Before the month goes away, a reader reminds me that September is "Interstitial
Cystitis Awareness" Month.
That's the point, says said reader. Interstitial Cystitis (IC) is a condition
with which "millions suffer and few understand." And changes in the diet can
sometimes relieve symptoms of this puzzling disorder.
So let's try to understand. According to the National Institute of Diabetes and
Digestive and Kidney Diseases, IC is "a condition that causes discomfort or pain
in the bladder and a need to urinate frequently and urgently." And at the risk
of TTI (too much information), interstitial cystitis is also known as bladder
pain syndrome or BPS.
This condition is more common in women than in men. And it can be tricky to
diagnose since its symptoms are similar to a bladder infection ... although IC
is not an infection. And it can be tricky to treat as well.
So ... what does this have to do with nutrition? Experts have observed that
certain foods may trigger unfortunate symptoms in some people with IC. And while
there is no specific "diet" to treat IC, some sufferers report certain foods to
be more "abrasive" to the bladder than others.
Foods most commonly reported to be bothersome for people with IC include
alcohol, artificial sweeteners such as aspartame and saccharine, coffee (even
decaf in some people), citrus and cranberry juices, hot peppers, carbonated
soda, and spicy foods. Others add chocolate, tea and tomatoes to the list of
Not everyone has problems with these foods, however.
How to know? It's called the "elimination diet." Eliminate from your diet _ for
at least a month _ any food you suspect to be a potential problem, some experts
suggest. Then one by one, add these foods _ no more than one food each week _
back into your diet. And track which, if any, food worsens symptoms.
The goal is not to eliminate foods willy-nilly or make yourself miserable
because you can't eat anything. Most patients with IC have a small list of "do
not's" and a bigger list of "usually OK" foods based on their symptoms. The best
diet to relieve the painful symptoms of interstitial cystitis is one that
includes a balanced variety of foods and essential nutrients, say nutrition
"We do not know exactly why some foods bother most IC patients and other foods
do not," says registered dietitian Julie Beyer, MA, RD of the Interstitial
Cystitis Association. "The diet-IC connection becomes even more mystifying when
we observe that certain foods that bother one patient do not bother others."
The good news, she says, is that researchers are taking a closer look at the
treatments we have for IC _ including diet. And we will have better answers in
the near future. Good to be aware.
(Barbara Quinn is a registered dietitian at the Community Hospital of the
Monterey Peninsula. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
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