Worst Foods for Urinary Health


Diet is a crucial factor in promoting optimal urinary health. If you are currently suffering from a urinary health problem, a temporary change in diet could be an easy way to relieve the symptoms. If you are aiming to improve your urinary health, in this article we will discuss certain foods to avoid.  

What is urinary health?

Urinary health is the overall well-being and adequate functioning of the urinary system ( comprised of the kidneys, bladder, urethra, and the ureters). These organs work together to filter your blood, regulate the levels of chemicals and salts in your body and to eliminate excess waste and toxins from the bloodstream in the form of urine.

Maintaining your urinary health will prevent urinary tract infections (UTIs), kidney stones, and other urinary disorders from occurring. UTIs are one of the most common urinary disorders, and they arise when any of these organs become compromised by microbes, with bacteria being the main culprit. Cystitis, urethritis, and bladder infections are the most common types of UTIs.  People assigned female at birth are more prone to acquiring UTIs due to having a shorter urethra than people assigned male at birth,  meaning bacteria are more likely to gain entry to the body.

It is important to maintain adequate urinary health because these infections are uncomfortable to say the least. Although, however hard you may try to banish these infections, they may still appear because urinary health problems also have genetic causes. 

Nonetheless, diet is an environmental factor that is highly associated with the acquisition of UTIs. Some doctors recommend reducing the consumption of the following food groups.  

Food groups that are linked to poor urinary health

  1. High Sodium Foods

Foods containing high quantities of salt have been associated with urinary health issues. Consuming a high salt diet increases the amount of calcium lost in the urine which can lead to the formation of kidney stones.1 Additionally, excess salt consumption will lead you to become dehydrated which is highly associated with acquiring UTIs.  

Studies have shown that a reduction in sodium consumption can reduce blood pressure as well as reduce the effects of nocturia, which leads to disrupted sleep.2,3

Examples of high-sodium foods:

  • Smoked, cured, salted, or canned meat, fish, or poultry, including bacon, ham, sausages, sardines, and anchovies
  • Frozen breaded meats and dinners, such as burritos and pizza
  • Canned foods such as spam and baked beans
  • Salted nuts
  1. Caffeine

Caffeine is a diuretic that leads to an increased frequency and urgency of urination. It can promote the frequency of urination because it is believed to have a direct effect on the bladder's smooth muscle4. This will irritate the tissues that make up the bladder and cause an involuntary bladder contraction, leading you to go to the bathroom more often. Therefore, it is best to avoid caffeinated products when having a UTI as it can worsen the sensation of the symptoms.

Common sources of caffeine in the diet:

  • Coffee, tea, and decaf drinks·  Fizzy drinks such as Coca-Cola. 
  • Chocolate
  • Energy drinks
  • Supplements
  • Guarana
  1. Artificial Sweeteners

Artificial sweeteners such as aspartame, acesulfame K, and sodium saccharin also promote urinary frequency and urgency. They are known to irritate the bladder by interfering with the lining of the bladder or the nervous system that regulates the functions of the bladder. This especially affects people with interstitial cystitis or chronic bladder inflammation, so sufferers are advised to limit their intake as tends to exacerbate symptoms.5

Foods containing artificial sweeteners:

  • Fruit juices
  • Fizzy drinks
  • Energy drinks
  1. Spicy Foods

Spicy foods can also irritate the bladder and cause urinary frequency. Some people may also experience a burning sensation while urinating as a result of consuming too many spices. If you are struggling with bladder issues, you may want to limit your intake of spicy foods.

Examples of spicy foods that will irritate the bladder:

  • Hot peppers
  • Hot sauces
  • Curry
  • Chilli sauce and powders
  1. Alcohol

Alcohol is a diuretic; it forces the kidneys to release more sodium into your urine, which causes the bladder to fill up quicker and leads to an increased frequency of urination.6 It can also leave individuals dehydrated and produce more concentrated urine, which is also linked to the irritation and inflammation of the bladder lining.7 Not only does this cause discomfort, but if the individual doesn’t rehydrate, it can result in the individual developing a UTI. If you are already suffering from a UTI, it is advised to avoid alcohol as it makes your urine more acidic, which will further irritate the bladder.

It is important to note that drinking one alcoholic drink will not likely cause these issues. It is when individuals indulge in binge drinking that these problems occur because it will raise a person's blood alcohol to dangerous levels, where medical interventions will have to occur to help the person.

  1. Smoking

Aside from being bad for your lungs and tripling the risk of developing bladder cancer, nicotine is a leading bladder irritant. It is believed that smoking can worsen symptoms of overactive bladder and interstitial cystitis.8 It is also linked to incontinence as smoking increases the chances of developing a chronic cough spasm that will put greater pressure on pelvic muscles that regulate continence.9

Now, after reading all of that it may feel overwhelming with what to do next. But don’t fret, as here are some foods that are recommended to eat that  will boost your urinary health as it will counterbalance the effects of the previously mentioned food groups.

Here are some recommended food groups to boost your urinary health

  1. Water

Don’t reach for a cup of coffee first thing in the morning; grab a glass of water instead. Water is crucial for keeping our body hydrated and maintaining important bodily functions. Not only does water assist with good health, but staying hydrated helps balance salts and sugars within the body and helps to flush out toxins and wastes through the urinary system. This aids in the prevention of UTIs, kidney stones, and other urinary disorders associated with the food groups listed in the previous section. The recommended water intake is at least 6-8 glasses of water per day, and if you are an active individual or if the weather is very hot, you should increase your fluid intake as you would be at a higher risk of becoming dehydrated.

  1. Cranberries

The old wife’s tail is true: cranberries are great for preventing UTIs because they contain a sugar called proanthocyanins, which is believed to prevent bacteria such as E. coli from binding to the lining of the bladder.10 Although you may have heard that cranberry juice is the best way to prevent UTIs from occurring, you have to ensure that the juice drink is low in sugar; otherwise, it could do more harm than good.

Ways to incorporate cranberries into your diet:

  • Dried cranberries.
  • Cranberry juice.

Remember to eat cranberries in moderation, as consuming too much could give you an upset stomach or will increase your chances of developing kidney stones at very high doses.11

  1. Fibre-rich Foods

High-fibre foods are good for urinary tract health and preventing UTIs because they contain numerous nutrients and antioxidants with potentially anticarcinogenic properties. These nutrients will promote regular bowel movements and relieve constipation symptoms, which can decrease strain on your bladder.12

Examples of fibre-rich foods:

  • Bananas
  • Beans
  • Broccoli
  • Avocados
  • Apples
  • Whole grains
  1. Low-acid Foods

As highly acidic foods can irritate the lining of the bladder, low-acidity foods should be consumed. This is because lower pH urines are more effective at restricting bacterial growth in the urinary tract and the formation of kidney stones.13 A urine pH of 6.8 - 7.0 is considered healthy in humans and will inhibit the growth of most bladder and urinary tract pathogens.

This can be achieved by eating low-acidic foods, including:

  • Fruits and vegetables, e.g., cucumber and bananas
  • Cinnamon
  • Almonds
  • Alkalising minerals, e.g., calcium and potassium
  • Apple cider vinegar


To sum up, to improve your urinary health, you should stay hydrated and limit your intake of problematic food groups. It is important to note that dietary changes alone will not be able to clear up UTIs, so you should visit your local chemist or speak to your GP about any issues that are concerning you.

  • Reduce intake of high sodium foods, spicy foods, acidic foods as well as reducing caffeine.
  • Stop smoking.
  • Consume more water daily.
  • Speak to your GP if you are concerned.


  1. Sakhaee K, Harvey JA, Padalino PK, Whitson P, Pak CYC. The Potential Role of Salt Abuse on the Risk for Kidney Stone Formation. The Journal of Urology [Internet]. 1993 Aug 1;150(2, Part 1):310–2. Available from: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S002253471735468X
  2. Salt and the Kidneys - Action on Salt [Internet]. Action on salt. 2023 [cited 2023 Sep 22]. Available from: https://www.actiononsalt.org.uk/salthealth/salt-and-the-kidneys/#:~:text=A%20high%20salt%20diet%20can
  3. Night-time loo trips “linked to salt in diet.” BBC News [Internet]. 2017 Mar 26 [cited 2023 Sep 22]; Available from: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-39382339
  4. Cho YS, Ko IG, Kim SE, Hwan L, Shin MS, Kim CJ, et al. Caffeine enhances micturition through neuronal activation in micturition centers. Molecular Medicine Reports. 2014 Oct 15;10(6):2931–6.
  5. Friedlander JI, Shorter B, Moldwin RM. Diet and its role in interstitial cystitis/bladder pain syndrome (IC/BPS) and comorbid conditions. BJU International. 2012 Jan 11;109(11):1584–91.
  6. Why does alcohol make you pee more? | Drinkaware [Internet]. www.drinkaware.co.uk. 2021. Available from: https://www.drinkaware.co.uk/facts/health-effects-of-alcohol/general-health-effects/why-does-alcohol-make-you-pee-more#:~:text=effect%20of%20alcohol-
  7. Can Alcohol Cause A Urinary Tract Infection (UTI)? | Alcohol & UTIs [Internet]. The Recovery Village Drug and Alcohol Rehab. 2023 [cited 2023 Sep 22]. Available from: https://www.therecoveryvillage.com/alcohol-abuse/can-alcohol-cause-urinary-tract-infection/#:~:text=Alcohol%20use%20can%20make%20your
  8. Freedman ND. Association Between Smoking and Risk of Bladder Cancer Among Men and Women. JAMA. 2011 Aug 17;306(7):737.
  9. Bump RC, McClish DK. Cigarette smoking and urinary incontinence in women. American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology [Internet]. 1992 Nov 1 [cited 2023 Apr 16];167(5):1213–8. Available from: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0002937811916913
  10. Cranberry for acute Urinary Tract Infection – an old wives’ tale? Or mother nature’s cure? [Internet]. Nuffield Department of Primary Care, Health Sciences. 2022. Available from: https://www.phc.ox.ac.uk/news/blog/cranberry-for-acute-urinary-tract-infection-2013-an-old-wives2019-tale-or-mother-nature2019s-cure-1#:~:text=Cranberry%20contains%20sugars%20called%20proanthocyanidins
  11. Cranberry: Generic, Uses, Side Effects, Dosages, Interactions, Warnings [Internet]. RxList. [cited 2023 Sep 22]. Available from: https://www.rxlist.com/cranberry/generic-drug.htm
  12. Park SY, Ollberding NJ, Woolcott CG, Wilkens LR, Henderson BE, Kolonel LN. Fruit and Vegetable Intakes Are Associated with Lower Risk of Bladder Cancer among Women in the Multiethnic Cohort Study. The Journal of Nutrition. 2013 Jun 5;143(8):1283–92.
  13. How to reduce acidity in urine [Internet]. SC Nutra (Sweet Cures). [cited 2023 Sep 22]. Available from: https://www.sweetcures.co.uk/blogs/health-hub/making-your-urine-more-alkaline#:~:text=Changing%20your%20diet%20can%20cause
This content is purely informational and isn’t medical guidance. It shouldn’t replace professional medical counsel. Always consult your physician regarding treatment risks and benefits. See our editorial standards for more details.

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Lavinia de Saram

Bachelors of Science – BSc Biological Sciences, University of Reading

Lavinia is a recent graduate who is delving into the world of medical writing.

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