When eating (and drinking) with bladder health in mind, urologist James Kelley, DO, says it's helpful to know what causes bladder irritation in the first place. "Bladder irritation can have a range of symptoms—including urinary pain or burning to experiencing pain in the entire pelvis area—and can stem from many different reasons, including urinary tract infections to more serious health issues, like bladder cancer," he says. This is why it's always a good idea to schedule an appointment with a doctor, who can help you get to the bottom of what's causing your urinary pain or irritation.
Especially if bladder irritation is something you experience on a regular basis, it can be helpful to know what foods and drinks can help support overall bladder health. That's where this dietary advice from Dr. Kelley can come in handy. But before we get into the good stuff, he says it's helpful to know what foods and drinks could potentially be working against you. "Caffeine, alcohol, acidic foods, and spicy foods are notorious for being irritating to the bladder," he says. So if you're crafting your meals with bladder health in mind, that's something to be mindful of. What should you fill up with instead? Here, Dr. Kelley, along with other urologists, share the best drinks and foods that calm the bladder.
What to look for in bladder-friendly foods and drinks
Foods that promote bladder health tend to have a high water content, be more alkaline than acidic, and are high in antioxidants to lower inflammation in the body—fruits and vegetables are a great example.
The best foods and drinks for bladder health, according to urologists
Curious what other foods and drinks are good for your bladder? Ahead, we reveal individual food groups, as well as full bladder-friendly meals recommended by urologists.
Best bladder-friendly foods
Fruits and vegetables with a high water content: Just like water is great for urinary health, Dr. Kelley says foods with a high water content are too. "Any way people can get extra water in their body is usually helpful," he says. Fruits and vegetables tend to be the type of foods highest in water. But Dr. Kelley does have one caveat to this rec: "Fruits that are acidic can actually irritate the bladder, so it's best to choose fruits and vegetables with a high water content that aren't acidic," he says. Some examples of this include coconut, watermelon, cantaloupe, papaya, peaches, broccoli, cauliflower, kale, and collard greens.
Fiber-rich foods: What's good for your gut is also good for your bladder. That means high-fiber foods, like whole grains, potatoes, and legumes all come into play here. Remember how Dr. Kelley said you don't want bacteria hanging out? The reason why fibrous foods are helpful is that, like water, they keep the digestive tract moving.
Best bladder-friendly drinks
Water: You knew this one was coming right? Nothing can replace good old H20. "If you experience bladder irritation on a regular basis, it's especially important to make sure you're drinking water throughout the day," Dr. Kelley says.
He explains that water makes you pee (okay duh), which flushes bacteria out of the urinary tract. When bacteria hang out in the urinary tract too long, that's what can cause infections. That's why it's important it's consistently flushed out—literally. A good water goal to aim for is 11.5 cups a day. Don't like the taste of plain water? Add some fruit or herbs.
Cranberry juice (and whole cranberries): "Historically, [doctors] thought that cranberry juice being good for urinary health was an old wive's tale, but scientific research has actually shown the connection to be strong," Dr. Kelley says. Whether it's consuming cranberries as a fruit, juice, or a supplement, he says it can absolutely support urinary health. Cranberries contain an antioxidant called proanthocyanidins (or PACs for short), which reduces the ability of bacteria to stick to the wall of the urinary tract. Just don't pick a cranberry juice loaded with sugar or it is actually more harmful to the body than it is beneficial.
Best bladder-friendly meals
Urologists breakfasts are nutrient-dense: Think eggs with whole grain toast, fresh fruit smoothies, Greek yogurt, and smoked salmon with sliced avocado and cucumber.
“I love bananas, which are high in magnesium and potassium to allow for normal bowel function,” says says Mehran Movassaghi, MD, urologist and director of Men’s Health at Providence Saint John’s Health Center and Assistant Professor of Urology at Saint John’s Cancer Institute. “I also eat nuts, berries, and eggs daily—and I always have berries fresh without any added sugar." He recommends eating them plain or tossing them in with unsweetened yogurt that contains bladder-friendly probiotics, like Greek yogurt or skyr.
Eggs served on whole grain toast with mashed avocado or as an omelet or frittata over a bed of greens and roasted potatoes are also great for your bladder. Dr. Movassaghi also spreads nut butter on whole grain toast with sliced bananas and chia seeds, or blends up banana with berries, greens, and creamy avocado for a portable breakfast to sip on the go.
S. Adam Ramin, MD, urologist and medical director of Urology Cancer Specialists in Los Angeles likes to eat salads with protein that include a range of fruits and veggies for antioxidant benefits. “My top choices for sources of protein are grilled or baked hormone-free chicken, oven-baked salmon, or seared Ahi tuna,” says Dr. Ramin. These are healthier than proteins with higher levels of saturated fat, like red meat or fried chicken. "I recommend eating red meat in moderation to avoid increasing your risk of heart disease and high cholesterol," he adds.
As for toppers, go for a variety of veggies: red, yellow, green, orange, and white fruits and veggies all have a place on the plate. “Leafy greens, bell peppers, cauliflower, cabbage, and berries have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties,” Dr. Ramin says. He also recommends including avocados and olive oil for healthy fats. "I love a base of greens—lettuce, spinach, kale, or arugula—and mixing in a serving of grains for texture and nutrients," Dr. Ramin says, saying that couscous and quinoa are two favorites.
You can also use nuts, seeds, and berries as salad ingredients, all of which offer bladder-supporting properties, especially cranberries. Almonds, pistachios, pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, and cashews are all good sources of unsaturated fats and/or omega-3 fatty acids.
For dinner, Dr. Ramin and Dr. Movassaghi love eating chicken breast, tofu, and fish, along with a whole grain and veggie side (or two) for added protein and fiber, which may come from starch and lots of veggies. Salads, grain bowls, and tacos are all delicious examples. They recommend pairing tofu with a side of sauteed greens and garlic, which is a natural antibiotic and good for the bladder. (And feel free to swap out tofu for turkey breast, chicken, salmon, ahi tuna, halibut, or beans instead.
A baked sweet potato is one of Dr. Movassaghi's favorite sides—it’s a vehicle for protein, fiber, and potassium for electrolyte benefits, making it a good suggestion for a bladder-friendly dinner, especially after exercise. Try stuffing it with veggies, cheese, and legumes.
Keep these simple and nutritious. “I love to have unsalted almonds and hard boiled eggs,” says Dr. Movassaghi, as they’re high in protein, fiber, and healthy fats. “Keeping the fat content low minimizes both bowel and bladder irritation,” he says. Other ideas include egg cups packed with veggies and cheese, avocado or hummus on toast, homemade trail mix, or kale chips with nutritional yeast and garlic powder.
Foods to avoid if you're concerned about bladder health
“In general, acidic foods, caffeinated beverages, and alcohol tend to cause bladder irritation," says Dr. Movassaghi. "This may include urgency, urinary frequency, and a feeling of incomplete bladder emptying." A few more foods that Dr. Ramin says often cause urinary irritation are coffee, black tea, spicy foods, fried foods, and processed foods, especially those that contain a high amount of sugar, salt, and/or preservatives. For example, packaged pastries or frozen meals that contain saturated fat can cause inflammation.
It bears repeating that if you're experiencing any bladder pain or irritation, no food or drink can replace a doctor's visit—that's crucial. But this list of foods and drinks can support overall urinary health, and Dr. Kelley points out that they'll benefit the body in other ways too. If something is beneficial, it will benefit the body as a whole, not just one way. Even more reason to make sure you're getting your fill of everything on this list.
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