If you have been following my Living With Interstitial Cystitis blog series, you know that last year, I was diagnosed with Interstitial Cystitis, IC, and Pelvic Floor Dysfunction. You can read my last blog post here.
When I began having symptoms of Interstitial Cystitis, I was in major denial. I thought there was no way the food I ate could affect my bladder until I also started having flank pain. I was asked by my doctor to just try the IC diet to see if it helped alleviate my pain. Before some testing I had to undergo for my kidneys, I was told to follow the diet strictly.
When I began this diet, it not only had affected my bladder pain but also had a direct effect on the degree of flank pain I had on a daily basis. I noticed that as I cut out more and more of the troublesome foods and drinks, the better I felt for longer periods of time.
Before I started, I drank a full pot of coffee every morning, three diet sodas (containing both aspartame and saccharin) per day, frozen and processed foods, chocolate, and pretty much anything else I wanted. With the old standard diet, I had continuous symptoms. I had to come to a point where I finally decided that there is just no food out there that tastes good enough to keep me in pain and discomfort. I have cut out almost all of those problem foods now (with the exception of coffee, which I still have in moderation).
I am fairly new to my diagnosis with Interstitial Cystitis; however, I did have symptoms for a while before I actually sought medical treatment. Like many others with this condition, I have other medical conditions. From what I have researched, IC tends to cluster with other diseases and pain conditions. I completely understand how frustrating it must be for some who have long suffered from this extremely painful condition to take advice from someone who has not had suffered the symptoms long enough to give tips. While I understand how specialized and extreme the condition can be, I also must convey that this is not my only chronic condition. I see multiple doctors, including a rheumatologist, a nephrologist, a urologist, an orthopedic doctor (I had one hip replaced at age 36, and other joints are affected as well), and a general practitioner. I follow the IC diet strictly, which is one of the biggest reasons my symptoms remain as under control as they can be. They are never completely gone. I always have some degree of burning sensation or urgency, but with the diet it is tolerable.
You can learn more at ichelp.org, which gives full details about the diet, but the main foods to avoid are:
- Artificial sweeteners (aspartame and saccharin)
- Carbonated beverages (soda)
- Hot peppers and spicy food
- Yogurt or sour cream
- Vinegar (including vinaigrette salad dressings )
- Processed food
- Cured meat
- Chocolate (a really bad trigger for kidney stones as well, which I also have)
- Canned foods
- Sharp cheeses
- Black and red pepper
- Cinnamon (this is on the “try it” list, but is one that I personally have to avoid)
There are entirely too many foods to list them all, and many are on the “try it” list. Pork is something, for instance, that always bothers me. It’s definitely a food item I have to avoid.
IC is such a personalized condition. Sometimes I can eat something one day, and it will not bother me, but the next time I eat it, it will. It can also depend on what else you had that day (food combinations), and if you are a female, it can even sometimes depend on where you are at in your menstrual cycle.
Since I started on the IC diet, I have cut out processed food. At my home, we make almost everything from scratch, cutting out boxed dinners and mixes. I no longer eat fast food or frozen dinners, which can be challenging on the nights when my daughters have school functions, but we have adjusted. I whole-heartedly suggest trying this diet to anyone who suffers from IC.
The elimination diet is easy to use, and it can help you to rule out foods if you are unsure of which ones are irritating your bladder. It takes all of the willpower you can muster, but I promise it’s worth it to feel better! Cut all of the major triggers out, then slowly add food in one at a time.
As an added bonus, since starting this diet, I have lost about 30 pounds. I feel healthier than I have in years! My skin looks great, and I have more energy. The key is to make sure you get enough protein, fruit, and vegetables!
I still have some degree of symptoms even with the diet. This isn’t a miracle cure, but it does help to ease the symptoms if followed. Although, for some, it can completely alleviate most or all of the symptoms. It just depends on the person and the severity of their condition.
I thought it might be nice to include a recipe for a fruit smoothie that I drink for breakfast and lunch each day. My recipe includes bananas, although this is an item on the caution list. If you find that bananas bother you, you could try another type of fruit. You will need:
- ½-1 whole banana (or substitute another fruit)
- 1 cup blueberries
- ½ cup raspberries
- 1 cup skim milk
- 1/2 tablespoon agave nectar
As a personal preference, I use frozen berries, but if you use fresh, you might add an ice cube or two, depending on the consistency you prefer. Blend in a blender or magic bullet until smooth. Drink promptly.
Do you have any tasty recipes from the Interstitial Cystitis Diet that you’d like to share with us?
If you are experiencing symptoms of Interstitial Cystitis, just know you are not alone in your personal journey. Stay tuned to our blog for more posts, including my own experience and input on Interstitial Cystitis.