Can Coffee Irritate the Bladder?

If you experience bladder pain, frequent or urgent urination, or urinary incontinence, everything from your social life to your ability to get a good night's sleep can be negatively affected. Coffee can trigger bladder irritation due to its often acidic composition, in addition to its diuretic effects. Particularly if you have an underlying bladder or urinary condition, consult a doctor for help regarding bladder irritation.

Close-up of a woman pouring a cup of coffee. Credit: Helmut Seisenberger/iStock/Getty Images

Interstitial Cystitis

Regular and decaffeinated types of coffee are designated as likely bladder irritants by the Interstitial Cystitis Network. Interstitial cystitis, also known as painful bladder syndrome, is a chronic condition that typically continues over a period of years. Its symptoms may flare or worsen periodically, and the Interstitial Cystitis Network indicates certain foods and drinks can aggravate or calm a flareup. Herbal coffees, or low-acid versions of decaffeinated coffee, are suggested as less likely than regular coffee to irritate your bladder.

Urinary Tract Infections

Urinary tract infections, or UTIs, tend to occur over a relatively short period of time, and are usually cleared up with antibiotic medications. During a UTI, patients commonly experience bladder irritation, painful urination and sensations of urgency and frequency. Elderly populations and women of all ages are at a relatively high risk of experiencing UTIs. Drinking coffee during a UTI can increase symptoms of bladder pain and irritation. If you are suffering from a UTI, water is the best drink; alcohol, citrus juices and all caffeine sources should be avoided.

Bladder Control

Bladder irritation can be a cause of bladder-control issues. Many adults experience problems with bladder control, which can include incontinence. The caffeine in coffee can aggravate bladder-control problems by acting as a diuretic. Diuretic substances increase overall urine production, which can aggravate an already-irritated bladder. Additionally, caffeine can cause your whole bladder to spasm, increasing discomfort or irritation.

Irritation Reduction Strategies

You can reduce coffee's potential to irritate your bladder, using several strategies. Putting milk or creamer in your coffee will lower its acidity, decreasing its irritant potential. You can reduce both acidity and caffeine content by brewing your coffee for less time, or by diluting coffee with hot water, Americano-style. Drinking the same quantity of coffee in smaller servings throughout the day reduces the work your bladder has to do at any given time, thereby decreasing the potential for irritation.

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