It’s eating season, more commonly known as the holidays. If, like me, your plans include non-stop feasts punctuated by thoughtful gift-giving, I have a very practical present for you. New food + new drinks = exposure to many unknown (and unwelcome) bladder irritants. If you have overactive bladder syndrome or stress incontinence, it’s likely that holiday meals pose a bit of a challenge for your bladder.
To make your dining easy and a little less leaky, I put together a list of three *suggested* rules for navigating meals with bladder health (and mental ease) in mind. May your bladder be happy, your stomach full, and your underwear mostly dry.
Know the basic bladder irritants
The most obvious solution for avoiding leaks during the holidays is also the one that comes at the highest cost: Avoid known bladder irritants entirely at every meal. That’s much easier said than done, especially when you’re faced with a table full of home-cooked food, but it’s still good to familiarize yourself with known triggers. Some common irritants include:
- Spicy foods. This news is personally devastating for me, but remember that all rules should be applied in moderation.
- Acidic fruits, including oranges, grapefruits, lemons, limes, and fruit juices.
- Cranberries. *weeping*
- Processed foods.
- Artificial sweeteners.
- Alcohol, caffeine, and anything bubbly. Another knife to the chest, but the facts are the facts.
For me, avoiding spicy food and bubbly drinks is a deal breaker, so my advice (endorsed by our pelvic health expert, Lindsey) is to approach holiday meals with balance in mind. Bringing a bit of awareness to what’s on your plate can empower you to make good decisions for your bod, without removing all the fun from holiday feasts.
Learn your unique triggers
While some foods and drinks are considered universally irritating for leaky bods, Lindsey explains that every body is a little different, so every person’s triggers will be different, too. What a heavy dose of sriracha might do to one bladder is not necessarily what it would do to another. Similarly, while acidic foods are known bladder irritants, that doesn’t mean you’re guaranteed to leak if you douse your turkey in cranberry sauce this year.
To find out your unique triggers, try keeping a food and drink diary with notes about your symptoms (i.e. a sudden urge to pee, or an accidental leak after a sip of wine) in the days and weeks leading up to holiday events. When you tune into your bod, you’ll learn what’s working for you (and what isn’t), which makes it that much easier to make smart choices for yourself at the dinner table.
It seems counterintuitive, but drinking more can help you leak less. Lindsey says you should always make sure you’re hydrated before you even show up to a holiday party. When your bladder is satiated, it’s less likely to spasm and any irritants you consume are diluted, so their effects will be less intense. So, if you *accidentally* consume, say, several glasses of champagne, your bladder is less likely to rebel and expel if you have a glass of water between every refill.
No matter the season, Lindsey says it’s always a good time to make hydration a regular habit. The more water you drink before, during, and after any meal, the better off your bladder will be.
It's important to pay attention to your triggers and drink an extra glass of water whenever you get a chance but, most importantly: whatever you do, whatever you eat, and wherever you leak, let yourself have some fun over the holidays.
What are your tricks for navigating holiday feasts? Share in the comments below!