By Stephen T. Sinatra, M.D., F.A.C.C., F.A.C.N., C.N.S., C.B.T.
Overactive bladder (OAB) isn’t a disease, but rather a kind of common urinary incontinence that causes both men and women to have very strong “gotta go” urges to urinate, particularly over the age of 40. In 2014, researchers at King’s College Hospital in London analyzed medical data on some seven thousand women, part of a large British medical database on urinary incontinence. They found significant evidence of onset and severity of symptoms with obesity, smoking, and the consumption of carbonated drinks.
The British researchers said that carbonated drinks containing artificial sweeteners were clearly associated with an increase in frequency, urgency severity, and urgency episodes. Previous laboratory investigations have shown that low concentrations of these substances stimulate contraction of the bladder muscle and urgency.
They also pointed to these potential contributing factors:
• Poor lifestyle habits, particularly little physical activity.
• A deficiency of vitamin D.
They also noted that higher consumption of vegetables, chicken, and bread was associated with a reduced risk of OAB.
My Viewpoint: Overactive bladder can be embarrassing and disturb work, relationships, and sleep for a lot of people. At least 30 percent of men and 40 percent of women in the U.S. live with symptoms. Men with prostate problems, post-menopausal women, and individuals with a history of stroke and multiple sclerosis, have a greater risk. Considerable evidence points to dietary factors as OAB instigators. You need to look at diet whenever you have bladder symptoms.
What This Means to You: According to the American Urological Association, so-called “bladder irritating” foods and drinks, such as caffeine, alcohol, and highly spiced foods, may stoke and increase symptoms. Now, British researchers have found that carbonated drinks can bother your bladder as well, and that vitamin D deficiency could be a factor. The new research provides additional clarity on what may be causing or exacerbating the problem.
My Recommendation: Don’t be embarrassed to speak to your doctor about OAB. If your doctor can’t help, see a naturopath who may have an effective natural treatment. Meanwhile, eliminate carbonated drinks and cut down on added sugars and sweeteners in your food. They are damaging and provide no nutritional benefit. Reduce alcohol and spicy foods. Try drinking unsweetened cranberry juice daily, found to lower the risk of urinary tract infections. Add 2,000 IUs of vitamin D as part of your daily supplement program. And if you have a sedentary lifestyle, get off your duff, and get moving. I can’t emphasize that enough.