Interstitial cystitis is a frustrating condition that often doesn’t respond to conventional medical treatments. Not surprisingly, many people suffering turn to alternative remedies to relieve their bladder pain and constant urge to urinate. Below are some of the best natural treatments for interstitial cystitis.
Some people with interstitial cystitis find that certain foods make their symptoms worse. In most cases, the offending foods trigger bladder symptoms within a few hours after eating them. To find out which foods trigger symptoms, keep a food diary for a few weeks – along with a record of any bladder symptoms.
Some foods that commonly make the pain and urge to urinate worse are acidic foods such as tomatoes and citrus fruit, spicy foods, and caffeinated beverages. Once the offending foods have been identified, they can be eliminated.
Several natural compounds show promise for treating the symptoms of interstitial cystitis. Some studies suggest that an amino acid called l-arginine helps the urinary frequency and pain of interstitial cystitis - by increasing production of nitric oxide, a chemical which relaxes the bladder smooth muscle. Unfortunately, not all studies show benefits, so the verdict is still out on this one.
Chondroitin sulfate, aloe vera, and a bioflavonoid called quercetin also show some promise in treating interstitial cystitis. These are all available at most health food stores, but these should only be used under the care of a medical professional.
Make the Urine More Alkaline
Another approach that works for many people who suffer from this condition is to reduce the acidity of the urine. This can be done by adding a half teaspoon of baking soda to a glass of water and drinking it no more than three times a day. Don’t do this if you’re on a salt-restricted diet or have high blood pressure or heart disease.
Techniques that promote relaxation such as hypnosis, meditation, massage, or acupuncture may help the symptoms of interstitial cystitis. Check online for self-hypnosis and meditation tapes to learn how to relieve stress naturally. Regular low-impact exercise and yoga can also be beneficial.
Some people with interstitial cystitis head to the restroom as soon as they feel the urge to urinate. Bladder retraining is a technique that helps to reduce the urge to urinate so frequently, but does little to relieve the pain and bladder spasm. Bladder retraining helps increase the interval between bathroom visits by training the bladder to handle a greater urine volume. There are online sites that explain exactly how to do this.
Other natural ways include using a hot water bottle to relieve pain and taking warm sitz baths. It’s also important to wear loose, comfortable clothing, preferably made of cotton, to avoid making the symptoms worse.
The Bottom Line
These natural treatments may offer relief for interstitial cystitis, but they’re best used under medical guidance. Pregnant women should always talk to their doctor before using any type of treatment for interstitial cystitis – even natural ones.
J Urol 1999;161:558-565.
Medscape.com website. “Interstitial Cystitis/Painful Bladder Syndrome: Management”
Rev. Urol. 2002; 4(Suppl 1): S28-S35.
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