Food And Drink To Avoid With Urinary Incontinence And How To Manage It

Urinary incontinence – or accidental leakage of urine – is not a pleasant condition. It can occur for a number of reasons, such as older age, pregnancy and childbirth, surgery, obesity, urinary tract infections, or a chronic cough.

When you have this problem, you might think that avoiding fluids will help. However, the opposite is more likely the case, in that dehydration can lead to irritation of the bladder. Drinking plenty of fluids can help to keep the bladder healthy, which may in turn help to reduce leakage. You can read more about urinary incontinence and how a healthy bladder works here.

In this article, we will go over:


What is Stress Urinary Incontinence?

Urinary incontinence may also occur as a result of stress urinary incontinence – a condition where small amounts of urine leak out when a person does certain activities such as laughing, playing sport, lifting an object or sneezing. Bladder weakness may also occur in men following surgery in the form of urinary incontinence post prostatectomy.


Continence Management

Let’s start with asking what is normal urine?

Healthy urine should be pale yellow. When it is darker in colour, it may indicate dehydration, although some vitamin pills can change the colour of otherwise healthy urine. It’s also considered normal to pass urine four to six times per day and once during the night, and to be able to urinate without strain and to empty the bladder completely.

The first step to continence management will be to do a continence assessment. This involves:

  • assessing your medical history
  • identifying how often you pass urine and the amount you pass
  • asking about your diet and fluid intake
  • identifying any medications you take
  • identifying any awareness and whether you can recognise the need to go to the toilet
  • tests including a urine test or an ultrasound of the bladder

Prevalence of Urinary Incontinence in Men and Women 

Urinary incontinence in women may be more common than it is in men. According to the Continence Foundation Australia

the condition may affect around 13% of men and 37% of women at some stage of their lives

Research shows that around 70% of people report not seeking treatment for urinary leakage, and that 50% of women aged 45-59 report having suffered some degree of incontinence.


Drinks That Can Make Incontinence Worse 

While fluids can help to prevent incontinence, there are some drinks that can worsen the problem by irritating the bladder, particularly those that are acidic in nature, like:

  • Caffeinated drinks such as coffee and some soft drinks
  • Alcoholic drinks such as wine, beer, cider, and spirits
  • Carbonated / fizzy soft drinks
  • Citrus juices

Studies show that water is the best thing to drink to maintain bladder health. Make sure to drink when thirsty in order to avoid dehydration. However, you may want to avoid drinking too close to bedtime if you often need to go to the toilet during the night.


Foods to Avoid in Incontinence

It’s important to consult with your doctor regarding your diet, and to get promptly treated for any urinary tract infections. A high fibre diet is crucial for continence health,ut there are some foods to avoid for incontinence:

  • Highly acidic foods such as tomatoes and citrus fruits.
  • Foods and dishes that are very spicy, such as hot curries or peppers, chilli and horseradish.
  • Chocolate, sugar, honey, and artificial sweeteners can also worsen incontinence.

Stress Incontinence Management

When someone suffers from stress incontinence management, it can impact on their quality of life. There are a range of non-surgical treatments and tips you can do for stress incontinence management.

As well as taking care regarding what you eat and drink there are other things you can do to help minimise the problem. These include:

  • Pelvic floor strengthening exercises – ask your doctor or physiotherapist about how to do these.
  • Lose weight if required – excess weight can increase the pressure on the pelvic floor.
  • Do regular exercise – which can strengthen muscles overall and help to maintain a healthy weight.
  • Maintain a healthy diet overall – do some research to find out what foods are good for urinary incontinence and you’ll find that including high fibre wholegrains, fruits, vegetables, and lean proteins into your diet may help.
  • Develop good toilet habits and bladder training – do not go to the toilet constantly in the normal course of events, but wait until your bladder feels full. This way you will be training your bladder to provide the signal to go only when full.
  • Quit smoking – smoking can lead to chronic cough which can weaken the pelvic floor.
  • Get prompt treatments where necessary – for example for coughs, excess sneezing, and urinary tract infections, as these things can exacerbate incontinence.

Treatments for Incontinence

It’s best you get in touch with your doctor if you are looking for solutions and treatments for incontinence. If your incontinence problem doesn’t go away with the above measures, you may have a weakness in the sphincter muscle which could require intervention. If so, there are a few options available – including an artificial silicon sphincter implant (for urinary incontinence in men) and sub-urethral slings for either gender. There are several types of sling available depending on your condition.

For an ongoing incontinence problem you should seek a urinary incontinence assessment by a qualified urologist.


  1. Lugo, T., Riggs, J., 2022, Stress Incontinence, StatPearls Publishing, Jun 2022 available from National Library of Medicine.
  1. Reddy P., 2015, The management of stress urinary incontinence: A case report, South African Journal of Physiotherapy, May 2015, 29;71(1):229.
  1. Robinson D, Hanna-Mitchell A, Rantell A, Thiagamoorthy G, Cardozo L., 2017, Are we justified in suggesting change to caffeine, alcohol, and carbonated drink intake in lower urinary tract disease? Report from the ICI-RS, Neurourology and Urodynamics Library, Apr 2017, 36(4):876-881.