Interstitial Cystitis: Some Ways to Relieve Urinary Pain and Anxiety

Interstitial Cystitis Dr. Eric Viegas Naturopathic Medicine Ottawa

Interstitial Cystitis: Some Ways to Relieve Urinary Pain and Anxiety


Dr. Eric Viegas, ND


Interstitial Cystitis (IC) is an inflammatory condition of the urological system, particularly the bladder wall, and is thought to affect more women than men. Age of onset can be anywhere from childhood to middle-age, and a majority of people with IC are caucasian. As mentioned in my chronic prostatitis blogpost, men are often overlooked when it comes to IC, since most doctors assume it is a primarily female condition. Your doctor should perform a thorough work up to determine if your urinary condition is the result of prostate issues, IC, or other factors. Strangely, the urinary frequency, urgency, and pelvic pain common in IC often occur in the absence of any traceable infections or blood in the urine.


Pain flare ups of IC occur at the beginning of a woman’s period, and/or after sexual intercourse. People with IC may experience pain in the bladder, pelvis, vagina, tip of the penis, low back, and lower abdomen. IC can significantly compromise quality of life; people worry about getting to the bathroom on time and a normal everyday commute to work can be extremely panic-inducing. Psychological distress is a key factor in the worsening of anxiety and depression in people with IC.


There are two types of IC: classic or ulcerative IC, and non-ulcerative IC. In classic IC, the bladder develops patches of inflammation leading to ulcers and scarring. Overtime, classic IC causes reduction in bladder capacity. In non-ulcerative IC, there are no obvious physical changes to suggest pathology of the bladder wall. Unfortunately, little is currently known about how people develop non-ulcerative IC, and some people are mistakenly treated for chronic urinary tract infection (UTI) with antibiotics.


Some conditions associated with IC include irritable bowel syndrome, endometriosis, allergies, fibromyalgia and mood disorders.


Strenuous exercise, prolonged sitting, allergies, and certain foods can aggravate IC. Acidic foods like beer, tomatoes, chocolate, and coffee can aggravate symptoms of IC, so the first step in improving IC is to identify and eliminate these foods.


Some other foods that have been linked to a worsening of IC symptoms:

  • Lima beans, Lentils
  • Avocados
  • Peaches
  • Spicy Foods
  • Plums
  • Gluten
  • Grapefruit, Oranges, Lemons etc
  • Dairy
  • Pineapple
  • Raisins, Prunes


Demulcents are substances that can repair and soothe inflamed or irritated internal tissues. In IC, an irritated and inflamed bladder wall is the main culprit behind urinary frequency, urgency and pain. Your naturopathic doctor (ND) has access to a variety of botanical demulcents that can be combined in a daily drink to combat urological inflammation. Your ND can also add botanical medicines or nutritional supplements to combat anxiety and depression, to make your stress response more manageable, and improve your quality of life.


Quercetin–a bioflavonoid discussed at length in both my posts on allergies, and prostatitis—is a nutritional supplement that can stop the activation of mast cells in an allergic response and protect the bladder wall by reducing inflammation. The use of Vitamin A has been shown to inhibit mast cell activation, and protect mucosal surfaces from irritation and inflammation. Glucosamine, a member of the glycosaminoglycan family, can repair the bladder wall and allow for a more comfortable passing of urine.  


Naturopathic medicine offers a comprehensive treatment plan for IC. With dietary and lifestyle factors taken care of, NDs can use a variety of botanical medicines and nutritional supplements to decrease the severity of symptoms and improve quality of life for people with IC. There are many ways to find relief. Speak to your ND today!




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