Running is great for exercise. But if you’re racing to the bathroom twice or more at night, it may be a sign that you have an irritated bladder.
“Having to go more than once a night bothers most people,” says Dr. Evan Lacefield MD, board-certified urologist with Memorial Hermann Medical Group (MHMG) Cypress, who practices at Memorial Hermann Cypress Hospital. “You may have an urgency to urinate or do so more frequently or have a burning sensation.”
Granted, an irritated bladder can be annoying. But feelings aside, you need to address what’s irritating your bladder. Dr. Lacefield splits truths from falsehoods:
Your diet is the most common cause of bladder irritation.
Fact: “The most common bladder irritant is food and drink,” Dr. Lacefield says. “The main ones are caffeine, spicy foods, chocolate, artificial sweeteners and acidic foods like oranges, lemons and tomatoes.”
He suggests starting with a bland diet and gradually reintroducing such foods one by one. “That way we can identify your triggers,” he says. “Or it may be easy to figure out. If you eat spicy food all the time, you can avoid it and see if symptoms improve.”
You also may need to stop smoking and reduce your amount of alcohol consumption, he says. Cigarettes and alcohol contain metabolites, harmful molecules that circulate through your body.
But Dr. Lacefield says you can choose what matters to you more. “If we can find something in your diet that is irritating the bladder, you can cut those foods out and you won’t have symptoms—or you can continue to eat those foods and accept that they may irritate your bladder.”
Irritation and infection are constant companions.
Fiction: “They may have similar symptoms. Also, people with an infection or who recently had one may find dietary triggers more irritating,” Dr. Lacefield says.
Bladder irritation is a sign of cancer.
Fiction: The first sign of bladder cancer is blood in your urine without pain or other symptoms. Smoking, unlike an irritated bladder, puts you at greater risk for bladder and other cancers.
Prescription meds are to blame.
Fiction: Diuretics can increase urination frequency simply by virtue of how they work. They may be prescribed for high blood pressure and as a byproduct they also expel salt and urine. “But they don’t cause irritation,” he says. Nor do antihistamines or cough or allergy medications
Men with enlarged prostates may find urinating harder due to some medications —but that’s independent of irritation.
You need to see a doctor if symptoms linger.
Fact: It’s time to contact your primary care physician or urologist if symptoms are bothersome and persist beyond a day or two. Don’t wait if you have a fever, back pain or blood in the urine.
“Those symptoms suggest bladder or urinary tract infections, or kidney and bladder stones,” Dr. Lacefield says.
Your doctor may need to explore other treatments if your bladder isn’t irritated.
Fact: “It starts with identifying the cause: whether it’s dietary, infection or bladder or kidney stones,” Dr. Lacefield says. “We then fix it, remove it or change it.”
Urgency, frequency and pain may stem from an overactive bladder, a too-narrow urethra (the tube connected to your bladder) or a weak pelvic floor.
The older you get, the more irritable your bladder becomes.
Fiction: Age has nothing to do with it. However, an overactive bladder—which may cause sudden and uncontrollable urinating and leakage—does. If you do have an overactive bladder, there are many new treatments your doctor can prescribe.