Interstitial cystitis (IC) is diagnosis involving bladder pain or pressure with lower urinary tract symptoms. In some people, there is disruption of the bladder lining, called Hunner’s lesions.
It is theorized that bladder pain may arise from urine coming into contact with the bladder tissue through the disruptions of the bladder lining. The bladder is lined with glycosaminoglycan (GAG), or commonly called the “GAG layer”.
What is the GAG Layer of the Bladder?
The GAG layer is a mucus-like layer that protects the epithelial cells of the bladder from acids and irritating toxins in the urine. It is however known that many people experience intense bladder pain with bladder filling without visible lesions in the bladder lining.
There are many treatments available for IC ranging from medications and urological treatments such as bladder instillations, to pelvic physical therapy and natural supplements. Many people benefit from utilizing a multimodal treatment strategy involving some or all the above methods.
Supplements to help manage the symptoms of IC include L-arganine, Omega-3 fish oil, Quercetin, and Aloe Vera capsules. L-arganine, Omega-3 and Quercetin all help to reduce overall inflammation in the bladder and surrounding tissues which is thought to be a possible driver of pain for people with IC.
Aloe vera capsules have been found to actually help improve the integrity of the GAG lining of the bladder.
How Aloe Vera Helps to Treat Symptoms of Interstitial Cystitis
Aloe vera capsules are thought to help restore the GAG layer of the bladder, healing Hunner’s leasions, and thereby helping reduce pain by rebuilding the protective layer. By nature, aloe vera is noted to be antibiotic, analgesic, antibacterial, antifungal, anesthetic, antiseptic, anti-viral, anti-microbial, and anti-inflammatory.
Aloe vera is thought to stimulate the growth of healthy new cells faster than the average natural growth rate. It also assists in breakdown of old or dead cells, thus enhancing normal cell proliferation.
Additionally, aloe vera contains acemannan1, which is a polysaccharide chain of mannose molecules. Some evidence2 suggests that mannose may also prevent urinary tract infections (UTIs) or address symptoms of UTI.
This evidence suggests that mannose may prevent some forms of bacteria from adhering to the bladder walls. Scientists believe that the bacteria stick to the sugar instead. This helps the bacteria leave the body through urine. Fewer bacteria in the bladder lowers the risk of urinary tract infection.
Finally, aloe is most known for its ability to sooth injured, itchy, and sensitive skin. Aloe contains vitamins B1, B2, C, E, magnesium, calcium, and zinc to further nourish healthy cells. Naturally occurring polysaccharides and fatty acids acemannan, campesterol, b-sitosterol, plant sterols help to relieve inflammation and decrease the sensation of pain in the bladder.
Managing Symptoms of IC
Ultimately, management of IC is a highly individualized program. Many people benefit from a combination of medication, pelvic floor physical therapy, and using Aloe vera supplements to help keep pain at bay and improve their overall quality of life. It is beneficial to discuss with a doctor the use of supplements over medications to determine best fit.
- Sierra-García, Gerardo Daniel, et al. "Acemannan, an extracted polysaccharide from Aloe vera: A literature review." Natural product communications 9.8 (2014): 1934578X1400900836.
- Altarac, Silvio, and Dino Papeš. "Use of D-mannose in prophylaxis of recurrent urinary tract infections (UTIs) in women." BJU Int 113.1 (2014): 9-10.