help control overactive bladder symptoms.


3-day Menu for Managing Overactive Bladder Through Diet


Enjoy this sample menu, which includes major elements of the Mediterranean diet plus specific foods that should be part of the overactive bladder diet.


Day 1:

  • Breakfast: Greek yogurt with berries and almonds.

  • Lunch: Grilled chicken salad with baby spinach, corn, cucumbers, avocados, and olive oil dressing.

  • Dinner: Baked salmon with roasted root vegetables (carrots, sweet potatoes, and beets) and brown rice.

  • Snacks: Sliced apples with peanut butter.


Day 2:

  • Breakfast: Oatmeal topped with sliced banana and walnuts.

  • Lunch: Turkey and avocado wrap with whole-grain tortilla.

  • Dinner: Vegetable stir-fry with tofu and brown rice.

  • Snacks: Carrot sticks with hummus.


Day 3:

  • Breakfast: Spinach and feta omelet with whole-grain toast.

  • Lunch: Quinoa salad with chickpeas, carrots, cucumbers, and lemon-tahini dressing.

  • Dinner: Grilled shrimp skewers with grilled vegetables and couscous.

  • Snacks: Greek yogurt with honey and sliced peaches.

An additional pro tip includes using fresh herbs and salt-free seasoning to flavor your food and recipes.


Looking for some more inspiration? Check out these bladder-friendly recipes that can be included in the overactive bladder diet:


Taking Steps Toward Better Bladder Health


Dealing with OAB means tackling it from different angles, and your diet is a big part of that. By trying out a bladder-friendly diet, like the overactive bladder diet discussed in this article, you can take the first steps toward improving your bladder health. 


Remember, even small changes in what you eat can make a big difference in your symptoms and therefore, quality of life. If you're struggling with OAB, it might be worth talking to a specialist (like me, The Bladder Dietitian™) and checking out treatments that fit your unique needs.


And if you’re dealing with both overactive bladder and interstitial cystitis, you can get relief right here at Callie K Nutrition. I’m an IC Warrior too and now that I’m 95% pain-free, I’m on a mission to help others do the same.


Looking for more support? Join my OAB Nutrition Support group on Facebook!


About the Author

A headshot of a blonde white woman

Callie Krajcir, MS, RD, the Bladder Dietitian™, is a Registered Dietitian and is one of the only RDs in the world specializing in bladder health, with a specific focus on interstitial cystitis (IC). She is also an interstitial cystitis (IC) Warrior and knows first-hand how it feels to struggle day in and day out with excruciating pain caused by bladder issues. Callie is the founder of Road To Remission, a transformational, holistic program based on science and customized to your unique needs. She has helped over 150 women minimize their bladder symptoms and get their lives back in just 3 - 6 months. 


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