Categorized | Bladder Health, Feature

Excess Caffeine May Cause Leaky Bladder

Nearly 13 million Americans alone, mostly women, suffer from urinary incontinence, which is the involuntary excretion of urine.  Incontinence is extremely inconvenient, and those who suffer from the condition often feel embarrassed when leaks occur.

According to a new study conducted at the University of Alabama at Birmingham Medical School, excess caffeine may actually increase the likelihood of urinary incontinence in women.

“Women who consume high levels of caffeine are 70% more likely to have urinary incontinence than women who don’t,” says Jon Gleason, MD, and instructor and fellow at the university’s Division of Women’s Pelvic Medicine and Reconstructive Surgery.

Today, popular coffee drinks are often the choice of beverage for many women.  But caffeine may also be found in tea, soda beverages, foods, and even some pharmaceuticals.

The study conducted by Gleason in Alabama revealed that those women who took 329 milligrams or more of caffeine a day, which is about three cups of coffee, were 70% more likely to develop the bladder problem.

The modern myth is that urinary incontinence in women is a natural consequence of aging. Experts do say that it is true that most develop it either during pregnancy or childbirth or as a result of hormonal changes during menopause and pelvic muscle weakness.  However, age is not the necessary determinant, and now studies are showing that high caffeine intake may be a factor.

Gleason’s team evaluated data on 1,356 women, aged 20 to 85, who had participated in the 2005-2006 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, a large nationally representative survey.  The study asked the women to keep food diaries and also asked questions about bladder function.

The results showed that while moderate caffeine intake of about 182 milligrams a day was not linked to urinary incontinence.  On the other hand, higher intakes, about 329.5 milligrams or more, were.  Further, people who had a diet high in caffeine were more likely to be aged 40-59, drink alcohol, and to be non-Hispanic white.

Gleason reasons that, “There is evidence that caffeine has a diuretic effect,” and this effect increases the amount of urine you make while also making the muscles that contract when you void overactive.

Lilly Arya, MD, an associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine in Philadelphia, comments, “What these studies are really finding [is that] high levels of caffeine are associated with urinary incontinence.”

But Arya states it is not known for sure if caffeine causes or aggravates the condition.  What the studies do is confirm advice many doctors already give to women with bladder problems, which is to remove caffeine from the diet.

For those women who do not have bladder problems, Arya recommends only two 8 ounce cups of coffee a day.

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