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The current gold standard for the interstitial cystitis diet list
The most commonly referred to interstitial cystitis diet list on the Internet is from the Interstitial Cystitis Association. While this is a great starting point for a newly diagnosed patient and can provide a lot of bladder relief, I believe it can be taken much further, 3 steps further in fact!
My approach to the interstitial cystitis diet list
In my course, 4 Weeks to IC Relief, I recommend that newly diagnosed patients with no idea as to what foods are causing bladder pain or discomfort, avoid all of the problematic foods on the standard interstitial cystitis diet list.
I also introduce two new categories to consider on the IC diet list, anti-inflammatory foods and alkaline-forming foods. These are foods you want to incorporate into your diet, while at the same time limiting or avoiding pro-inflammatory foods and acid-forming foods.
Today, I will also add in a third category to my extended and holistic version of the interstitial cystitis diet list and that is regenerative foods. As a holistic nutritionist, I am not only concerned with eliminating potentially irritating foods, but also with adding in healing foods to support the body’s innate ability to heal, re-balance and regenerate.
How is the original interstitial cystitis diet list broken down?
The foods on the list from the ICA are broken down into “bladder friendly”, “try it” or “caution.” Bladder friendly foods are generally those that are low in acids, non-spicy and don’t contain artificial sweeteners and chemical preservatives, which are all known bladder irritants.
They also mention that foods that you are allergic, sensitive or intolerant to can also trigger a bladder flare. It’s wonderful to see that they have made this connection and are educating patients on the effect of allergenic foods on the bladder, which is often overlooked!
Creating your own unique interstitial cystitis diet list
Although it is impossible to devise a one size fits all approach for an interstitial cystitis diet list because everyone is unique and reacts differently to food, I believe that expanding our understanding of the IC diet to emphasize foods that can help heal the bladder and the entire body is a necessary step!
You can start to devise your own interstitial cystitis diet list over time as you begin to tune into your body and learn what it likes and what it doesn’t.
3 additional categories in a holistic approach to the interstitial cystitis diet list
Here are 3 additional categories to consider in a holistic approach to the interstitial cystitis diet list:
1) Anti-inflammatory foods
The food that we eat can either have an anti-inflammatory or a pro-inflammatory effect on the body. Since interstitial cystitis is a disease process involving chronic inflammation, incorporating anti-inflammatory foods into the diet and limiting pro-inflammatory foods is an important step for healing! Here is my anti-inflammatory food chart for interstitial cystitis, which is taken directly from my comprehensive online course.
I recommend that you aim for eating a ratio of 70/30, consisting of approximately 70% anti-inflammatory foods to 30% pro-inflammatory foods, eventually working your way up to an 80/20 ratio.
Also, keep in mind that any food you are sensitive or allergic to will set off an inflammatory process in the gut and beyond and most likely irritate your bladder, which has a large number of mast cells. Get tested for food allergies and sensitivities via a blood test, or try an elimination diet where you avoid the major allergens for a period of 2-3 months and then re-introduce those foods one at a time to see what you react to. Anything you react negatively to should be kept out of the diet.
2) Alkaline foods
In my course I go over the acid-alkaline balance in the body and its importance in health and disease.
Simply speaking, in order to prevent inflammation, our cells must be kept slightly alkaline. Over-acidity promotes inflammation, as is the case in interstitial cystitis.
Over-acidity also plays a role in allergies. As acidity increases, the mast cells that respond to an allergen break down more quickly and generate histamines and other inflammatory chemicals. This process can lead to chronic inflammation, which damages the cells and tissues, causing them to become even more acidic. It’s a viscious cycle.
In IC, our bodies are too acidic and therefore we must focus on eating an abundance of alkaline foods to help us re-gain a healthy alkaline state. As with the anti-inflammatory foods, I recommend starting out with a ratio of 70/30 alkaline to acidic foods and working your way up to 80/20. Most anti-inflammatory foods are also alkalizing to the body, so it shouldn’t be too hard to keep both of these factors in mind when creating your interstitial cystitis diet list.
Here is a helpful acid-alkaline chart. Generally speaking, foods that are higher in buffering minerals, like vegetables, fruits and sprouts are more alkalizing, whereas more concentrated foods, such as grains, flour, legumes, beans, sugar, table salt, sodas, nuts, animal protein and processed foods are more acid forming.
3) Regenerative foods
The last category I incorporate into my holistic approach to the interstitial cystitis diet list is regenerative foods. These are foods that are naturally rich in vitamins, minerals and other important nutrients, especially those crucial for organ and tissue healing, that can be incorporated into your diet to help your body in its healing process. Here are some of my favourite regenerative foods:
Homemade bone broth
Homemade bone broth is a traditional food that is nutrient-dense and super easy to make! The Weston A. Price Foundation recognizes gelatin, a main component of bone broth, as a highly nutritious food and a healer of the digestive tract. You can use the bones of beef, bison, lamb, poultry or fish and vegetables and spices (as tolerated) can be added.
Bone broth is high in calcium, magnesium and phosphorus which is great for bone and tooth health. With IC, minerals can be stripped from the bone in an attempt to keep the blood in its alkaline state, so re-mineralizing is key!
Due to its high collagen content, bone broth is great for supporting the smooth connective tissue of the bladder.
In addition, it is one of the best things to heal a leaky gut, which is a very common condition in those with IC. This is because bone broth is high in two amino acids, glycine and proline, which aid in the healing of connective tissue. Healing the gut will help improve digestion, allergies and brain health.
Its high mineral content also makes it a great remedy for supporting the immune system. You can learn how to make bone broth here.
Probiotic-rich foods are those that have been naturally fermented through a process of lactofermentation. During this process, natural bacteria feed on the sugar and starch in the food creating lactic acid. This process preserves the food, and creates beneficial enzymes, b-vitamins, Omega-3 fatty acids, and various strains of probiotics.
IC has been linked to gut dybiosis, especially Candida, where the balance of “good” and “bad” bacteria in the gut is disrupted. Eating fermented, probiotic-rich foods will introduce beneficial bacteria into your digestive system and help to re-balance the gut flora.
By eating probiotic-rich foods your digestion will improve and therefore your ability to absorb vitamins and minerals from the food you eat will be enhanced, aiding the healing process.
Examples of common probiotic-rich foods that may be safe for IC, include homemade yogurt, kefir and sauerkraut. The versions of these foods that you buy in the store may have been pasteurized, losing their probiotic benefits. Therefore, it is worthwhile to make your own. You can find several resources online that can walk you through the process. Once you get the hang of it, it really is quite easy and enjoyable to DIY.
A word of caution, all fermented foods may be a bladder trigger for some people with IC and you may have to accomplish some bladder healing before being able to tolerate these foods. The fermented foods on the shelf often have vinegar and other irritating spices, so the best approach is to make your own or source out good quality, organic products made in the traditional way. Start out by trying a small amount of homemade plain yoghurt or kefir.
Dr. Terry Wahl’s, a woman who healed her MS through diet alone, is a big proponent of incorporating organ meats into the diet for anyone trying to heal from chronic disease, especially autoimmune disease.
Liver is the most important organ meat to consider because it’s one of the most nutrient-dense foods in existence and contains many nutrients that are difficult to get elsewhere. It is one of the best sources of retinol, the preferred form of vitamin A, which is crucial for wound and tissue healing (think inflamed and irritated bladder!). It is also really high in folate, choline and vitamin b12, which are all important for proper metabolism and energy production in the body. In addition, it has adequate amounts of zinc, an important component of the digestive and immune systems, both are which affected in IC.
If the thought of eating liver makes you super queezy, you can supplement with dessicated liver. Be sure to source your liver and liver supplements from organically raised animals that spend most of their lives outdoors on pasture.
Still not convinced that liver is a superfood? Check out this great article written by acupuncturist and practitioner of integrative medicine, Chis Kesser. To ease you into it, try adding an ounce of cooked, ground liver into a familiar ground meat, like lamb or beef.
By now, you have most likely heard of the versatile uses and health benefits of coconut oil. It has a high burning point and is therefore an excellent oil for cooking and baking and can also be used in body care as a moisturizer and hair conditioner.
When taken internally, coconut oil is very healing. Especially of interest to those with IC, is its anti-fungal properties, making it a great tool for keeping Candida in check.
Also, it increases digestion and helps to absorb the fat-soluble vitamins, which are crucial for healing from any chronic disease!
Coconut oil is very supportive of the thyroid, which can tend to be low functioning in those with IC.
Lastly, coconut oil is rich in vitamin E, which acts as an antioxidant in the body, helping to protect our tissues and organs from free radical damage.
So there you have it, 3 additional categories to add to the standard interstitial cystitis diet list!
To learn more about IC and how to optimize your diet, supplements and lifestyle for healing IC naturally, I recommend that you sign up for my 4-week course!
Now, it’s your turn! What does your interstitial cystitis diet list look like? Please share in the comments section below. Let’s help each other out. We’re all in this together, folks!