Interstitial cystitis (IC) is also known as an inflamed bladder. It remains a mysterious condition that is not well diagnosed and for which cures don’t exist. More than 700,000 U.S. residents have IC, mostly women.
Symptoms vary, but it usually starts with the feeling of a full bladder. There may be pain when urinating. Along with pain, discomfort, pressure and tenderness may be felt all along the pelvic area. Many foods might trigger symptoms as well, the best-known culprits being anything spicy, coffee, chocolate, fruits, tomatoes, vinegar and alcohol.
Many therapies have been tried, but few have been well studied. IC is one of those conditions for which patients seeking answers can turn to natural medicine because it’s just as proven as the drugs. Here are the top five showing promise:
TENS: A machine that delivers “transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation” could provide temporary pain relief. The burst of stimulation basically distracts the brain from the IC pain. The machine is small, handheld, and you simply tape electrocutes to your lower back.
Quercetin: This flavonoid chemical is believed to be an anti-inflammatory among other things. Researchers have found that a supplement containing quercetin could reduce IC symptoms.
Arginine: This is an amino acid your body uses to produce nitric oxide. This is something that relaxes smooth muscles and, based on the idea that it could do so in your bladder, arginine is considered a potential IC therapy.
Dietary changes: It’s well recognized that certain foods exacerbate the symptoms of IC. So, with that in mind, patients sometimes try to experiment with their diet to see if some are doing just that, and then avoiding those foods in the future. This is a good idea for anyone with IC.
Glycosaminoglycans: These natural substances, polysaccharides, are a family of carbohydrates. It’s possible that the bladder’s surface doesn’t have enough of these substances in cases of IC. This deficiency could be, the thinking goes, a reason why the bladder has become inflamed, and could be a potential reason for autoimmune problems. The evidence is thus far sketchy, but supplements such as chondroitin sulfate or mesoglycan may be of use for IC. In any event, it could be worth a try for any of the above natural treatments. Speak to your doctor, and to a urologist. Keep your options open, and stay positive. You can also turn to Chinese medicine and acupuncture should nothing seem to be working.