The National Kidney Foundation estimates that 10 million people visit the doctor each year for bladder infections. Fortunately, most infections can be treated and do not cause serious damage. But for some, bladder infections return frequently, causing persistent irritation. When experiencing symptoms of a bladder infection, you need to drink lots of water and to watch the types of food you eat. Alcohol, caffeine, sugar, citrus and spicy and fatty foods should be avoided, as they are most likely to impair immunity and irritate the bladder. Talk to you doctor about treatment of bladder infections, and see a registered dietitian for advice on food choices.
Bladder Infection Basics
Bladder infections -- more broadly referred to as urinary tract infections or UTIs -- occur when bacteria enter the urinary tract, causing inflammation in the bladder and urethra. This results in swelling, pain and difficulty urinating. If left untreated, the condition can lead to kidney infections. Urinary tract infections are most common in women, possibly due to the short length of the urethra in female anatomy. The National Kidney Foundation estimates that one in five women will experience a UTI in her lifetime.
Foods and Drinks That Inhibit Immunity
Certain foods and drinks have been shown to hinder the immune system. Alcohol, fatty foods, sugar and refined breads and pastas reduce your body's ability to defend itself. Sugar consumed in large amounts decreases white blood cell function for up to five hours after consumption. If you're experiencing symptoms of a UTI, reducing your intake of these foods can help improve your body's natural defenses.
Irritating Foods and Drinks
Some foods and beverages irritate the bladder and should be avoided during a UTI. Caffeinated foods and drinks -- such as coffee, colas, tea and chocolate -- act as diuretics, which promote dehydration and can cause irritation Citrus beverages like orange and grapefruit juice, alcohol and spicy foods can also irritate the urinary tract. Try to reduce or eliminate these foods when experiencing symptoms.
Foods That Can Help
Cranberry juice has been traditionally used as a remedy for bladder infections. Research has shown that it may be effective in preventing such infections, as it contains natural chemicals that stop bacteria from binding to the lining of the urinary tract. It has not been shown to be effective as a treatment for bladder infections. Maintaining a healthy diet can help reduce symptoms. Try to eat lots of fruits and vegetables, as they are rich in antioxidants, which help improve immunity. Foods high in fiber, such as whole grains, beans and legumes, can also help relieve symptoms.
- National Kidney Foundation: Urinary Tract Infections
- MedlinePlus: Cranberry
- Cleveland Clinic: Urinary Tract Infections
- University of Michigan Health System: Urinary Tract Infection
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Urinary Tract Infections in Women
- NutritionMD: Urinary Tract Infections: Nutritional Considerations