How Spicy Foods Impact Your Bladder

Do you feel the urge to pee every few minutes? Are you having pain and discomfort in the bladder or pelvis? These symptoms may indicate a number of conditions ranging from urinary tract infections (UTIs) to cystitis. For example, interstitial cystitis affects three to eight million women and up to four million men, according to the Urology Care Foundation. This chronic disorder often causes pain in the urethra, bladder, lower back, or pelvic region, along with a constant urge to urinate.

Your symptoms may also be related to what you eat and drink. Certain foods and beverages can irritate the bladder, causing a burning sensation, pain, and discomfort. Caffeine, alcohol, chocolate, vinegar, and citrus fruits are just a few to mention, reports the Interstitial Cystitis Network. You may also experience bladder pain and irritation after eating high-potassium foods or products containing nitrites, nitrates, or monosodium glutamate, a common food additive.

These foods and drinks may cause bladder issues, even in healthy people, says the Interstitial Cystitis Network. For instance, aspartame and other artificial sweeteners can irritate the bladder, making urination difficult. Dietary supplements, especially those containing vitamins C and B6, have similar effects. Spicy foods can affect your bladder, too, so you might want to think twice before adding hot peppers, sriracha, or tabasco sauce to your meals. 

Cut back on spicy foods to prevent bladder irritation

Hot chili peppers can turn your meals into a feast, offering both flavor and nutrition. Something as bland as steamed rice or cauliflower can taste amazing when seasoned with curry, paprika, or cayenne pepper. Perhaps not surprisingly, about 90% of Americans love "hot and spicy foods," reports a 2017 Kalsec survey. Unfortunately, these foods can pose problems for those with irritable bowel syndrome, Crohn's disease, and other digestive ailments, according to the University of Chicago Medicine. It's not uncommon to experience stomach pain, vomiting, or indigestion following a spicy meal.

Spicy foods can also irritate the bladder, causing pelvic pain, frequent urination, or a sudden, strong need to pee, says the Cleveland Clinic. These symptoms are more likely to affect those with an overactive bladder, interstitial cystitis, or other related conditions. The explanation is pretty straightforward: capsaicin and other compounds in spicy foods can irritate the tissues lining your bladder, causing spasms of the bladder muscle, urologist Dr. S. Adam Ramin told HealthCentral.

These foods may also worsen urinary retention, making it difficult to fully empty your bladder (via MedicineNet). The same goes for caffeinated or acidic foods and beverages, including your daily cup of joe. However, not everyone will experience bladder discomfort after eating a spicy meal. If you're not sure what's causing your symptoms, you could keep a food diary. Write down what you eat, see how your body responds, and adjust your diet accordingly.