Interstitial Cystitis (IC), also known as painful bladder syndrome, is a devastating condition that impacts millions of people. Because prescription medication options are limited and often cause adverse side effects, IC can be tough to manage. Many people turn to natural remedies to ease symptoms.
Common IC symptoms include intermittent or constant pain in the bladder, urethra and pelvic regions — ranging from mild to debilitating — and urinary urgency and frequency. Patients may need to urinate dozens of times each day. Having IC is often described as feeling like you have a urinary tract infection that won’t go away; however, no bacteria are present. Antibiotics do not treat interstitial cystitis.
The following natural therapies may help relieve Interstitial Cystitis symptoms:
1. Elimination Diet
The first line of defense for many IC sufferers is to take a close look at their diets. Acidic foods and beverages such as tomatoes, citrus, soda, coffee, and tea can irritate the bladder wall and trigger painful flares. Chemical food additives may also cause pain. An elimination diet helps determine which foods trigger symptoms.
2. Aloe Vera
The Urology Wellness Center in Rockville Maryland performed a small double-blind, placebo-controlled study of freeze-dried aloe vera capsules on 13 women with interstitial cystitis. Of the eight women who completed the trial, all but one reported symptoms relief to various degrees.
Marshmallow capsules or tea are popular interstitial cystitis remedies. Marshmallow is anti-inflammatory that may help coat the lining of the bladder to promote healing.
4. Chamomile Tea
The verdict is out as to whether chamomile treats IC symptoms directly but it can help you relax. Chamomile is usually well tolerated by people with interstitial cystitis. Try drinking a cup before bed or any time you feel anxious.
A hot water bottle filled with warm water or a heating pad on the abdomen or the perineum/vulvar regions is comforting and helps relieve pain. Disposable, long-lasting heat packs that attach to your clothes or underwear are also beneficial.
Some people prefer ice overheat for pain relief. Disposable ice packs or a gel ice pack wrapped in a towel may help soothe urethral, vulvar and perineum burning.
7. Sitz Bath
A sitz bath immerses the pelvis (up to the hips) in warm water. This type of bath can be soothing to the perineum and vulvar areas. It can also help relax pelvic floor muscles.
A National Institutes of Health abstract indicates that mindfulness-based stress reduction techniques, including Zen meditation, benefits people with medical and psychological illnesses and plays a role in pain management.
9. Avoid Chemicals
People with interstitial cystitis are often sensitive to chemical and fragrance ingredients found in laundry detergents, soaps, and personal lubricants. Use unscented detergents and soaps and water-based lubricants instead.
The thought of exercise seems like torture to some people with interstitial cystitis but gentle exercise such as yoga or Pilates can help. The interstitial cystitis Network states on its website that exercise helps keep the blood flowing to the pelvis and releases endorphins, the body’s natural painkillers.
11. Avoid Tight Clothing
Tight clothing such as jeans, stockings, and compression garments can put pressure on the vulvar, perineum and pelvic areas, causing pain. Whenever possible, wear loose-fitting clothes such as dresses, low- rise sweatpants or yoga pants, or pajamas.
Interstitial Cystitis flares are traumatic and what causes one person to flare may not trigger symptoms in someone else. Treatment success varies from patient to patient. But with patience and trial and error, you can identify your triggers and determine which remedies work best for you.
Please consult your doctor before taking an herbal supplement to treat interstitial cystitis, especially if you are pregnant, breastfeeding, take prescription medications or have another medical condition.