INTERSTITIAL CYSTITIS is a chronic, painful, inflammatory condition which affects the bladder and abdomen. In this article Ruth discusses what we can do to help relieve symptoms.

Interstitial Cystitis (IC) is a chronic inflammatory condition of the bladder wall. There is no one single significant cause, it is sometimes linked to autoimmune disease and can often be diagnosed as Painful Bladder Syndrome. Antibiotics are known to be non effective and each case has different underlying scenarios.


Main Symptoms

    • Pain – during urination as well as sexual intercourse. It can affect abdominal, urethral and vaginal areas.
    • Frequency – day and or night urination.
    • Urgency – The sensation is immediate and often accompanied with spasms, pain and or pressure.


Symptoms may feel similar to a urinary tract infection, however cultures show no bacterial growth, so taking antibiotics is not necessarily helpful.

Untreated IC can lead to scarring or stiffening of the bladder walls as well as an inability to hold urine in the bladder, hence the urgency signals.


Relevant Factors

Urine, because of its chemical content can be an irritant, hence pain during urination. Studies show that IC patients have a molecule called antiproliferative factor (APF). This inhibits the normal growth and repair to the bladder wall cells.


Urine also contains certain minerals which can filter into the bladder lining causing mast cell activation and the release of histamine, resulting in further inflammation and further possible damage.


Low levels of oestrogen can lead to thinning and drying of tissue and mast cell production (inflammation). Entering the menopause when oestrogen levels drop can worsen symptoms.


Mast cell production is linked to both pain and inflammation, both key players in IC. Mast cells are part of our natural immune system and are found within mucosal cells and connective tissue. The bladder glycosaminoglycan (GAG) layer is a mucosal tissue. When a mast cell is activated within GAG, the nerve system translates this trauma to the brain. Histamine is produced causing pain, inflammation, damage to the GAG layer and spasms to the bladder.




The contents of our urine are affected by our diet, introduce an alkaline, anti-inflammatory diet.


  • Caffeine in black tea and coffee is acidic and can cause irritation, coffee is also a diuretic so increases frequency. Opt for fennel, mint, chamomile, ginger teas or hot water with grated ginger. Avoid lemon.

  • Avoid tomatoes which are acidic and high in potassium known to irritate the bladder lining.

  • Avoid all juices including cranberry, they are acidic.

  • Drink plenty of natural filtered water to help flush out toxins.

  • Avoid gluten (wheat, oats, barley, rye) these can be highly inflammatory due to their gliadin content.

  • Avoid foods that promote yeast, in some cases IC is linked to a yeast overgrowth. Avoid vinegars, sugar, yeasts, malt, marmite.

  • Eat natural, unprocessed foods to include fruits, vegetables, quinoa, millet, buckwheat, seeds, unsalted nuts, beans, poultry and fish especially salmon, tuna, mackerel and sardines which are anti-inflammatory.

  • Avoid sugars as they are inflammatory, dairy products, fizzy drinks, alcohol, and citrus fruits.

  • Investigate food intolerances, these will promote inflammation.

  • Avoid tobacco, it constricts the bladder’s blood vessels making it harder to cleanse inflammatory substances from the bladder tissues.


    TREATMENT – Supplements


  • Probiotics – often in IC there is a yeast overgrowth, so restore normal flora to boost immunity and reduce inflammation.

  • Quercetin acts as an antioxidant to reduce damage and irritation and restore healing of the tissues. It does this by strengthening collagen and connective tissue as well as improving capillary health.

    Quercetin also acts as an effective anti-inflammatory agent and is very relevant in decreasing systemic allergic responses – namely by blocking histamine production from the mast cells.

    Quercetin containing foods are onions, broccoli and red apples.

  • Gotu Kola contains triterpenoid compounds which send anti-oxidants to damaged tissue as well as increasing blood flow of nutrients to the area, this dual action promotes wound and tissue healing. Specifically Gotu Kola stimulates the production of GAG and inhibits the production of scar tissue. This holds prominent action in the process of IC healing.

    Gotu Kola acts as a cooling agent, where there is a histamine reaction, heat is evident. The Chinese refer to IC as having a damp heat.

    Gotu Kola increases blood flow, this increases healing nutrient transport to traumatised tissue, it also helps to clean the blood and lymph tissue of any impurities.

    It is significantly high in minerals such as sodium, magnesium, calcium, zinc, chromium and selenium. These help to alkalinise the body and support healing.

    Gotu Kola is linked to strengthening the immune system by stimulating the formation of new blood cells by coating certain bacteria so the immune system can remove them.

  • D Mannose, consider if there is an underlying E coli infection. E coli is a clever bacteria, its fingerlike projections, known as glycoproteins cling to the wall of the bladder preventing it being flushed away in urine. Enter D Mannose, which sticks to the E coli, coating it so it cannot cling to the bladder wall and is flushed away in the urine.


    Other Factors to Consider

    Physical Therapy – Sufferers of IC often have severe pelvic floor dysfunction, this can cause the muscles to tighten prohibiting easy urination. Physical therapy to rehabilitate the pelvic floor can help to ease the pain of IC. Discuss options with your osteopath and pilates instructor.


    Further research is needed in this area, as IC is often misdiagnosed and the sufferer is left in the dark. Start by discovering your triggers and follow an alkalinising, anti-inflammatory diet.

    Supplementary support is well worth considering and seek professional support.




© Ruth Pretty 2011