Interstitial cystitis is also known as painful bladder syndrome. That name already lets you know that this condition can be painful and frustrating to deal with. If you haven’t heard of it before, interstitial cystitis or IC is a chronic condition characterized by bladder pain, pressure and/or discomfort. IC mostly affects more women than men. It does not always have a clear cause which means that it is not always preventable. Fortunately, it can be managed quite effectively with natural treatments.
How Is IC Different From A UTI?
The symptoms of IC are very similar to a UTI. They include:1
- a burning sensation when urinating
- a seemingly constant need to urinate
- frequent urination throughout the day in small amounts(upto even 60 times a day)
These symptoms can range from mild to severe. The difference is that UTI’s are caused by bacteria and are often treated with antibiotics. In the case of IC, the urine does not produce any culture of bacteria and antibiotics do not have any effect. IC is also accompanied by pelvic pain and pain during sexual intercourse. It is also a chronic condition, unlike a UTI.
Natural Options To Treat IC
Most patients are prescribed some form of medication to counter these symptoms. However, research shows that there are natural ways to control and manage IC without the use of medication.2
Gardenia a Chinese herb, has been shown to be quite effective when dealing with symptoms of IC. It is often sold as tea or as pills. Patients who suffered from this condition noticed a significant decrease in pain after they had regularly taken the supplement for 4 weeks. Others noticed a change after 3 months of taking the supplement.
2. Aloe Vera
Commonly used for skin ailments and hair remedies, aloe vera can also be useful when dealing with bladder inflammation. A small study using pills of concentrated aloe vera showed that IC patients noticed a significant reduction in burning symptoms and pain.
Quercitin which is a flavonoid has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties which may help combat the inflammation. A small study noticed that quercitin had a positive effect on IC symptoms for more than half the participants in the study. Quercitin is easily found in foods like seeds, olive oil, tea, and red wine. Add more of these foods to your diet.
Arginine is an essential amino acid that we get from protein sources like turkey, chicken, lentils, soya beans, and chickpeas. This amino acid is then converted into nitrogen in our bodies. These specific forms of nitrogen have antibacterial, smooth-muscle relaxing, and hormone-releasing properties which can treat the symptoms of IC. Studies show that some patients experience a decrease in pain and frequency of urination after treatment with arginine. Include these protein-rich foods in your diet to experience the difference
5. Pelvic Muscle Exercises
IC patients may experience pelvic floor dysfunction where the pelvic floor muscles become weak, resulting in many problems such as incontinence and pain during intercourse. Pelvic muscle exercises help keep these muscles toned and strong.
6. Bladder Training
Bladder training is a form of exercise where the patient prolongs the intervals between needing to empty the bladder. Through relaxation techniques and pelvic exercises, one can try to increase the interval by about 15 minutes every week. This trains the bladder to wait for longer intervals between going to the bathroom.
Foods To Avoid
All of these are common bladder irritants which you should ideally avoid.3
- Spicy foods
- Citrus Fruits
- Pickled foods
Avoid foods that seem to irritate you specifically. This may include gluten which can cause inflammation or yeast-containing/ promoting foods which can contribute to yeast infections and worsen the condition. Pay attention to what food or drink makes your symptoms worse.
Other Useful Tips
1. Get Hormone Levels Tested
Hormonal imbalances may cause further inflammation, so get yourself tested and consult your physician with the results.
2. Keep A Bladder Diary
Keep track of when and how frequently you urinate. You can also include ratings of your pain levels throughout the day. Doing this will help your doctor assess how severe the condition is and what kind of treatment to pursue. You can also see for yourself if your treatments are effective this way.
3. Lower Stress
Stress may cause a flare-up of IC so try and keep stress levels low. Use meditation, yoga, or aromatherapy to help you unwind.
IC can be frustrating and painful to deal with. These natural methods of managing it can help alleviate some of that discomfort and help you go about your daily routine with minimal disruption.