Interstitial cystitis (IC) is a bladder condition that causes pelvic and bladder pain, a burning sensation when urinating, and often results in discomfort during intercourse.
The pain and irritation associated with interstitial cystitis generally require an ongoing treatment plan. However, there are recommended natural remedies and minor lifestyle changes that can also help manage symptoms.
Will Diet & Nutrition for Interstitial Cystitis Help?
While there is no concrete Interstitial Cystitis diet, the first thing most holistic practitioners will recommend when managing Interstitial Cystitis flare-ups is to keep a food diary.
Certain foods like caffeine, sugar, citrus fruits, tomatoes, soda, alcohol, carbohydrates, and processed fats are thought to inflame the bladder.
Keeping a diary and eliminating the foods that trigger pain in the bladder can significantly help in reducing discomfort. Trigger foods will vary from person to person and working with a nutritionist can be a great resource in finding the right eating plan.
Pelvic Physical Therapy
As with many chronic pain conditions, the brain can eventually re-wire itself to expect pain. This leads IC patients to unintentionally tightening pelvic floor muscles, thus increasing pelvic tension, and making urination even more uncomfortable.
Physical therapy for the pelvic floor centers around techniques to reduce pelvic floor muscle restriction including manual therapy to pelvic area, trigger point release therapy, exercises, and biofeedback. By releasing the tension from the pelvic muscles, physical therapy has been proven to reduce inflammation and restore pelvic muscles to function more normally.
In fact, pelvic floor physical therapy is the only treatment that improves Interstitial Cystitis symptoms to have been awarded an ‘A’ grade by the American Urological Association.
Self-Care & Massage
Self-care and self-massage are two natural remedies that can enhance physical therapy treatment for Interstitial Cystitis. Foam rolling can help release trigger points in the muscles and aid in restoring normal muscle length and function.
Pelvic wands such as the patented Intimate Rose pelvic wand specifically designed by a physical therapist also help to relieve trigger points in the pelvic floor muscles, especially the deep and hard-to-reach muscles like the obturator internus and puborectalis.
Speak with your physical therapist about self-massage techniques & tools for more guidance with regard to this remedy.
Aloe Vera Supplement
Aloe Vera is highly recommended by many OB/GYNs to help keep IC flare-ups to a minimum. With its natural anti-inflammatory, antibiotic, and anti-fungal properties aloe vera is helping Interstitial Cystitis sufferers in a variety of ways.
When ingested in capsule form, aloe vera helps to rebuild the glucosaminoglycan - the protective layer of the bladder more commonly known as the GAG layer, which can often be damaged in IC patients.
In addition, aloe vera supplements are thought to soothe the burning sensation associated with Interstitial Cystitis and lower the frequent urge to urinate. For external use, aloe vera gel can be mixed with warm water to provide a cleansing wash of the intimate areas.
Heat & Cold Therapy
Depending on the type of flare-up, the application of heat and cold therapy can prove helpful in reducing the pain and inflammation linked to Interstitial Cystitis.
Bladder wall flare-ups, generally characterized by a feeling of razor blades scraping the bladder, react well to applying heat pads or hot water bottles to the pelvic area.
The same can be said for muscle flare-ups, which is when the bladder muscles spasm and cause an aching feeling in the bladder, as well as tight spasms in the pelvic floor.
A pelvic floor flare-up – generally the result of sexual intercourse, sitting for a long time, horseback riding, or riding a bike - can be soothed by placing a frozen water bottle wrapped in a protective layer to the urethra. The cold pack numbs the area and reduces inflammation.
Stress & Relaxation
Stress, which seems to have become part of modern life, has an inflammatory reaction in the body, which is not good news for IC sufferers.
However, reducing stress levels will ultimately relieve inflammation of the bladder and pelvic muscles. Meditation, guided relaxation, or low-impact exercises like yoga not only help to reduce stress levels in the mind but allow the physical body to relax too.
For example, laying on the floor with the lower legs up on a chair for 10-15 minutes a day reduces inflammation in the pelvic muscles while simultaneously relaxing the mind and its expectation of pain.
In addition, IC sufferers who have previously had their pain downplayed, due to a misdiagnosis or misunderstanding of the condition, can experience higher stress levels. Joining a support group for IC patients, or meeting with a therapist can help verify symptoms as real, thereby releasing any doubt-related stress.
New studies examining the use of natural remedies for Interstitial Cystitis are ongoing, however, preliminary findings are positive and proving very beneficial in managing symptoms. It is also important to note that everyone is different and a natural remedy that works for one might not work for others.
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/
National Center For Biotechnology – Current Best Practice Management of Interstitial Cystitis/Bladder Pain Syndrome - https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6048622/