Caffeine and bladder irritation
Many of us regularly consume it, but do you know what caffeine actually is? Caffeine is a natural stimulant, frequently found in tea, coffee and cacao plants. It keeps you feeling alert by stimulating your sympathetic nervous system (the part of your fight or flight response which prepares you to take action). You may be familiar with the symptoms, particularly after consuming lots of caffeine. This includes feeling extra alert or on edge, a racing heartbeat, sweaty palms or feeling shaky. Caffeine acts as a stimulant on the bladder and can exacerbate symptoms of an overactive bladder. This irritation of the bladder can also be problematic for individuals living with urinary incontinence. If you feel caffeine may be making your symptoms worse, there are many decaffeinated varieties of your favourite drinks available, and importantly, they still taste great! Bear in mind that if you significantly reduce your caffeine intake, you may experience some unpleasant withdrawal symptoms. However, these are only temporary and your body will quickly adjust!
Alcohol and your bladder
Similar to caffeine, alcohol is also a bladder stimulant. Consumption of alcohol increases the acidity of your urine and this change in pH can cause irritation. It’s also a diuretic. This means alcohol can cause your body to produce extra urine. Ever been on an evening out and felt like you’re constantly needing to pop to the bathroom? This could be why! These extra toilet trips can make you feel dehydrated, contributing to the nasty hangover symptoms of a sore head and feeling extra thirsty the following day. If you’re going out again and feel partial to a beer, why not consider one of the many non-alcoholic or low-alcohol alternatives? Or if you prefer to drink alcohol, why not try pacing yourself by alternating alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks throughout your evening? Your bladder will thank you (as will the rest of your body the following morning).
If you’re not drinking enough fluid, your urine will become more concentrated. You can tell when this is happening as the colour will become darker. Concentrated urine can irritate the bladder and can give you a feeling of urgency to empty your bladder. By consuming enough fluid and avoiding dehydration, you can flush any irritants out through your bladder. For a healthy adult, it’s recommended they aim to consume 1.5-2L of fluid each day. However, try to steer clear of caffeinated beverages. Try water (add fruit for extra flavour) or sugar-free drinks instead.
For further advice on how to maintain a healthy bladder, why not check out our 'Top tips for bladder health' infographic?