Bladder Irritation

By June 1, 2024Health Tips

Over the course of my career in medicine, I have seen many patients with symptoms of bladder irritation. They are usually convinced that they have a urinary tract or bladder infection. But there are several other things that can cause symptoms of bladder irritation besides infection. In fact, about half the time I see patients with symptoms of bladder irritation, the urine culture does not show evidence of a bacterial infection. Today, we will start a discussion of the potential causes of bladder irritation.

First let’s talk about the bladder.
A bladder is a balloon-like organ that serves as a holding place for air or fluid. Today we are talking about the urinary bladder, but you also have a gall bladder tucked up against your liver, which holds bile that is released to aid in digestion.
Bladder IrritationThe urinary bladder collects urine until you need to empty it by urinating. The bladder has kind of a dirty job. Urine contains all the liquid waste that is filtered from your food by the kidneys. Traces of everything you eat, and drink end up in the urine, which is then stored in your bladder until it becomes full.
What are the symptoms of bladder irritation?
  • Frequency – urinating more often than usual, often with very little urine coming out.
  • Urgency – a sudden strong urge to pee.
  • Pain when urinating – usually a burning sensation where urine is released.
  • Incontinence – unintentional leakage of urine.
  • Pain in the lower abdomen or pelvis.
What causes bladder irritation?
  • Certain foods and drinks.
  • Urinary tract infection (UTI)
  • Interstitial cystitis – We will talk more about this next week.
  • Some gynecologic infections
  • Very rarely, new bladder irritation can be a sign of a tumor in your bladder or urethra.
What foods or drinks cause bladder irritation?
There are several things that have the potential to cause bladder irritation. They may not cause symptoms for everyone. Most people notice symptoms with some things on the list and not others. Some people notice symptoms only with high intake of something from the list, while others have symptoms with only a small amount. Everyone is different.
Here is the list of foods and drinks that can cause bladder irritation, with the most common triggers being the top 6 on the list:
  • Tomatoes, including tomato-based sauces and tomato juice
  • Citrus fruits and juices (lemon, orange, grapefruit, etc.)
  • Caffeinated beverages, such as coffee or tea
  • Carbonated beverages, especially sodas
  • Alcoholic beverages – including beer, wine, and spirits
  • Artificial sweeteners – which are found in diet sodas and most “reduced sugar” items such as candies, baked goods, chewing gum, breakfast cereal, etc.
  • Chocolate
  • Pineapple and pineapple juice
  • Cranberries and cranberry juice
  • Vinegar
  • Spicy foods
  • Apples and apple juice
  • Cantaloupe
  • Strawberries
  • Dairy products
  • Grapes and grape juice
  • Sugar
How can you determine if you are sensitive to any of these foods or drinks, and which ones might be the triggers?
If you experience frequent symptoms of bladder irritation, this list is a good place to start looking for your triggers. Keep in mind that this list is extremely individualized. Some people may have irritation from all these things, but most people will be sensitive to only a few.
Identifying what triggers symptoms for you as an individual is a process of elimination.
I recommend using a food diary to help figure it out. Here’s how to do that:
  • Write down everything you eat and drink for a week or two, including the time. I like to print out 2 weeks of an Outlook calendar from the week view to write on.
  • At the same time, keep a record of any bladder symptoms that you have.
  • Then look for any correlations, such as bladder symptoms that started a few hours after drinking a diet soda.
  • If you do see a correlation, remove that item from your diet.
  • If you see several things that might correlate, eliminate them all for two weeks, then add one thing back every few days until you find the culprits.
  • Remember that you may have several triggers.
Eliminating potential triggers from your diet as much as possible may be all it takes to get rid of your bladder symptoms.
If you have any questions about bladder irritation, please log into your account and send us your question. We are here to help.

Dr. Anita Bennett MD – Health Tip Content Editor

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