Top 10 Tips for a Healthy Bladder, According to a Naturopathic Medical Doctor

Medically Reviewed by Dr. Elaine Gavalas, ND, PhD

April 2, 2024

It’s likely that you don’t think much about bladder health until certain symptoms start to arise. And once those symptoms hit, they can range from mild discomfort to significant distress—all pointing to one root problem: poor bladder health.

Here are some common signs that you may be dealing with bladder issues (1):

  • Frequent urination: You feel the need to urinate more often than usual.
  • Urgency: You experience a strong, sudden urge to urinate that's difficult to control.
  • Incontinence: This involves unintentional leakage of urine during everyday activities such as lifting, bending, coughing, exercising, or even during sex. This could also include passing urine unintentionally.
  • Painful urination: Urination is accompanied by pain or a burning sensation.
  • Hematuria: This is the presence of blood in your urine.
  • Difficulty emptying the bladder: Despite the urge to urinate, you may have trouble emptying your bladder completely.
  • Weak urine stream: The flow of urine is noticeably weaker or slower than usual.
  • Cloudy urine: Your urine appears cloudy instead of clear.
  • Urinating frequently in small amounts: You may find yourself urinating often but only passing small amounts each time.
  • Persistent, strong urge to urinate: Even after urinating, you might still feel a strong desire to go again.

If you answered “yes” to any of the above symptoms, this blog is for you.

As a board-certified naturopathic medical doctor specializing in pelvic health, I share ten natural tips on how to restore bladder health—and how to keep it healthy for the long haul. These ten tips are drawn from my experience working with individuals seeking holistic care for their bladder concerns. Each of these tips is based on the wisdom of traditional botanical medicine, nutritional science, and physical therapy.

Let’s dive in!

But first, let’s go over some bladder basics…

The first stop in reviewing the anatomy of the urinary tract is the kidneys, which are located near the middle of the spine. The kidneys are responsible for filtering blood, and they do this 24/7. If the kidneys didn’t do their job, waste products would accumulate in the body. (The concentrated waste that the kidneys produce is urine.)

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Tubes called the ureters connect the kidneys to the bladder downstream. The bladder is a hollow, muscular organ that stores urine. Signals from the nervous system trigger the bladder to contract, and urine exits the body through the urethra. 

These structures are all the same in men and women, with only slight differences. Women have shorter urethras than men. Women can store 500 ml of urine while men can store 700 ml, which is roughly a cup difference (2).

Tip #1: Stay Hydrated

Bladder issues are more likely to happen if the urine is overly concentrated from dehydration. 

The benefits of hydration for bladder health are multifactorial…

Firstly, regular flushing of a well-hydrated bladder prevents the buildup of bad bacteria that can cause a urinary tract infection (3). 

This is particularly crucial for women because they have a shorter urethra, making it easier for harmful bacteria to travel from the outside to the inside of the bladder. In contrast, for men, this bacterial journey is somewhat longer—making it more difficult for bacteria to reach the bladder. (This is why men are less likely to get bladder infections.)

Regular flushing of urine—through proper hydration—keeps these bacteria out of the body, reducing the risk of infection. More concentrated urine is also more prone to crystalizing and forming painful stones. 

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A good rule of thumb is that the urine should be a very pale yellow—not too dark or amber-colored. If your pee has no tinge of yellow, you may be overhydrated. The National Academy of Medicine suggests 9 cups of water a day for women and 13 cups for men (4). 

Another effective way to stay hydrated is by adding an electrolyte powder to your water (5). NativePath has a zero-sugar electrolyte called Native Hydrate that offers 200 mg of sodium, 105 mg of magnesium, and 100 mg of potassium—three extraordinary minerals for restoring whole-body hydration.

Apart from having these and 11 other vitamins and minerals, it also has all nine essential amino acids and 2,000 mg of BCAAs—two essential components of muscle health. 

One last note on this topic: If you’re feeling bored with water and find it hard to drink enough each day, electrolytes are a great place to start. With NativePath’s flavors of mixed berry, peach mango, and tangerine, you can turn plain water into a delicious, refreshing beverage in seconds.

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Tip #2: Avoid Foods That Are High In Oxalates

Interestingly, certain foods and beverages can encourage the formation of bladder stones in certain susceptible people. If you experience recurrent bladder stones, these dietary tips can support creating an environment in the bladder where stones are less likely to happen.

According to research, the following foods and beverages are correlated with a higher risk of bladder stones (6):

  • Excessively salty foods
  • A diet heavy in animal proteins 
  • Rhubarb 
  • Nuts
  • Chocolate
  • Spinach 
  • Alcohol 

Some of these foods may seem unusual, such as rhubarb. Many foods that cause bladder stones are high in a compound called oxalates. Oxalates are common in many plant-based foods, including rhubarb, spinach, nuts, and chocolate. Oxalates bind with calcium in the urine to form painful stones. 

On the other hand, foods that are good for bladder health are high in water content: melons, celery, peaches, oranges, and pineapple are all bladder-loving foods (7).

Tip #3 Cut the Caffeine

If you are a heavy caffeine drinker and experience bladder stones, consider cutting back or using a coffee alternative like mushroom coffee or matcha lattes. Caffeine is a diuretic that causes the urine to concentrate, increasing the likelihood of stones.

Since caffeine also causes you to urinate often, you may start to experience excessive urinary frequency if you drink several cups of coffee a day. Going too often can disrupt the brain-bladder connection and contribute to an overactive bladder (8). 

Overactive bladder is an issue of the bladder becoming too reactive to minor stimuli, setting off the urge to urinate even when the bladder is not very full.

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Tip #4: Strengthen Your Pelvic Floor Muscles

The link between exercise and bladder health may not be so obvious. However, the bladder is surrounded by a network of muscles called the pelvic floor muscles.

The pelvic floor muscles play a role in holding our urine when we need to as well as releasing urine when we use the bathroom (8, 9). 

The pelvic floor muscles can experience dysfunction for a variety of reasons. The most common is childbirth-related pelvic floor dysfunction. However, it can occur for many other reasons (10). Common symptoms will include leakage of urine when coughing, sneezing, laughing, running, or anything else that increases pressure on the abdomen (think: lifting heavy objects, doing abdominal crunches, or other high-impact exercises like jump rope, aerobics, or tennis).

Native Tip: Looking for inspiration to start toning your pelvic floor? An effective pelvic floor strengthening exercise is a bridge with a ball squeeze.

Tip #5 Get Familiar With Bladder Hygiene Practices

Bladder hygiene might sound like it has to do with cleanliness, but it’s actually a physical therapy term. It involves optimizing the connection between the bladder, the nervous system, and the muscles, which all work together to keep the bladder healthy. 

Examples of bladder hygiene practices include (8):

  • Urinate when you have the urge, and do not delay. Consistently holding urine too long disrupts the connection between the signals of the brain and the bladder. 
  • Avoid pushing urine out if you are in a rush. This can contribute to pelvic floor muscle dysfunction. Relax and give yourself a minute for when nature calls. 
  • Maintain regular bowel movements, as constipation can put pressure on the bladder. 

Tip #6 Stress Less

Stress can contribute to bladder problems in a couple of ways (11). Firstly, let's understand the anatomy involved…

The bladder contracts to expel its contents, a process controlled by specific nerves within the parasympathetic nervous system. This branch of the nervous system oversees the body's "rest and digest" functions. Whereas the sympathetic nervous system controls the body's fight-or-flight response.

To put it simply, a calm nervous system is essential for normal urination.

Secondly, stress can impact your bladder through its effect on your breathing patterns

When stressed, we tend to breathe from our chest rather than utilizing the large diaphragm muscle beneath our lungs. The diaphragm and the pelvic floor muscles work in tandem, so any tension in the diaphragm caused by shallow, anxious breathing can easily lead to tension in the pelvic floor muscles. This tension can subsequently affect bladder function  (12).

Tip #7 Avoid Bladder-Irritating Foods & Beverages

Foods and beverages have another role in bladder health beyond potentially promoting stone formation. Certain foods and beverages are bladder irritants in susceptible people, causing inflammation of the bladder wall. This can create pain, pressure, and burning with urination. 

Common bladder offenders in the diet include (13): 

Tip #8 Maintain a Healthy Weight

A higher body mass index, or BMI, is correlated with bladder issues. Overweight individuals tend to suffer from more urinary incontinence due to the pressure of the body tissues pressing on the bladder (14). The same mechanism explains why pregnancy increases urinary incontinence issues due to more pressure in the abdomen. 

Keeping lean removes excess pressure from the bladder, decreasing the likelihood that pelvic floor dysfunction and incontinence will happen. 

Tip #9 Manage Other Chronic Conditions

As we briefly mentioned earlier, untreated constipation can impact bladder health negatively due to the pressure that constipation causes in the pelvis. 

Other chronic health conditions, such as chronic cough or allergies that cause sneezing and coughing, can also impact bladder health (8). 

Chronic cough or sneezing causes recurrent bouts of high intra-abdominal pressure. When this occurs chronically over a long period of time, pelvic floor dysfunction can occur as the pelvic floor muscles weaken from the stress. This can lead to involuntary urine leakage. 

If you experience chronic cough, allergies, or constipation, be sure to consult with your physician to start treatment. Your bladder will thank you for it.

Tip #10 Pee After Sex

Women who are sexually active should make it a habit to urinate after sexual activity to flush bacteria from the urinary tract.

The reason behind this is that sexual activity can increase the likelihood of bad bacteria being introduced to the urethra (15). 

To be clear, these are not the bacteria that cause sexually transmitted diseases. Most urinary tract infections (UTIs) are caused by bacteria that normally live on your skin or gastrointestinal tract.

As an extra precaution, showering before intercourse can cleanse these bacteria away.

The Bottom Line

Optimal bladder health is a blend of lifestyle, diet, hygiene, and musculoskeletal factors—all of which are surprisingly simple to implement. Best of all, these ten helpful tips may reduce the likelihood of future episodes of bladder infections, stones, or leakage. (Because the reality is that life doesn’t slow down for a problematic bladder, and neither should you!)

If you know a loved one or friend who might benefit from holistic tips on bladder health, don’t hesitate to pass this article on.

Dr. Laurel Ash
Article by

Dr. Laurel Ash

Laurel Ash, ND, MS is an Oregon and Washington board-certified Naturopathic Physician. She earned her Doctorate in Naturopathy from the National University of Natural Medicine alongside a Master of Science in Integrative Mental Health.

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    Medical Disclaimer

    This content is for informational and educational purposes only. It is not intended to provide medical advice or to take the place of such advice or treatment from a personal physician. All readers/viewers of this content are advised to consult their doctors or qualified health professionals regarding specific health questions. Neither Dr. Chad Walding nor the publisher of this content takes responsibility for possible health consequences of any person or persons reading or following the information in this educational content. All viewers of this content, especially those taking prescription or over-the-counter medications, should consult their physicians before beginning any nutrition, supplement, or lifestyle program.

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