“Diet” is sometimes seen as a nasty four-letter-word to us Americans. It brings to mind ideas about restricted access to foods we love and increased consumption of “boring” foods we don’t. But in reality, the primary definition of the word “diet” simply means the kinds of food that a person, animal or community habitually eats. I know I won’t shock you by saying that the habitual diet of the average American consists of a large amount of highly-processed “convenience” foods. We've all heard the news reports about the price we’re paying for this convenience – obesity, heart disease and Type 2 diabetes are all on the rise. As a urologist, I've also seen the price paid by patients in terms of their urological health. Here’s a snapshot of what our eating habits are doing to some important organs in our bodies, and more importantly, what we can do to change them.
Your kidneys are your body’s filtration system and when they don’t work at optimum levels, they play a part in some serious disease states, from high blood pressure to Type 2 diabetes. From a dietary perspective, two of the greatest enemies to healthy kidney function are too much salt and too much sugar. It’s probably obvious to you that a diet consisting of lots of candy, French fries and cupcakes will wreak havoc on your entire body. But you might be surprised to know that added sugar and sodium (in all of their forms and names) can lurk in some pretty “safe-looking” packages – from the bread you use to make that turkey sandwich, to the dressing you put on a healthy salad. One of the best things you can do to avoid this sneaky salt/sugar trap is to begin reading the nutrition labels on the packaged foods you purchase. If sugar or sodium is among the first few ingredients, look for a better alternative. Better yet, begin to overhaul your diet by trying to cut out most of the processed foods you eat. Replace them with whole foods like vegetables and fruit and recipes for some of your favorite foods that you can make yourself. That way, you’ll know exactly what you’re taking in.
Your bladder may be a waste receptacle and storage unit for urine, but it deserves a great deal of respect. Did you know that some of the foods you eat and the beverages you drink can have an effect on how well the muscles of the bladder perform? It’s true. Your bladder muscles are what help prevent you from leaking urine when you laugh or jump and they are also what help prevent prolapse of the bladder – a medical condition that causes the bladder to “fall” out of place. One of the best ways to keep your bladder healthy is by maintaining a healthy body weight, because too much weight can put a great deal of pressure on the bladder. The most effective way to do that is to maintain a healthy diet. In addition, over-consumption of beverages that contain alcohol or caffeine can irritate the bladder and abnormally increase its activity. Drinking anything in moderation is the key, even water. But do make sure you’re drinking enough. Too little water may cause constipation which also negatively impacts bladder function. Aim for about nine cups of water each day. While certain beverages can irritate the bladder, so to can some food types. Chocolate, spicy or acidic foods can also cause problems, especially in those people who are already prone to overactive bladder symptoms. If you think you might have an issue with your bladder, be sure to talk to a urologist about your concerns. If your diet may be a suspected cause, he or she can help put you on a plan to get to the bottom of the issue sooner rather than later.
A healthy diet rich in colorful vegetables and fruits, fiber and lean protein is essential for every function of your body, your urological organs included. These strong and important structures are just as important as your heart and your brain. The great news is that paying attention to what you eat can go a long way toward positive affects for your whole body – as well as your mind. Eat well to be well. Your body will thank you in the long run.