Healthy Drinks

‘I’m a Urologist, and That Sparkling Water Isn’t Doing Your Bladder Any Favors’

Photo: Stocksy/Treasures & Travels
There are some things that 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, says sparkling water is a bladder irritant that could be "contributing to your bladder urgency and frequency." She recommends keeping the consumption of sparkling water (and other non-water beverages) to just 25 percent of your daily fluid intake for optimal 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," says Lamia Gabal, MD, a urologist in Santa Ana, California. "It’s a diuretic, so it causes your body to make more urine. Caffeine is also a bladder stimulant, so it makes your bladder squeeze more strongly and at smaller volumes." 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—even chocolate.

...But what's wrong with a little bubbly water?

Why does seltzer irritate the bladder, according to a urologist

The problem, according to Dr. DeRosa, is seltzer's carbon dioxide content. "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." So chugging sparkling water in place of regular water 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.

It's also worth underscoring that if you do deal with bladder irritation on a regular basis, the fact that foods and drinks can work for or against urinary health should be welcome news; it gives you some element of control. But both urologists affirm that it's always a good idea to troubleshoot with a urologist or primary care doctor. It's literally their job to make sure people live bladder irritation-free lives. And they can help you do so in a way where you're still able to enjoy all your favorite foods and drinks, too.

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

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