Drinking to keep your bladder healthy
Did you know that what you drink can have a huge impact on how often you need to go to the loo? In today’s busy world, most of us feel the need to reach for that third, fourth or even fifth coffee to get us through the morning, but what price is our bladder paying for that extra buzz?
Coffee, tea (including white and green tea), cola, energy drinks and chocolate all contain caffeine. It’s caffeine that gives us that extra spring in our step, makes us feel more alert and able to concentrate on the task in hand.
The problem is that caffeine also acts as a diuretic which means that it makes fluid pass into our bladder more quickly. It also irritates our bladder and makes it more sensitive. This means that we need to rush to the loo more often after we have drunk caffeine and, if our pelvic floor is weak or our bladder over sensitive, we might leak before we make it to the loo.
If you find that you go to the loo more than 7 times a day or only pass small amounts (your bladder should be able to hold a pint of urine most of the time) then cutting down on caffeine may make all the difference. Try substituting coffee or tea for decaffeinated versions or switch to herbal or a naturally caffeine free tea such as redbush (also known as rooibos). Water and weak squashes or diluted fruit juice are other alternatives. Fizzy drinks, citrus fruits and some herbal teas (elderflower, rose, wild blackberry and nettle) may also cause bladder irritation so try to avoid these. Alcohol can also make you need the loo more often so try to have one non-alcoholic drink after each alcoholic drink.
If you drink a lot of caffeine in a day then you might need to cut down gradually. Caffeine is an addictive drug and you can experience side effects such as headaches or tiredness if you stop all at once. Try drinking a little less each week. Most people find that once they have removed all caffeine from their diet they actually feel much more alert and better than before (even on a Monday morning!). Many converts to a caffeine free life report that they are sleeping much better too.
By Alison Bourne MA (Cantab) BSc MCSP ACPWH