Your bladder is a balloon-like organ that’s tucked away behind your pelvic bone. It’s part of your urinary system, and it collects your urine until the time comes when you have to urinate (pee).
Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy
It’s a dirty job: Your pee contains the liquid waste that’s filtered from your food by your kidneys. So, traces of what you eat and drink end up in your urine.
If you’re sensitive to anything you eat or drink, your urine can irritate your bladder. And just like any other part of your body, when your bladder gets irritated, it can act up.
You might notice:
Most times, bladder irritation isn’t a medical emergency. But sometimes, bladder irritation can be caused by problems in your urinary tract. These include:
Remember, if you’re running a fever, have chills, have pain in your lower back or side, or if you see blood in your urine, it’s time to see a healthcare provider.
Your morning coffee, that after-work spritzer, even the tomato sauce on your pizza: All these foods — and many more — can irritate your bladder and trigger symptoms.
Some of these foods may be things you eat or drink often. Others may be ones you rarely touch.
Some foods may bother you when they’re raw, but not when they’re cooked.
And just in case you still aren’t entirely confused, there’s this: The triggers vary a lot from person to person. “What triggers my bladder symptoms may not trigger yours,” says dietitian Courtney Barth, RD, LD. As a result, “It can be a long process to figure out the cause of your particular situation.”
Still, some foods are more likely than others to be the culprits. Urologist Emily Slopnick, MD, tells her patients that the following items can often be the source of bladder irritation:
Barth agrees. “The list of triggers is extremely individualized,” she emphasizes. “But one of the most common triggers is acidic foods, like tomatoes or orange juice. Coffee is also a big one because of the caffeine. Some people even find that chocolate can be a trigger because it contains caffeine. For many people, artificial sweeteners are a problem. And alcohol, as well, can be a trigger.”
If you’re experiencing signs of bladder irritation, such as urinary frequency, urgency, leakage or pain, the food and drink categories above are a good place to start looking for your triggers.
Figuring out if a food irritates your bladder is a process of elimination. Again, it’s important to remember that not all people with bladder irritation are bothered by the same foods or drinks. But there are ways to figure out which foods or drinks may bother you.
A good place to start is with a food diary, Barth tells us. It can be your very best tool for keeping track of what you eat, what you drink and when you have symptoms of bladder irritation.
Here are some general guidelines for keeping a food diary:
But if you still can’t figure out your triggers, it may be time to talk with a healthcare provider. Lab tests won’t tell you which foods and drinks cause irritation. But a healthcare specialist who treats urinary system problems (urologist) can. They may review your food and symptom diary and help uncover correlations. Or your provider might examine your bladder to diagnose or rule out conditions, like IC, that could be contributing to your discomfort.
You can manage your bladder discomfort by avoiding the foods and drinks you’ve identified as irritants.
Here are some other steps that can help:
It all comes back to the basics, says Barth. “Aim for a variety of foods. Eat in moderation, drink an adequate amount of fluids and watch your intake of sugar, salt, alcohol and fats — especially saturated and trans fats, which can contribute to overall inflammation, including in the bladder.”
You can’t always avoid bladder irritation from what you eat and drink. But figuring out which foods and drinks cause your bladder discomfort can go a long way toward helping you feel better. By keeping a food diary and adopting a careful diet, you can find and avoid the foods that bother you.
We’ve already laid out some of the foods and drinks that can irritate your bladder. Now, you might like to consider some alternatives. Some people find they can eat and drink these foods without experiencing bladder irritation:
Most whole fruits, including:
Vegetables, beans and nuts:
Most whole grains, including:
Meats and proteins:
While it’s sometimes considered a cause of bladder irritation, yogurt is recommended by both Barth and Dr. Slopnick. “While yogurt is naturally acidic,” explains Barth, “the high level of probiotics (beneficial bacteria) that it contains actually benefit the urinary tract.”
“We recommend probiotics all the time, for bladder pain and to prevent urinary tract infections,” adds Dr. Slopnick. “And yogurt is a natural way to get them, rather than taking a pill or a supplement.”
But beware of sweetened yogurts, including the fruit-filled types, which can contain high levels of sugar. Also avoid those that contain artificial sweeteners, which are high on the list of potential bladder irritants. Plain, nonfat yogurt is the best. Both original and Greek-style are excellent sources of protein, calcium and probiotics and can contribute to a healthy diet — and a happy bladder.