By Dr. Aimee Bean, DPT, OCS
Nutrition can be an important component of bowel and bladder health. Some conditions that can be affected by diet include bladder pain syndrome/interstitial cystitis (BPS/IC), urinary urgency, constipation, and diarrhea.
The most important thing you can do to help keep your bladder and bowel healthy is drink enough water. 2,3 Dehydration can cause the urine to be too condensed, which irritates the bladder lining and causes bladder urgency and pain. Not enough water can also be a component in constipation.
Foods that cause your body to be more acidic can lead to bladder irritation contributing to BPS/IC and urgency. 1,2 Bladder irritants include coffee and alcohol, but also certain fruits like pineapple, citrus fruit, and tomatoes. Dairy, artificial sweeteners, and even some vitamins can also be irritating for the bladder.
Constipation can be improved with good fiber intake, which can be found in fruits such as pears, grapes, plums, and apples with the peel. 3 Vegetables, legumes, as well as rice, corn, and bread are a good source of fiber. The use of probiotics can be helpful in maintaining the good bacteria in the gut to help with healthy digestion. Milk products and bananas are common in most diets but are known to exacerbate constipation. It may be helpful to avoid these if this is a problem for you.
If diarrhea is your main complaint, there are many causes and you should discuss this with your doctor. Foods to avoid include alcohol, caffeine, dairy, fatty or greasy foods, artificial sweeteners, and spicy food.4 A common diet for new onset diarrhea includes the BRAT diet, which is bananas, rice, apple sauce, and toast. However, this is not always recommended, because it does not provide enough nutrition overall and is not intended on being a long-term diet option.5
If you are experiencing any of the above conditions speak to your doctor first. Pelvic physical therapy can be beneficial for all these conditions by improving muscle function and behavior modifications. We are here to help!
- Friedlander JI, Shorter B, Moldwin RM. Diet and its role in interstitial cystitis/bladder pain syndrome (IV/BPS) and comorbid conditions. BJU Int. 2012 Jun; 109(11): 1584-1591. https://bjui-journals.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/j.1464-410X.2011.10860.x
- Wyman JF, Burgio KL, Newman DK. Practical aspects of lifestyle modifications and behavioural interventions in the treatment of overactive bladder and urgency urinary incontinence. Int J Clin Pract. 2009 Aug; 63(8): 1177-1191. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2734927/
- Bae SH. Diets for Constipation. Pediatr Gastroenterol Hepatol Nutr. 2014 Dec; 17(4): 203-208. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4291444/
- Eating, Diet, & Nutrition for Diarrhea. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases website. Nov 2006. Accessed May 29, 2020. https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/digestive-diseases/diarrhea/eating-diet-nutrition
- Marcin A. BRAT Diet: What Is It and Does It Work? Healthline website. June 8, 2017. Accessed May 29, 2020. https://www.healthline.com/health/brat-diet#efficacy