How drinks affect your bladder and bowel

Your bladder is found in the lower part of your tummy (abdomen) and acts as a temporary store for your urine (pee). Urine is the waste fluid produced by your kidneys when they clean your blood. It travels from your kidneys to your bladder, which then fills with urine.

The muscles of the bladder allow it to expand, rather like a balloon. When it becomes full, you get the urge to empty your bladder (pee). When you pee, it leaves the bladder and travels through your urethra (the tube that carries your pee outside of your body).

How much you should drink every day

Ideally, you should empty your bladder 4 to 6 times in a 24-hour period. Emptying your bladder fully is very important to help prevent infections and keep your kidneys working properly. We recommend that you drink about 1.5 to 2 litres (3 to 4 pints or about 8 cups) of fluid a day. However, you need to drink more in hot weather or if you are very active.

If you do not drink enough fluid, your urine will be very concentrated (it will appear darker in colour). This can irritate your bladder and make you more likely to get a urinary tract infection (UTI) and need to pee more often.

You are also less likely to become constipated if you drink the recommended amount of fluid. This is because water increases the bulk of your poo (stool), making it easier to move through your bowel and pass out of your body.

Bladder problems


Cystitis is an inflammation (swelling) of your bladder lining. It can be caused by irritation, damage or an infection. Symptoms include:

  • a sharp pain when peeing
  • blood in your pee
  • back and stomach aches
  • the need to pee suddenly (referred to as urgency)
  • the need to pee more often than usual (referred to as frequency)

Bladder infections

A bladder infection is a type of urinary tract infection (UTI). A UTI is most commonly caused by bacteria from outside the body travelling up the urethra and into your bladder. One of the main symptoms of a bladder infection is cystitis. Other symptoms include:

  • dark, cloudy and smelly urine
  • a burning feeling or pain when peeing
  • not being able to empty your bladder completely

Drinking the recommended daily amount of fluid will help prevent bladder irritation and ease the symptoms of cystitis or bladder infections.


Some people have urinary incontinence (not able to control when they pee). There are a number of different types. 2 of the most common are:

  • Urge incontinence. This is when you have a sudden need to pee and leak before you are able to reach a toilet. This is often referred to as an overactive bladder.
  • Stress incontinence. This is when you leak small amounts of pee when you cough, laugh or exercise.

If you have incontinence, you may not feel comfortable increasing the amount you drink, in case it makes your symptoms worse and you leak more. Some people find that avoiding drinks that can affect your bladder can improve their symptoms, and they suffer less with frequency, urgency and stress incontinence. Bladder training or pelvic floor exercises can also help with incontinence. Please ask a member of staff for more information on these self-help methods.


Nocturia is where you wake up in the night and need to pee. Getting up to pee once a night is considered normal. However, this generally increases with age. It is normal to get up 2 times a night in your 70s and up to 4 times a night in your 90s.

If you have a lot of trouble with nocturia, reduce the amount you drink before you go to bed. For example, have your last drink at 8pm instead of 10pm. However, it is important that you are still drinking the recommended daily amount of fluid.

Drinks that can affect your bladder


Caffeine is found in tea, coffee, hot chocolate, cola and other fizzy drinks. It can make any symptoms of urgency or frequency worse because it relaxes the muscles in your pelvis and urethra. It can also reduce how long and how deeply you sleep, so you are more likely to wake up and need to pee at night.

Reduce the amount of caffeine you drink could improve your symptoms. You should have a maximum of 2 cups (250ml each) a day. If you decide to cut down, reduce the amount you drink gradually to avoid withdrawal symptoms such as headaches, drowsiness and irritability. Or, you could have decaffeinated versions of these drinks.

Fruit juices

Fruit juices, such as grapefruit and orange, are acidic and can irritate your bladder. They are best avoided if you have regular UTIs or an overactive bladder.

Grapefruit juice can interfere with the way your body responds to some medicines. If you drink grapefruit juice regularly and take medicines, check with your doctor or pharmacist if this is OK.

It is thought that cranberry juice can help prevent cystitis by stopping certain bacteria (such as E coli) from growing and multiplying in your bladder. This is because of a substance in the berries called "tannins". Some people also think that it may help if you have developed a UTI, although there is no firm evidence to support this.

If you have a catheter or regularly have a UTI, drinking cranberry juice may help to prevent further infections. Try drinking 1 glass (about 200ml) of cranberry juice 2 times a day. It may take up to 5 weeks for you to feel a difference.

Do not drink cranberry juice if you have arthritis, heartburn, irritable bowel syndrome or hiatus hernia, as this could make your symptoms worse.

Cranberry juice can also affect the way the medicine warfarin works and can make your blood thinner than it should be. Do not drink cranberry juice if you take warfarin medicine. If you have diabetes, discuss this with your doctor or dietitian before drinking, as it is high in sugar.

Herbal teas

Different herbal teas can affect you in different ways. Some (such as elderflower, rose, wild blackberry and nettle) have a diuretic effect. This means they increase your urge to pee, so you feel the need to go more often. If you have frequency or urgency, these herbal teas may make your symptoms worse.

Chamomile tea is thought to have antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties, so it may help you if you have cystitis. It can also help to prevent and relieve wind (flatulence). If you have indigestion, lemon and ginger tea might help you.


Alcohol can make pee more acidic and irritate the lining of your bladder. You may find it helpful to reduce the amount of alcohol you drink if you have regular UTIs or urge incontinence.

Fizzy drinks

Many fizzy drinks are high in sugar, which can encourage bacteria to grow. Therefore, if you have regular UTIs, try to reduce the amount of fizzy drinks you drink. You may also find it helps to reduce the amount of overall sugar in your diet. Look at the labels of the food that you eat, as many products contain added sugar.

Drinks that can affect your bowel

The type of fluids that you drink can also affect your bowel:

  • Acid-based drinks, such as orange, pineapple, cranberry and lemon juice, are best avoided if you have gut problems, such as irritable bowel syndrome.
  • Coffee has a laxative effect, so if you have loose poo or diarrhoea, you may want to reduce or stop drinking coffee. However, if you are constipated, it may help you to poo regularly again.
  • Herbal teas can help with different bowel problems. Ginger and peppermint teas may relieve wind and liquorice may relieve constipation. However, fruit teas such as rosehip, orange and rhubarb teas may cause diarrhoea.

Useful information

Bladder and Bowel UK

Offers advice and assistance from specially trained nurses. Helpline, phone: 0161 214 4591

Resource number 0015/VER6
Date published: February 2024
Review date: February 2027


Contact us

If you have any questions or concerns about your nocturia, please contact a GP or the clinical nurse specialist (CNS):

CNS, urogynaecology, phone: 020 7188 3671, Monday and Tuesday only

CNS, continence, phone:  020 7188 2083, Monday to Friday

CNS, functional urology, phone: 020 7188 6783, Monday to Friday

Do you have any comments or concerns about your care?

Contact our Patient Advice and Liaison Service (PALS)

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