overactive bladder


A List of Common Foods to Avoid with OAB

Dealing with an overactive bladder can be tiring. Managing symptoms can also be frustrating and take a toll on those who are dealing with OAB. You may be tempted to avoid physical activity, social outings, and other everyday activities. 

While this condition is generally chronic and there is no “cure”, individuals can take care of their urinary system in several ways to alleviate symptoms. 

In this post, you will learn about OAB and what foods to avoid when you have overactive bladder. Take back control and feel confident that your condition won’t impact your daily life. 

Symptoms of OAB

The main signs of overactive bladder can vary person to person and overlap with other urological conditions. Below you’ll learn about the most common symptoms of OAB and why you should be avoiding certain foods with overactive bladder.

Sense of Urgency

The most common symptom of OAB is a sudden and uncontrollable need to urinate. This strong urge is typically accompanied by mild to moderate anxiety with not knowing if you will make it to a bathroom in time. People with this specific symptom can feel limited in their activities, as they always want to be near a restroom just in case.


Incontinence is the term for urinary leakage. There are five types of urinary incontinence, each with their own set of symptoms. 

  • The first is urge incontinence, defined by a sudden need to urinate. 
  • A second type, known as stress incontinence, happens more often in women when they sneeze, cough, laugh, or during a physical activity. 
  • Those who suffer from mixed incontinence are dealing with both urge and stress incontinence. They have urgency and some leakage happening when physically forced. 
  • Functional incontinence is urine leakage not associated with any health concerns occuring with the urinary system, and is instead usually caused by a physical or mental disability. 
  • Finally, a frequent and unsteady stream of urine is known as overflow incontinence


Another symptom of OAB is the need to wake up multiple times during the night to go to the restroom. Unfortunately, this symptom gets in the way of a good night’s sleep and results in a myriad of other health conditions, including female low sex drive

Causes of OAB

While there are many causes for OAB, the symptoms associated with OAB essentially occur when your brain tells you it is time to urinate before your bladder is full. The bladder wall is composed of muscle, and if this muscle responds to the signal from the brain by contracting too early then urinary incontinence may occur. Below are the common causes of overactive bladder.

Nerve damage

If you have recently experienced a trauma such as a brain or spinal cord injury, herniated disc, radiation, or you’ve recently had a stroke, been diagnosed with Parkinson’s, multiple sclerosis, or diabetes, you may have nerve damage causing your OAB. 

Weakened pelvic muscles 

Pregnancy and childbirth can stretch and weaken the muscles in your abdomen, causing your bladder to shift out of place. If you’ve recently given birth, this may be the cause of your OAB. Unfortunately, there’s no immediate treatment for this, but your body should eventually heal and return to its former condition.

Excess weight gain 

Gaining weight in the abdominal area can put extra pressure on the bladder and contribute to an overactive bladder. Losing even a few pounds can relieve some of the pressure on your bladder and alleviate the symptoms of OAB. 

New medication

Certain medicines, such as over-the-counter Excedrin, contain caffeine. As a diuretic, these medications can cause minor strain on the bladder. If you’ve recently started taking a new medication, check the label to ensure caffeine is not one of the ingredients. Contact your doctor if you have any questions, or would like to make any changes to your prescribed medications. 

Changes in diet 

Certain foods and drinks can be categorized as irritating to the bladder, especially spicy and acidic foods. Knowing which foods to avoid with overactive bladder — along with improving your diet for overall urological health — can help alleviate OAB symptoms. 

Foods to Avoid with OAB

Many byproducts of what you consume are directly secreted into the urinary tract. If your diet consists of foods or drinks that are known bladder irritants, your OAB symptoms may become worse. Take precaution and avoid these foods and beverages that may irritate the bladder.

1. Coffee and tea

The caffeine in coffee and tea beverages can increase bladder activity and exacerbate OAB symptoms. One might find themselves with a higher urgency to urinate, more frequent urge to urinate, and increased incontinence after a caffeinated beverage. This is because caffeine is a stimulant and diuretic, meaning the bladder becomes more active and more urine is produced.

Reducing (or eliminating) caffeine intake and switching to decaffeinated beverages can decrease symptoms.

2. Chocolate

Similar to coffee and tea, chocolate also contains some caffeine — about 1/4 of the amount in a cup of coffee. If chocolate is your favorite treat, try switching to white chocolate as it doesn’t have caffeine. Or try dark chocolate, which contains more cocoa and fewer sugars.

3. Alcohol

Alcoholic beverages are known to cause frequent bathroom breaks, but the science behind “why” isn’t well known. 

A common theory explains how alcohol stimulates your bladder, while also disrupting the signals to your brain that make you aware of bladder overflow and therefore making the bladder difficult to control. Alcohol is also dehydrating, which can irritate your bladder and exacerbate OAB, so it is best to stay away from this culprit.

4. Carbonated beverages

The fizz in carbonated beverages can potentially aggravate OAB symptoms. Beverages like soft drinks, soda water, and energy drinks should be consumed in low doses when experiencing OAB symptoms.

5. Citrus fruits

Acidic fruits, such as pineapples and oranges, are known irritants to the urinary system. You should still include fruit as part of your healthy diet, but consider less acidic varieties such as apples or bananas.

6. Cranberry juice

While cranberries are known to help prevent urinary tract infections, they actually have an opposite effect and are one of the top foods to avoid with OAB due to acidic pH levels.

7. Tomato products

Tomatoes are another acidic fruit that is common in most diets. The effect varies by individual, but if you’re vulnerable, try cutting out all tomato forms including sauces, paste, juice, spaghetti sauce, taco sauce, and salsa.

8. Spicy foods

Spicy foods inflame the lining of your bladder, triggering overactive bladder symptoms and thus making them harder to control.

9. Artificial sweeteners

Whether you choose Aspartame (NutraSweet or Equal), Sucralose (Splenda), Saccharin (Sweet ‘N Low), or Sucrose, the effects are the same. These artificial sweeteners can worsen inflammation within the urinary system.

10. Processed foods

Processed food contains a plethora of artificial ingredients, such as flavoring, preservatives, and artificial sweeteners. Because they are not natural foods, they can exacerbate incontinence. 

How to Improve Your Urology Health 

Paying attention to what foods to avoid with overactive bladder is just one component of taking care of your urinary health. Learn how to stay healthy with the urologist-approved tips and tricks in our Nutrition and Lifestyle Guide. This free guide will show you how you can be your healthiest self. Download your copy below!

Access The Guide

This content was originally published in 2016 and refreshed in 2020.