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Holiday food and urinary health

holiday food

Holiday food can make urinary health less cheery

Many people enjoy the holidays by treating themselves to elaborate meals that include seasonal favorites. Unfortunately, many holiday food choices aren’t part of a regular diet. Rich, heavy foods, sugars and alcoholic beverages cause some to worry about gaining extra pounds during the holidays. However, few consider that holiday food choices can also impact their urological health. Food and beverages can play a key role in aggravating urological conditions such as overactive bladder, chronic pelvic pain, and kidney stones.

Overactive bladder (OAB) is a condition associated with urgent and/or frequent urination. Urinary urgency is that ‘gotta go, gotta go’ feeling with the need to get to a bathroom before having an accident. Frequency is having to urinate again and again during the day and night. Normal urination is considered six to eight times in a 24 hour period, including getting up once or twice at night. Anything above these numbers is considered overactive. Estimates show that 50% of American women and a third of American men experience this condition.

Bladder irritants

While a nuisance, overactive bladder is not life-threatening, and is oftentimes minimized through behavioral modifications such as food choices. When sitting down at the holiday table, remember that there are many dietary items that can affect or trigger OAB. These choices include:

  • Cranberry juice
  • Citrus juices
  • Foods loaded with sugar
  • Hot or cold tea
  • Carbonated beverages
  • Caffeine
  • Alcoholic beverages
  • Spicy foods
  • Chocolate

These foods are known bladder irritants. Reducing or cutting out these irritants can help relax the bladder. This helps the bladder hold more urine for longer periods of time. Remember, controlling OAB is not just about drinking less fluid. Good bladder management includes changing  beverage and food choices. These choices can also help reduce the symptoms of Interstitial Cystitis (chronic pelvic pain).

Consuming holiday foods may also result in gaining a few extra pounds. Obesity is just one factor that can lead to the development of kidney stones.  Having too much calcium in the system, or too much uric acid (common with eating red meat) can also cause stones to form.

So as much as we allow ourselves to enjoy holiday treats, there can be residual urological health problems that last well past the holiday season. Although the urinary tract may not be ‘top of mind’ during the holidays, it may be the only thing you’re thinking of afterwards.

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