Incontinence, diet and hydration - getting the facts right

Image - Incontinence, diet and hydration - getting the facts right

For thousands of Singaporeans affected by incontinence, navigating diet and hydration can be extremely confusing. Although Dr Google may be a tempting source of information, it is no replacement for the qualified advice from health professionals such as a GP, Urologist or Nephrologist. We speak to Accredited Practicing Dietitian and Nutritionist, Emma Williams, for her advice on the importance of diet and hydration for incontinence sufferers. 

On this occasion, a cup of tea may not be the answer

Believe it or not, there are particular drinks that actually help incontinence sufferers manage their condition. First and foremost, water…yes…water.  Overall, it is recommended you drink about 2L of fluid every day. If you drink less, your urine might become concentrated and irritate your bladder. If you drink more, you might overtax your bladder and make matters worse. 

Planning ahead can help too. To further ease your overactive bladder, avoid drinking a lot of fluid at one time. Sip a glass of water every 20 to 30 minutes between meals. Cutting off fluid intake a few hours prior to bedtime will also help.

My guidance for those experiencing bladder weakness includes:

  • Cut down on or eliminate alcohol as it causes dehydration by increasing the amount of urine.  It also interferes with brain’s signals to the bladder about when to release urine.
  • Reduce or eliminate caffeine (coffee, tea, energy drinks, soft drinks, chocolate) from your diet as it stimulates the bladder, acting as a diuretic by producing more urine.
  • Cut down or avoid acidic foods (citrus fruits, tomatoes) as they irritate the bladder.
  • Limit or avoid carbonated drinks as it can aggravate sensitive bladders.
  • Avoid spicy foods as they cause bladder irritation.
  • Limit sugar, honey, and artificial sweeteners, as they too can irritate the bladder.
  • Quit smoking.  Not only can smoking increase the risk of bladder cancer over the long term, but cigarette smoke and nicotine also act as immediate bladder irritants.  In addition, the chronic cough associated with smoking can also lead to accidental leakage.

Getting adequate exercise and eating a moderate diet full of fresh fruits and vegetables can help reduce incontinence. Weight reduction is also found to be an effective treatment for overweight and obese individuals with urinary incontinence. Weight loss of 5% to 10% has an efficacy similar to that of other nonsurgical treatments and should be considered a first line therapy for incontinence.

There’s not any magical food that can help prevent or treat urinary incontinence but everything that you do to maintain normal health is also important for bladder health. Dietitians can work with clients to pinpoint trigger foods or help create a healthier lifestyle for patients.

To seek more information and advice about how to manage your bladder weakness, visit  or contact The Society for Continence Singapore Helpline free call on 6513 7313.

About Emma

Emma is an Accredited Practicing Dietitian and Nutritionist who has had experience in both private and public practice as well as in food services.