Bedwetting, enuresis, urinary urgency, urinary incontinence in children, adults and dogs

Introduction - foods and food chemicals associated with bedwetting and incontinence
Reader reports

Cutting down and bedwetting
Diet and bedwetting
Artificial colours and bedwetting
Preservatives and incontinence in a dog
Propionates (bread preservative 282), bedwetting and daytime bladder control
Propionates and incontinence in an adult
Salicylates and bedwetting
Amines and bedwetting
Benzoates and bedwetting
Dairy food, day and night pants wetting
Soy and bedwetting

Scientific references
More information

Keywords: bedwetting, diurnal enuresis, urinary urgency, incontinence



Symptoms covered in this factsheet are bedwetting, nocturnal and/or diurnal enuresis, urinary urgency and incontinence in children, adults and dogs.

Any food or food chemical that can cause symptoms of food intolerance such as rashes or children's behaviour problems can also cause bedwetting or urinary urgency.

To find out which food chemicals are causing the problem, we recommend an elimination diet that avoids 50 additives, natural chemicals called salicylates, amines and glutamates, and if symptoms are severe, dairy foods and/or wheat and gluten. See more about this in our Introduction to food intolerance factsheet.

  • any of the usual nasty additives - including 282, the bread preservative
  • salicylates - you can cut down on salicylates by drinking water instead of fruit juice or cordial, and avoiding some of the highest foods - citrus, tomatoes, broccoli and grapes, and reducing fruit intake. Or you can do the full diet. For more ideas, see one of my books
  • dairy foods - some people who have problems with regular cows’ milk find they are OK with A2 milk. Others may need to switch to soy or ricemilk.

Often bedwetting clears up within days of starting the diet, although for some children, the diet is not enough. In this case, parents who find the bell and pad system has previously not worked, say that that it works quickly and easily in conjunction with diet.

Reader reports

See 18 page story collection on encopresis, sneaky poos/poohs, soiling, wetting, incontinent
(includes those below)

Cutting down and bedwetting

[680] Nocturnal enuresis (bedwetting) due to diet (September 2008)

We have seen some huge improvements in my 6-year-old son’s nocturnal enuresis. He had not had any dry nights since he was 3 years old. After making the changes below he started to have some dry nights (3-4 a week). Now he has been dry for the last 9 nights.

  • we have started him on A2 milk
  • we used to have a jug of diluted orange juice in the fridge, now the kids drink mainly water with the occasional magic cordial.
  • he was eating broccoli almost every night and we have not had any for 4 weeks now
  • I have been more diligent in not buying any products with preservative 282 in it
  • generally more aware of products full of additives, colours and preservatives since hearing you speak and reading your books
  • our son did love to eat salami and ham (deli), so he has not had this for 4 weeks.

His bladder capacity is so much bigger and he can hold on for longer in the day. His mood swings are virtually resolved and you can reason with him if he wants something that is not appropriate, food or otherwise. My husband and I can both see that he is more confident in himself and sociable, making him a lovely child to be around. He usually has redipred once or twice in winter for exacerbation of asthma symptoms, but so far has not required any this winter, despite having a cold last week, so that is looking positive. Thank you for motivating me to review what I was putting in my family’s mouths. We don't have access to fast foods living in the country, so that was never an issue. With a few simple changes to my son's diet, the improvements have been remarkable. – Paula, NSW

[352] ‘So much calmer’ (Nov 2004)

First of all let me tell you how wonderful it was to find your website and help our 4 1/2 year old son (and the rest of us) lead a much more ‘normal’ life. He's had horrible symptoms of terrible mood swings, off and on stuttering, biting, spitting, banging his head against the wall, excessive bedwetting, an extremely loud voice that he couldn't control, big ‘saucer’ eyes with clenched teeth while running at me to kick and bite me, would go into hysterics when I would ask him to do the simplest of tasks such as dressing himself, pulling his hair hard enough to yank it out of head (and his 14 month old sister's), screaming every name at me he knew, running behind me from across the room gaining momentum to head butt me as hard as he could in the back and spine and as we give him a much needed nap during the day he can't fall asleep until 11:00 pm or midnight!

I’ve ordered your book but until it arrives I've been making some really wonderful meals and snacks for my son just from the info on your website… Since introducing the new diet, he's been basically a new, happier little boy and the mood around the house is SO MUCH CALMER. - USA

Diet and bedwetting

[655] 'She screamed most of the time' - behaviour and bedwetting (September 2008)

I can't express how elated my entire family was to discover failsafe eating about five years ago. We have all benefited especially my granddaughter Zoe who was around three (and eating lots of bread with 282) at the time and out of control. She screamed most of the time, threw tantrums, tried to hurt her baby sister, threw anything within her reach, was so angry with the world and wet the bed most nights. My daughter who was a single mum at the time would ring me up in despair and I would go and help her to give her a break. One day Zoe just sat on the floor and screamed and screamed. I asked her what was the matter, why was she so sad and she said she didn't know she just couldn't stop crying. ... full story on website

Artificial colours and bedwetting

[606] One liners (February 2008)

Attention to preservatives and colours, particularly in sweets, like Neapolitan ice cream, jelly and flavoured milk has resolved my son’s bedwetting problem. – reader, NSW

Preservatives and incontinence in a dog

[1250] Incontinence in dog fixed by diet (December 2013)       

My children have been following a failsafe lifestyle for quite a few years due to behavioural issues and weve found it has improved our quality of life significantly.
Our little dog has been incontinent for about 3 years and has been progressively getting worse.  She has been on medication for about 2 years to help, but lately its been getting less and less effective.  Im not sure why I hadn't thought of it earlier, but about 2 months ago, I looked at her diet and found that all of her food had preservatives in it.  I decided to experiment and changed her diet to a natural brand from the pet shop.  For the first time in years, she has stopped leaving little puddles all over the house and has now also been medication free for the last month.  She is calmer too now… no more running around fretting when there’s a thunder storm. What a relief!
Thank you for changing our life once again!!  - Cristi, NSW

Propionates (bread preservative 282), bedwetting and daytime bladder control

[596] From ‘severe inattentive ADD’ to ‘normal’ due to diet (November 2007)

In 2006 my quiet 7 year old daughter was diagnosed by her paediatrician as having severe inattentive ADD. He offered Ritalin to help the symptoms. I was not comfortable giving her this as a first step because in the 2 weeks since our last appointment I had read 10 books and scanned the net. A common theme kept coming up. If your child has an intolerance to a food group there is a likelihood of more than one intolerance which can lead to behavioural issues. I felt I had to investigate this before trying medication because we already knew she had a dairy intolerance as a baby.

I chose to follow the Fed Up elimination diet. Following are the results when food groups or additives were re-introduced:

  • Colours - anger followed by tears, inattention, lack of concentration, memory loss, head banging and rocking
  • MSG/635/Glutamates - nausea and stomach cramps
  • Benzoates - aggression
  • Antioxidants - 310-312, 319-320 - nightmares and trouble going to sleep and staying asleep
  • Propionates 282 - bedwetting and daytime bladder control issues
  • Dairy - nausea, stomach cramping, diarrhea, inattention, fatigue
  • Soy - stomach aches

It has been 14 months since adapting to my daughter’s dietary needs. She has been reassessed for ADD with a normal outcome. Her school work has progressed. She is able to concentrate. She can tie her shoes, hold a knife and fork, remember her phone number, ride a bike, and skip a rope. She is able to follow multiple directions and hold attention to the task at hand. She has friends. We have also discovered she is a budding artist.

Through dietary changes we helped many of our daughter’s physical and behavioral issues including fatigue, tearfulness, emotional outbursts, inattention, lack of short term memory, lack of application at school, bedwetting, vaginal irritation, rash, insatiable appetite, imbalance and clumsiness (she could not ride a bike, skip, hop), nausea and stomach cramps.

My daughter did not need medication. She has food intolerances. As grandma said ‘Whatever you are doing keep doing it. She is a different child’ - Trudi, NSW

Propionates and incontinence in an adult

[338] One liners (July 2004)

We gave up 282 preservatives in bread after reading your book ‘Fed up’ about two years ago within a week my wife was free of urinary incontinence and over a period of about three months I was able to give up all asthma medications. readers aged 60 and 56

Salicylates and bedwetting

[578] Tics related to salicylates in summer fruits (September 2007)

My son very suddenly developed mild facial (rapid blinking eye and lip biting) and vocal tics (sounds like a quiet grunt or throat clearing sound) at a time when I think his hyper/silly behaviour and other food intolerance symptoms escalated, probably in response to his increased consumption of summer fruits, salads and juices. Other symptoms included: loud voice, bed wetting, sinusitis, teeth grinding. All of his favourite foods were high in salicylates: strawberries, apricots, rockmelon, tomato, cucumber, capsicum, broccoli, vegemite, spag bol, apple juice etc. His diet contained few foods with colourings, flavourings and preservatives as I've always tried to encourage "healthy" foods which he has been very willing to eat.

We noticed some improvement (in behaviour, bed wetting, teeth grinding but not tics) over a week just by changing fruits to pears and bananas, stopping vegemite and tomatoes and switching to low sal veges and Bakers Delight bread. We visited a dietitian and Joe (not his real name) started on the elimination diet. He had a very obvious reaction to sals - hyper like I've never seen him within about 4 hours of starting the challenge. I wouldn't have believed it but my parents witnessed the reaction too! When they visited, he was his usual self, undertaking some quiet activities requiring concentration (jigsaw puzzles, colouring etc), chatting and on his (usual) best behaviour. Within about an hour and half of their arrival he changed into this wild, racing, hyper thing heart racing, unable to stand still, almost a "mad" look in his eyes, silly silly silly etc...the worst of it finished within about two hours and he basically collapsed exhausted and couldn't even stay up to wait for dinner guests that he had been looking forward to seeing. Very strange but so similar to the stories I've read on your web site.

We didn't manage any other challenges before Christmas - felt it too unfair to restrict his diet so severely during the holidays, although I did continue to restrict sals and he doesn't eat many processed, flavoured or coloured foods anyway. We continued along on this basis, watching his sals intake over a day and over a week, and the tic went completely. His behaviour was much more predictable and stable and very much like the boy I know. He is still bed wetting although I am convinced it is worse when he has had sals (e.g. salad) in his dinner and this seems to be improving, particularly since we have been focusing consistently on his sals intake. Teeth grinding and sinusitis very improved. So I am absolutely committed to continuing our new approach to Joe's diet as we really have seen some big improvements. - by emails over a period of 3 months.

[975] Bedwetting and salicylates (July 2006)

I have got a 10 yo who is hyperactive and an 8 yo who wets the bed. I recently browsed your website and was astounded with what I found. I was feeding my children with additives just in their sandwiches every day from the bread to the cheese without even realising. I recently changed their toothpaste to a mint one and couldn't understand why one of my children was off this planet with behavioural problems and the other was wetting the bed a lot more. I would never have linked the problems to the toothpaste. I read about salicylates in the mint toothpaste and stopped immediately. The bed wetter has improved already. We have cut additives out of our diet and it seems that as long as we limit the amount of salicylates in fruit and vegetables that he eats, he doesn't wet the bed. – Tania, by email

Amines and bedwetting

[447] ‘Fear of the dark’ really a food reaction (August 2006)

We started the diet nearly a year ago for my son, a sweet 5 year old who would become an aggressive, extremely hyperactive and an emotional monster nearly every day. I saw you on A Current Affair and after taking muesli bars and sultanas (which I had thought were healthy) out of his diet I noticed most of his aggressive behaviour disappear.

After that we started the full diet and not only did our son become an angel, we noticed that our daughter was a very strong amine reactor, becoming uncontrollably emotional, depressed and ‘full on’, as well as having frequent nightmares and bedwetting. Unfortunately since we have moved 2 months ago our son has gone backwards fast, I now think as a result of amines in meat from new butchers. It is so upsetting to see all the progress disappear, and he has had HUGE problems at school this term. I have traveled back to our old butchers to stock up on meat and am started to see some improvement after one week. ... see the full story on the website

Benzoates and bedwetting

[403] 210: Benzoates are his worst enemy (March 2006)

My 4.5yr old son has been our biggest challenge. All his problems are proving to be food related – it’s amazing. His issues are aggression, ODD, poor impulse control, argumentative, continual congestion and ear infections (2 lots of grommets), continual rashes, blotches, sore tummies, burning anus, bloating, bedwetting etc, all of which are being controlled now by diet. We had been giving him decongestants, antihistamines, nasal sprays and antibiotics since the day I stopped breastfeeding him at 6 months ... He was a wild little boy but we've now found out that benzoates are his worst enemy. His nose his dry now and needs no medication. – by email, NSW

Dairy foods, day and night pants wetting

[363] Vulnerable new mothers (March 2005)

Before the diet, my son presented with headaches, itchy skin (in elbows, on legs, usually scratching until it bleeds), black circles under his eyes, "jumpy" behaviour, irritability, day and night pants wetting, pains in the tummy and awful loose bowel motions, blocked ears and sleep apnoea as well as incessant snorting and inability to breathe at night. As a baby he had eczema, colic, could not sleep and fussed with breast milk from 4 months ... somebody needs to support vulnerable new mothers to help their fussy kids, not make it worse by shoving disguised dairy foods (or whatever the particular issue is) down their throats, and then advise the mother to let them scream it out because they obviously have us fooled with sleeping and behaviour problems! – by email

[977] Two brief reports: Stopped wetting her pants (October 2010)

A week after starting failsafe my eldest (3 1/2yr old) stopped wetting her pants which was nothing short of a miracle and has now gone to bed two nights in a row without a nappy!! – Anna, Vic

My 5 year old has a bladder problem. When she has to go toilet, she has to go NOW or she will leak and wet her pants. We saw a dietitian and started the diet 3 weeks ago. We are dairy free and are going into our 4th week now. We have seen great changes, in all three children. I'm doing the diet too and feel better, less stressed, more patience. Our daughter has had 7 dry nights in a row ... Wendy, Perth

[976] Dry nights and baby’s less frequent dirty nappies on diet (July 2008)

We saw a dietitian and started the elimination diet (including dairy free) 3 weeks ago. We have seen great changes in our children. Our daughter has had 7 dry nights in a row, she is less hyper, less defiant, eczema looks better, no runny nose. Our baby is having less frequent dirty nappies (yeah!). So as you can see it is working for us so far. – Wendy, WA

Soy and bedwetting

[702] Diet not working 100 per cent - another soy intolerance story (November 2008)

We have had a major breakthrough with my nine-year-old daughter. Over a year ago we did the elimination diet for her and worked out what her intolerances were - severe for dairy, moderate to severe for salicylates, mild for amines and reacted to all the additives. I wrote to you some time back noting that my daughter who had finally started drinking soy milk (in fact she was guzzling it down), was bed wetting again and old behaviours were returning. You asked if she was OK with soy. So we removed soy (or so we thought) and the bedwetting stopped, unless she consumed anything with soy flour in it ... see full story on the website

Scientific references

Egger J and others. Effect of diet treatment on enuresis in children with migraine or hyperkinetic behavior. Clin Pediatr (Phila). 1992;31(5):302-7. In this study, 21 children with had migraine or ADHD which was successfully treated by diet also suffered from nocturnal and/or diurnal enuresis.

On diet, the enuresis stopped in 12 of these children and improved in an additional four. In eight of the 12 children who recovered on the oligoantigenic diet and in the four who improved, reintroduction of one or more foods to which they were sensitive provoked a reproducible relapse of the enuresis. Nine children were subjected to a placebo-controlled, double-blind reintroduction of provoking foods.

Dengate S, Ruben A. Controlled trial of cumulative behavioural effects of a common bread preservative. J Paediatr Child Health. 2002;38(4):373-6. This is the study I did in Darwin with 27 children. Although we were looking at behaviour I was very surprised at how bedwetting cleared up too and reappeared during challenges. I was doing a house visit when I witnessed first hand that one 5 yo boy who had been dry during the elimination diet had was not only bedwetting but suffered from daytime incontinence as well – since the challenges were double blind and placebo controlled I didn’t know whether he was eating the bread preservative or not – when the codes were broken it turned out he had been, and another 5 year old girl was the same.

More information


Books by Sue Dengate: Fed Up and The Failsafe Cookbook by Sue Dengate, also available in libraries and bookstores

The information given is not intended as medical advice. Always consult with your doctor for underlying illness. Before beginning dietary investigation, consult a dietician with an interest in food intolerance. You can see our list of experienced and supportive dietitians

© Sue Dengate November 2010