Triggers for Urge Incontinence,
Overactive Bladder

Nancy was disappointed when her Gynecologist explained that there was no magic bullet for her urge incontinence and that feeling at the most awkward times that she had to go to the bathroom. “Unlike stress incontinence, which has a variety of non-surgical and surgical treatments, in urge incontinence, surgical options are reserved for only the most severe cases,” says McLeod Gynecologist Merritt King, III, MD. “Yet, a better knowledge of what can trigger or worsen urge incontinence will help avoid those embarrassing public situations.”


Women undergo dramatic hormonal changes. Estrogen, which plays a key role in maintaining pelvic muscle strength and a healthy lining of the urinary tract, often decreases significantly.


Many women receive hormone replacement therapy during menopause. One side effect of this treatment is to cause bladder muscles to contract, creating a sense of needing to urinate. Talk with your Gynecologist if your medications are creating bothersome side effects of any kind.


Menopause is often associated with weight gain. Pressure from extra weight squeezes the bladder. Even one big meal that fills your stomach can end up placing pressure on your bladder.


Hot and spicy food is a well-known stomach irritant. Just watch the commercials on TV.  The bladder can also be irritated, triggering that urge to urinate.

  • In almost any form, tomatoes can be a problem for women with urge incontinence.
  • Raw onions are a possible cause of overactive bladder. Using mild, sweet onions or cooking the pungent edible bulbs may reduce their effect.


These three beverage categories hold potential problems. Caffeine in coffee or sodas acts as a diuretic, creating more urine in the bladder and the feeling of a need to go the bathroom.  Carbonation in sodas also irritates the bladder. Like caffeine, alcohol acts as a diuretic.

Don’t cut down on all beverages. The resulting constipation or dehydration can worsen the symptoms of urge incontinence


It’s delicious. It’s sweet. But chocolate does contain the diuretic caffeine.


Some evidence indicates heavy use of almost any sweetener will aggravate urge incontinence. Used in moderation, you shouldn’t feel much effect.


Although the information in this article offers general guidelines, you should rely on your Gynecologist to answer specific questions or help you with urge incontinence and its side effects.

Find a Gynecologist near you.

Sources include: McLeod Health, National Institutes of Health, American Urological Association, Office of Women’s Health (US Dept. of HHS)