Can Orange Juice Irritate the Urinary Tract?

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Urinary tract infections and inflammation of the bladder wall can cause frequent urination, discomfort and pain and even incontinence in severe cases. Although it's not always clear why these conditions occur, in some cases food triggers take some of the blame. Specifically, orange juice can irritate the urinary tract and worsen symptoms in both infections and bladder wall inflammation.

Background

Orange juice contains a healthy dollop of vitamin C and potassium, two important nutrients. However, it also contains high levels of acidity. In fact, oranges represent one of the most acidic fruits, second only to lemons on the pH scale. Many a person finds he can't tolerate this level of acid in his food. In addition to irritating the urinary tract, the acid in orange juice can aggravate ulcers and canker sores.

Urinary Tract Infections

Urinary tract infections usually involve a bacterial infection of the bladder, urethra and possibly the kidneys. According to the University of Rochester, the vast majority of urinary tract infections -- about 85 percent -- stem from infection with E. coli bacteria. Symptoms include pain, increased urination coupled with small amounts of urine, and sometimes blood in the urine. If you have a urinary tract infection, your doctor most likely will prescribe antibiotics. While you still have symptoms, you should avoid orange juice, since the acid may irritate your healing urinary tract. However, once you have finished your course of antibiotics and are symptom-free, you can return to drinking orange juice.

Interstitial Cystitis

Interstitial cystitis, or inflammation of the bladder wall, produces symptoms similar to those of a urinary tract infection. However, it's a chronic condition not caused by bacteria; in fact, it's not clear what causes interstitial cystitis. There's no cure, so your doctor most likely will recommend lifestyle changes to help you manage the condition. Although medical research hasn't shown that diet affects the symptoms of interstitial cystitis, it's possible that dropping certain foods from your diet, including orange juice, may help to improve your symptoms.

Considerations

If you do need to cut back on or eliminate your consumption of orange juice because it's irritating your urinary tract, you should replace it with another healthy food, ideally one that's high in vitamin C. Brightly colored fruits and vegetables such as broccoli, peppers and cantaloupe all make good sources of this important vitamin. Also, if your urinary tract symptoms continue once you've had treatment for a urinary tract infection or for interstitial cystitis, talk to your doctor about your options.

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