A Urologist’s Top Nutrition Tips for Bladder Health
When it comes to eating right for your bladder, there are plenty of paths to choose – here is mine.
When considering a “healthy diet,” many people believe it’s good for your heart and waistline. Still, they aren’t necessarily cued into how high-quality nutrition or a lack thereof has a significant impact on your bladder, kidney, and overall urologic health. As someone who strives to live by the advice I give to my patients, I’ve dedicated this article to why a healthy diet matters in relation specifically to bladder and overall urologic health, as well as the foods I eat to achieve that goal.
When it comes to how diet impacts bladder health, a bit of an anatomy lesson is required. The inner lining of the bladder wall, known as the mucosa, is susceptible to certain chemicals. Chemicals that irritate the mucosa can lead to inflammation of the bladder, also known as cystitis. The resulting symptoms of inflammation or cystitis include urinary frequency and urgency, a burning sensation with urination, frequent nighttime urination, pelvic pain, and urinary incontinence. Chemical irritants arrive in the bladder as byproducts of certain foods. As the liver metabolizes these foods through the GI tract, those byproducts enter the bloodstream, are filtered through the kidney, and end up in urine.
In general, foods that lead to bladder mucosal irritation are alcohol, coffee, black tea, spicy foods, acidic fruits, foods with a high-fat content such as fried foods, and highly processed foods such as those found in boxes and cans. Furthermore, the chemicals found in cigarette smoke can also reach the bladder mucosal cells, causing genetic mutations and increasing the risk of or eventually leading to the development of bladder cancer.
Armed with the above information, I’m sure your next questions have to do with which foods, specifically, to either avoid or consume more of. Below is a list of what I eat and what I regularly recommend my patients eat:
Most Recommended Foods for Bladder Health
Fruits, Vegetables, Vitamins & Nutrients:
Red, yellow, and green bell peppers
Each of the above-listed foods is known to have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. These ingredients are best consumed raw with a dash of squeezed lemon + olive oil in salads with greens like lettuce or arugula. Simple salads with four or fewer ingredients, including avocados and olive oil, are great for preventing and reducing bladder inflammation.
Grilled or baked small chickens or hens, as they are hormone-free
Oven-prepared Salmon or seared Ahi tuna
Organic poultry cooked on a grill or baked in the oven.
I am a massive proponent of freshly prepared meals whenever possible and trying not to consume processed foods. So, of course, if we have a “best foods” list, it’s essential to include a list of those foods that should be avoided or consumed infrequently.
Least Recommended Foods for Bladder Health
Yogurt, milk, and cheeses
Processed foods (those found at a drive-thru, in a can, or from a box)
Coffee has chemical irritants that can cause bladder mucosa injury, so be sure to drink it only in moderation
In addition, complex carbohydrates found in bleached bread, pasta, and baked pastries can cause inflammation and irritate the bladder mucosa.
While what we eat significantly impacts our bladder and overall urologic health, our behaviors do too. Below is a list of the best and worst practices for bladder health:
Best Bladder Health Practices
Don’t hold urine too long. Once you have the urge to go, try to get to the bathroom within 1/2 hour.
Drink water regularly to keep the color of your urine light yellow to clear. The darker the urine color, the more dehydrated your body.
Perform Kegel exercises - Tighten the muscles around the urethra and hold for 5 seconds. Perform this exercise at least 20 times per day. Doing so will help with symptoms of overactive bladder or bladder irritation and help prevent incontinence in the future.
Worst Bladder Health Practices
Holding urine too long will damage the bladder muscle and mucosa, eventually leading to incontinence, infection, or poor bladder emptying.
Smoking, excess alcohol intake, and eating high salt concentrations can all cause bladder mucosal injury.
Avoid exposure to gasoline and benzene chemicals as they increase the risk of developing bladder cancer.
Eating right for your bladder health and engaging in the best bladder health practices might take some getting used to at first. But I can guarantee that the effort is worth it. The bonus here is that a stronger focus on healthy eating and living will have lasting benefits that extend far beyond your bladder and urologic health.
Ramin’s email answers from 1/6/22 Giddy interview.