When I first was diagnosed with interstitial cystitis (IC), a chronic condition characterized by frequent urination and bladder pain, my doctor prescribed a couple medications and told me to keep track of which foods and drinks made my symptoms worse. I didn’t take this suggestion seriously at first, partly because a lot of my favorite things were the biggest bladder irritants (coffee and alcohol are two) and partly because I didn’t see how food could make such a big difference. I was wrong about that.
After two weeks of no improvement, I talked to a friend with IC, who emphasized that you have to be regimented about what you eat and drink. So, I decided to give up three of my favorite things: coffee, alcohol, and spicy food. My symptoms decreased almost immediately. But I didn’t realize I was still not doing nearly enough — until one night, when I woke up feeling like there was a deep cut in my bladder and acid had been poured into it. I had eaten a green apple before bed, a known IC trigger food. After that, I began eating according to the Interstitial Cystitis Network’s food list, and things got much better. Almost all the pain was gone, and my trips to the bathroom decreased.
When patients come to Jennifer Linehan, MD with interstitial cystitis symptoms, she will often prescribe dietary changes before trying any medications or procedures. This doesn’t mean dietary changes are all you need, but it does speak to the power of natural treatments.
“I often have to go through many treatment options before I find a treatment that works for them, so I encourage them not to get discouraged,” Linehan tells Bustle. In conjunction with exploring different treatment options with a doctor, here are some natural healing methods that might help alleviate IC symptoms.