What is the bladder?

The bladder is a balloon-like organ that is tucked away behind in the pelvic bone. It is made of muscle and is part of the urinary system. Urine forms as the kidneys filter waste from your blood. Urine then travels into the bladder, where it collects until you urinate (pee).

What is bladder irritation?

Most people pee between six and eight times a day (maybe more if you drink plenty of water). But the bladder is just like any other organ in your body. When it becomes irritated, you can feel uncomfortable and may become embarrassed by changes to urination (peeing).

What are the symptoms of bladder irritation?

Bladder irritation causes physical symptoms related to urination:

  • A strong urge to pee (urgency).
  • The need to pee more often (frequency).
  • Pain in the lower abdomen.

Could bladder irritation be a sign of disease?

Sometimes, problems in the urinary tract cause bladder irritation. A urinary tract infection (UTI) can cause short-term (temporary) discomfort and urgency. People with chronic problems like interstitial cystitis (IC) can experience ongoing bladder pain. IC is an inflammation (swelling) in the wall of the bladder.

Bladder irritation by itself is not usually an emergency. But if you are running a fever and have chills or pain in your lower back or side, visit your healthcare provider.

Do certain foods irritate the bladder?

The bladder collects waste, including remainders of foods and drinks. If you have a bladder condition, such as IC, a variety of foods can irritate your bladder. Both common and unusual foods may cause irritation:

  • All alcohol containing beverages, including champagne.
  • Apples.
  • Apple juice.
  • Bananas.
  • Beer.
  • Brewer’s yeast.
  • Canned figs.
  • Cantaloupes.
  • Carbonated drinks.
  • Cheese.
  • Chicken livers.
  • Chilies/spicy foods.
  • Chocolate.
  • Citrus fruits.
  • Coffee.
  • Corned beef.
  • Cranberries.
  • Fava beans.
  • Grapes.
  • Guava.
  • Lemon juice.
  • Lima beans.
  • Nuts — hazelnuts (also called filberts), pecans and pistachios
  • Mayonnaise.
  • NutraSweet.™
  • Onions (raw).
  • Peaches.
  • Pickled herring.
  • Pineapple.
  • Plums.
  • Prunes.
  • Raisins.
  • Rye bread.
  • Saccharin.
  • Sour cream.
  • Soy sauce.
  • Strawberries.
  • Tea — black or green, regular or decaffeinated, and herbal blends that contain black or green tea.
  • Tomatoes.
  • Vinegar.
  • Vitamins buffered with aspartame.
  • Yogurt.

How are bladder-irritating foods identified?

Determining if a food irritates your bladder is a process of elimination. Not all people sensitive to bladder irritants are affected by the same foods. Your healthcare provider can help you identify bladder-irritating foods.

To test bladder discomfort by eliminating foods, you can:

  • Keep a food diary to track foods that are and aren’t irritating.
  • Remove the foods listed above from your diet for a few days.
  • Once your symptoms are gone, you can begin to add foods in. Start with a small amount of one food, increasing the portion size over several days. If irritation returns after reintroducing a food, stop eating it completely. Repeat food reintroduction slowly to identify your bladder-irritating foods.

Lab tests cannot diagnose foods that cause bladder irritation. But a urologist (healthcare specialist who treats urinary system problems) may examine your bladder to diagnose or rule out IC.

How can I manage bladder irritation?

You can manage discomfort by avoiding foods you have identified as bladder irritants. But removing foods from your diet doesn’t mean you can never have them again. You might be able to enjoy them in moderation (once in a while). Drinking plenty of water will help reduce pain from any bladder-irritating foods you might ingest, in moderation or accidentally.

Can I prevent bladder irritation from foods?

You cannot always avoid bladder discomfort. But identifying foods that cause bladder pain can go a long way to helping you feel better. Through a process of elimination and careful diet, you can find and avoid bothersome foods and drinks.

What is the outlook for people sensitive to bladder irritation?

If foods irritate your bladder, you may worry about finding enough to eat. SOME people with IC are able to eat and drink these foods:

  • Alcohol or wines (only as flavoring).
  • Almonds.
  • Apple juice.
  • Blueberries.
  • Coffee (acid-free kava) or highly roasted.
  • Extracts (brandy, rum, etc.).
  • Imitation sour cream.
  • Lentils.
  • Nuts — almonds, cashews and peanuts.
  • Onions (cooked).
  • Orange juice (reduced acid).
  • Pears.
  • Processed cheese (non-aged).
  • Shallots.
  • Spring water.
  • Strawberries (1/2 cup).
  • Sun tea (herbal, but no blends made with black or green tea).
  • Tomatoes (low acid).
  • White chocolate.
  • Wines (late harvest).
  • Zest of orange or limes.
  • Other foods not listed. (It is best to check with your provider.)

What can I do if I have bladder pain from foods?

Living with bladder irritation can be uncomfortable. But you can take steps to remove irritants from your diet and reduce pain. Avoid foods that irritate your bladder, and remember that water is important. Drinking enough water helps you feel more comfortable after you eat foods that irritate your bladder.

A note from Cleveland Clinic

Bladder discomfort can be frustrating and even embarrassing. Conditions like IC can make you feel like you need to pee even after you’ve already gone to the bathroom, and your bladder can hurt a lot. But you can get help to reduce irritation. Talk to your healthcare provider about your bladder irritation and possible food and drink causes.

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 10/30/2020.


  • National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. The Urinary Tract and How It Works. (https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/urologic-diseases/urinary-tract-how-it-works) Accessed 11/3/2020.
  • Office of Women’s Health. Bladder Pain. (https://www.womenshealth.gov/a-z-topics/bladder-pain) Accessed 11/3/2020.
  • Urology Care Foundation. What is Interstitial Cystitis(IC)/Bladder Pain Syndrome? Accessed 11/3/2020.
  • Interstitial Cystitis Association. About IC. (https://www.ichelp.org/about-ic/) Accessed 11/3/2020.
  • Interstitial Cystitis Network. Interstitial Cystitis Information Center. (https://www.ic-network.com/interstitial-cystitis/) Accessed 11/3/2020.

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