Healthy Drinks

‘I’m a Urologist, and Seltzer Isn’t Doing Your Bladder Any Favors’

Photo: Stocksy/Studio Firma
Some things I just don't want to know—like the fact that my favorite seltzer might not be the best option because it can irritate my bladder.

Alicia Jeffrey-Thomas, DPT, CLT, a pelvic floor physical therapist in Boston, posted a video on TikTok about sparkling water being a bladder irritant—one she says could be "contributing to your bladder urgency/frequency." Not surprisingly, the majority of the video's 350,000 viewers weren't too thrilled that she recommended keeping the consumption of sparkling water (and other non-water beverages) to just 25 percent of your daily fluid intake fo bladder health. But urologists have to agree with her. Sipping seltzer like water all day, every day is definitely not a great idea.

It might not be too surprising that coffee and alcohol made the bladder irritant list. "Caffeine is probably the most common and worst offender. It’s a diuretic, so you make more urine, as well as a bladder stimulant, so it makes the bladder squeeze more strongly and at smaller volumes," says Lamia Gabal, MD, a urologist in Santa Ana, California. And according to Austin DeRosa, MD, a urologist and urologic oncologist with UCHealth Cancer Center-Highlands Ranch in Colorado, the same goes for alcohol, spicy and/or acidic foods, and even chocolate. But what's wrong with a little bubbly water?

Dr. DeRosa says the problem is the carbon dioxide. "The carbon dioxide in sparkling water tends to irritate the lining of the bladder," he says. "Carbonated beverages don't cause damage to your bladder per se, but they can cause an exacerbation of underlying bladder symptoms." It could result in bladder pain and urgency and frequency of urination—especially for anyone who already has a sensitive, irritative bladder or urgency symptoms.

If you think your love of seltzer could be impacting your bladder health, Dr. Gabal says to remove it—and the other common bladder irritants—from your diet. "Then add things back slowly, one at a time, to determine if your bladder is sensitive to these things," she says. But if you can't go a day without it, just make sure you're not drinking it all day long. Dr. DeRosa says if you're getting two to three liters of fluid—preferably water—per day, having a little seltzer should be no big deal.

Here's what a registered dietitian wants you to know about spiked seltzer:

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