Although what causes interstitial cystitis is yet to be determined, various studies have found a definitive link between IC symptoms and diet. In this article, we’ll explain how to start an interstitial diet that will help you to avoid trigger foods, as well as some extra tips to soothe any IC flare-ups.
Interstitial cystitis (IC) is a bladder condition that causes pelvic and bladder pain or discomfort. It is usually accompanied by a frequent urge to urinate, as well as a burning sensation while urinating, and often results in discomfort during intercourse.
Triggers can include specific foods, strenuous exercise, certain medications, stress, and fluctuations in hormones.
While there is no cure for IC, ongoing management plans focused on dietary & lifestyle changes are proving to significantly relieve symptoms and allow for a relatively pain-free life.
Does An Interstitial Cystitis Diet Help Relieve Symptoms?
Currently there is not one distinct diet for all people with IC but identifying food and drink triggers is imperative. In a 2007 study, for example, over 90% of participants found that their symptoms worsened after eating certain foods. What these trigger foods are will vary from person to person.
And working with a nutritionist can be a great resource in finding the right eating plan. But with some patience and commitment, it is also possible to do it on your own.
How to Start an Interstitial Cystitis Diet
Before beginning a management diet for IC, it is important to understand that every individual is different and one diet will not work for everyone. So the first thing to do is to start a food diary.
Foods that inflame the bladder are thought to act as triggers for IC flare-ups. These generally include processed foods, citrus fruits, soy products, sugar, sweeteners, and spicy food. Certain vegetables, dairy products, and grains can also cause inflammation in the bladder.
Keeping a diary and eliminating the foods that trigger inflammation of your bladder will not only reduce discomfort but will also allow you to create a list of your unique trigger foods.
Start by eating what you usually eat. Then begin to record the foods that instigate IC symptoms like pelvic pain, urge to urinate, or a burning sensation when peeing. Make a list of these foods and the symptoms they cause. If the symptoms are grave enough to disturb your day-to-day life, avoid eating them.
Foods to Avoid With IC
Here’s a list from nutritionists outlining trigger foods for IC:
Meat & Fish
- Cured meats like pepperoni, salami & ham
- Canned or processed meat like sliced sandwich meats, canned crab, hot dogs, bacon & sausages
- Smoked fish
- Any processed foods containing artificial additives or sweeteners
- Onions, tomatoes, chili peppers, pickles, sauerkraut, soybeans & tofu
- Berries (including cranberries), lemons, limes, oranges & grapefruit
- Cantaloupe, grapes, kiwi, melon, papaya, nectarines, & passion fruit
- Pineapple, star fruit, strawberries & raisins
- All dried fruit using preservatives
- Bread made with processed ingredients
- Soy Flour
- Pre-made & processed rice meals
- Pre-made & processed pasta meals
- Alcohol, fizzy water, vitamin water, any kind of sodas, diet drinks, powdered drinks, energy drinks & Kool-Aid
- Cranberry juice, orange juice, lemon juice, lemonade & acai berry juice
- Chocolate milk & soy milk
- Regular & decaf coffee, herbal tea, green tea & iced tea
Foods & Drinks That Relieve Interstitial cystitis
While it is best to avoid any trigger foods or drinks that instigate bladder discomfort, some foods and drinks can alleviate symptoms associated with IC, as well as improve the overall health of the bladder.
Below is a list of the best foods & drinks to relieve IC symptoms:
- Water – drinking 1-2 liters of water per day will help the bladder to flush any irritants.
- Chamomile & peppermint tea are soothing non-caffeinated drinks to relax the bladder.
- Leafy green & root vegetables like kale, spinach, cabbage, sweet potatoes, carrots & cauliflower can be safely eaten with unprocessed meats during IC flare-ups to avoid any further irritation to the bladder.
- Low or non-acidic fruits like pear, blueberries & bananas are healthy snacks for the bladder
- Garlic & turmeric are both natural anti-inflammatory spices. Adding them to hot drinks or when cooking food will help to relieve bladder discomfort.
Extra Tips & Supplements for Interstitial Cystitis Relief
Along with an interstitial cystitis-friendly diet, some healthy lifestyle changes and natural supplements can offer additional help in improving IC symptoms.
Stress can cause IC flares-ups as well as certain foods. So try some slow yoga to relax the pelvic floor muscles. Adding morning or evening meditation to your routine will help manage stress too.
Evidence from recent studies shows that aloe vera supplements, such as the Freeze Dried Aloe Vera For Interstitial Cystitis from Intimate Rose are proving effective in treating IC symptoms.
Aloe vera’s natural anti-inflammatory, antibiotic, and anti-fungal properties act to soothe the burning sensation. It can also help to regenerate the protective layer of the bladder more commonly known as the GAG layer, which can often be damaged in IC patients.
Physical therapy for the pelvic floor may include manual therapy to the pelvic area, specific stretches and exercises, trigger point release therapy, and nerve pain relief. By releasing the tension from the pelvic muscles, physical therapy has been proven to reduce inflammation and restore pelvic muscles to function more normally.
Heat pads or hot water bottles help to ease the pain that feels like razor blades scraping the bladder during IC flare-ups
An ice pack or frozen water bottle wrapped in a protective layer can help soothe pelvic floor pain. Apply the cold pack to the urethra to numb the area and reduce inflammation.
Although painful and uncomfortable when it flares up, IC can be improved by adhering to an anti-inflammatory or interstitial cystitis diet. By identifying and eliminating trigger foods, women can dramatically improve IC symptoms as well as their lifestyle.
In addition to diet, it is also recommended to manage exercise choices and stress levels when it comes to interstitial cystitis. If considering a natural supplement like aloe vera, always consult with your doctor regarding any other medications you might be taking.
National Center for Biotechnology Information - Effect of comestibles on symptoms of interstitial cystitis - https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17499305/
National Center for Biotechnology Information - Impact of behavior and lifestyle on bladder health - https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23679903/
Science Direct - The therapeutic effect of modulating the NLRP3- regulated transforming growth factors signaling pathway on interstitial cystitis/bladder pain syndrome - https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0753332221003073
American Urological Association – Diagnosis & Treatment Interstitial Cystitis/Bladder Pain Syndrome - https://www.auanet.org/guidelines/guidelines/interstitial-cystitis-(ic/bps)-guideline
Urology Care Foundation – Effect of Diet on Interstitial Cystitis - https://www.urologyhealth.org/healthy-living/urologyhealth-extra/magazine-archives/summer-2016/effect-of-diet-on-interstitial-cystitis
National Center For Biotechnology Information – An Update on Treatment Options for Interstitial Cystitis - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7258371/