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Interstitial Cystitis – the struggle for pain reduction


Interstitial Cystitis (IC) is a painful syndrome that effects women more commonly then men, especially women over 40 years of age. The symptoms include urgent and/or frequent urination, and pain of the bladder and pelvis.

Interstitial Cystitis has been theorized to be caused by an inflammatory process within the bladder which results in gaps or spaces in the bladder tissue. Individuals who suffer from interstitial cystitis often suffer from other conditions including chronic fatigue syndrome, irritable bowel syndrome, and fibromyalgia resulting in greater impact in the patient’s life (Transl Androl Urol. 2015 Dec;4(6):662-7. doi: 10.3978/j.issn.2223-4683.2015.08.08.)

Additional theories toward the cause of Interstitial Cystitis:

Mast Cell activation – these are immune cells that are potent mediators of histamine (more on histamine in my next blog), and other cytokines (cells linked to inflammation).  

Damage to glycosaminoglycane a protective layer lining the bladder and the urethra, this allows urine to permeate deeper tissues of the bladder, furthering inflammation and thus triggering pain.

Autoimmunity – research has been shown that auto-antibodies have been created to cells in the bladder and urethra resulting in tissue destruction.

There is no link established between microorganism infection and interstitial cystitis, which is frustrating to many women as they symptoms closely mimic a urinary tract infection.



Quercetin – a potent bioflavonoid naturally occurring in brightly coloured vegetables, fruits including apples and berries. It works by stabilizing mast cells, and decreasing inflammation. Quercetin in supplement form often allows for higher doses and increased availability, discuss the proper dose with your Naturopathic Doctor.

Alkaline diet – Many of the food triggers with interstitial cystitis are acidic in nature.  The list of the most common triggers includes: citrus fruit, coffee, tea, alcohol, artificial sweetners/additives.  Choosing a diet that minimizes these triggers, but also shifts the body toward an alkaline pH are key to controlling symptoms.

Physical Therapy –  Pelvic floor health is also closely related to IC, and many women benefit from care of a physiotherapist trained in pelvic floor health. This sometime includes behavioral techniques such as bladder retraining especially for individuals whose key symptom is frequency of urination.

Stress Reduction – Although a causal link has yet to be found between IC and stress, many of those effected will note a flare of symptoms, in times of acute stress.  Simple stress reduction exercises such as breathing, or mindfulness may go a long way.  Naturopathic Doctors have a wealth of information for supporting long term stress with nutrition, supplementation and botanical treatments.



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