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Can Caffeine Cause Incontinence? Effects of Coffee on Your Bladder

two ladies having coffee

Caffeine is described as the world’s most popular drug. It is found in chocolate, tea, energy drinks, guarana, and coffee. Although light to moderate consumption of caffeine is not considered unhealthy or dangerous for otherwise healthy adults, consuming large amounts of caffeine has been shown to have diuretic effects, which may lead to incontinence in men and women. Although, as is common, different studies do show varying and even contrasting results.

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What Is Incontinence and What Causes It?

Incontinence, or urinary incontinence, is the leaking or involuntary passing of urine. It is caused by the weakening of the urinary sphincter and there are several possible causes including stress and anxiety, while factors like smoking and obesity can raise the likelihood of a person developing urinary incontinence as they age.

Some studies have also shown a direct link between caffeine and incontinence which means that coffee drinkers, especially those considered heavy coffee drinkers, are more likely to suffer urinary incontinence than those that abstain from the stimulant altogether or only consume a modest amount.

man wants to pee
Image Credit: vchal, Shutterstock

Does Caffeine Cause Incontinence?

Caffeine is known to be a diuretic. This means that it causes increased urinary production, and this can lead to a leaky bladder, especially at night.

Because caffeine is a stimulant, it is thought that the drug may also have a stimulant effect on the bladder muscles. These muscles are used when you void your bladder. If caffeine causes enhanced activity of the muscles, this can also lead to urinary leakage.

While there are possible reasons for caffeine increasing the likelihood of incontinence, consuming it does not guarantee that a person will suffer from the condition.

Studies suggest that women who consume more than three cups of coffee per day are 70% more likely to suffer with incontinence. One or two cups of coffee per day is not believed to have any effect and is unlikely to be a contributing factor to the development of incontinence.

Men who consume two cups per day, or more, were 72% more likely to have a leaky bladder, while men that consumed four cups were four times more likely to develop the problem.

How To Reduce Your Coffee Intake

Reducing caffeine intake could help reduce instances and severity of urinary incontinence, but simply quitting coffee altogether isn’t easy. Withdrawals can lead to insomnia and other disruptions to sleeping habits, headaches, jitteriness, and other symptoms.

Rather than going cold turkey, drinkers are advised to reduce their intake slowly. Caffeine fading means reducing coffee intake by half a cup of coffee every day or two, eventually getting down to one or two cups of coffee per day by the end of a two-week fading period.

It can help to replace coffee with water or more exciting drinks like fruit juices, but you should avoid drinking soda and energy drinks, and especially avoid drinks like Cola, which contain caffeine.

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Top 5 Foods and Drinks To Avoid To Reduce Incontinence

1. Coffee

cropped woman holding a cup of coffee
Image Credit: Maksim Goncharenok, Pexels

Coffee beans are a natural source of caffeine and is consumed for its taste but also for its stimulant effects. It is known to increase alertness, alleviate tiredness, and potentially improve mood. 400mg of caffeine, equivalent to approximately 4 cups of coffee, is considered a safe daily intake for a healthy adult. However, if you’re looking to alleviate symptoms of incontinence, you should aim for approximately half this amount. It is also worth noting that decaffeinated coffee can contain as much as 50mg of caffeine, or only half as much, as standard coffee.

2. Tea

green tea in a wooden cup
Image Credit: mirkostoedter, Pixabay

A cup of tea typically contains around half the amount of caffeine (50mg) as is found in an equivalent sized cup of coffee (100mg). Green tea has half again (25mg), so if you’re looking for a hot drink to replace coffee but still get some caffeine, green tea is a good alternative. If you are looking to avoid caffeine altogether, you should avoid all forms of coffee and black or green tea. Rooibos tea tastes similar to black tea and is naturally caffeine free.

3. Cola

two cans of coke
Image Credit: Mahbod Akhzami, Unsplash

Coca Cola was originally made using the Kola nut, which is where it got its name and its caffeine content. Although the caffeine in modern Cola likely comes from a synthetic source, a standard can still contains 34mg of caffeine. Diet Coke actually contains more caffeine, with 46mg of caffeine.

4. Energy Drinks

monster energy drink white
Image Credit: NeONBRAND, Unsplash

Most people looking to avoid or reduce caffeine know to stay away from energy drinks. Not only do they contain caffeine, but they are high in sugar and they also contain additional ingredients like Guarana, which naturally contains caffeine itself. A standard can of Red Bull contains 80mg of caffeine. This is actually less than a cup of coffee, but the additional ingredients and high sugar content in the energy drink could add to its incontinence inducing effects.

5. Guarana

Guarana shrubs
Image Credit: guentermanaus, Shutterstock

Guarana is a plant that naturally contains caffeine. In fact, by weight, it has the highest concentration of caffeine of any plant. Coffee contains approximately 2% caffeine by weight while guarana has between 5% and 6%. It is found in some sodas and soft drinks, and often found in energy drinks.

Does Caffeine Affect Urine Flow?

Caffeine has been shown to affect urine production in a number of ways. Caffeine causes people to feel like their bladder is fuller sooner and it also causes an increase in flow rate and the amount of urine that is voided during urination. This means that it can cause drinkers to pee more, more often, and sooner.

Does Coffee Make Incontinence Worse?

Because caffeine is a stimulant that can affect the muscles of bladder, it can exacerbate incontinence.

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Caffeine is a diuretic and a stimulant. It can cause people to need to void their bladder sooner, increase the amount of urine produced, and increase the number of times that the bladder needs to be emptied. It can also cause incontinence, or leaky bladder, and those that are suffering from this problem are advised to reduce or eliminate the caffeine in their diet.

Featured Image Credit By: StockSnap, Pixabay


Kate MacDonnell

Kate is a lifelong coffee enthusiast and homebrewer who enjoys writing for coffee websites and sampling every kind of coffee known to man. She’s tried unusual coffees from all over the world and owns an unhealthy amount of coffee gear.

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