I see a lot of patients who suffer from frequency (needing to go to the toilet to have a wee more than 5-6 times a day), urgency (that overwhelming desire to go to the toilet which cannot be put off) and urge incontinence (where sometimes they don’t make it and leak some urine before they get to the toilet). Often they don’t know that their drinking habits may be making the problem worse.
Did you know that caffeine is a bladder irritant? So if you drink a lot of tea, coffee, cola or hot chocolate and suffer from any of the above symptoms, drinking caffeine might be making the problem worse. Also, it can make you sleep less deeply, so you’re more likely to wake up and need to go the toilet during the night.
(Fizzy drinks and alcohol can also irritate the bladder, but you are probably already aware of that.)
If you drink caffeinated tea or coffee, try drinking decaffeinated for a few days, and then drink a cup of the real thing. (If you drink a lot of tea or coffee, don’t cut it out all at once, but wean yourself off it gradually, replacing a few cups a day with decaffeinated or other drinks. Don’t cut down the amount you are drinking, as this makes your urine more concentrated, and this in turn can also irritate your bladder.)
If, after drinking a cup of caffeinated tea or coffee (having given up for a few days), you feel the need to go the toilet within 30 minutes (or less), it’s probably the caffeine irritating your bladder. Try it and see!
If you don’t believe me, I’m giving out FREE samples of de-caffeinated teabags at both of the clinics where I practice (see Contacts and Clinics for details). Feel free to pop by and pick up a box to give it a try. It could make all the difference to your bladder control.
Finally, for healthy drinking habits, everyone should ideally be drinking between 1.5 and 2 litres of fluid a day. That’s 6-8 large glasses daily (avoiding caffeine if you can). If you are drinking less than this, increase the amount you are drinking gradually.