I get a lot of emails from readers asking, “I know what NOT to eat, but what the heck CAN I eat?” With so many IC triggers to avoid, it’s no wonder we feel so overwhelmed!
In my free course, 4 weeks to IC relief, I outline different aspects of my holistic approach to the IC diet. We explore topics such as the most common IC triggers, anti-inflammatory foods and acid-alkaline balance. If you really want to delve into it all and get some answers, this is the place to do it!
One size does NOT fit all
There are several reasons why it is not easy to outline a list of foods that everyone with IC can eat. The obvious reason for this is that we are all unique! If you have frequented the IC forums at all, or belong to any FB groups for IC, you will quickly learn that what triggers one person, may not trigger the next. You will even find that some of us can tolerate some of the top IC triggers. Crazy, right?
It is common amongst ICers to have food allergies and sensitivities that can aggravate our symptoms and this is another reason why one woman’s food can be another’s poison, even if the food in question is considered to be a “health food”.
Another reason why there cannot be a complete list of safe IC foods is because we are all at different points in our healing. For instance, a year ago I would be up all night peeing with even a hint of spicy food. Now, I can enjoy Indian food. Why? My bladder has reached a certain degree of healing and I am no longer reactive to some of the foods that bothered me so much in the past.
Lastly, depending on your current goal, yo may decide to eliminate a particular food or a food category altogether. For example, if you have a lot of digestive issues, such as IBS, gas, bloating, etc., you may want to experiment with grain-free eating to aid in gut healing. Therefore, wild rice may be a perfectly IC safe food for the majority of people, but it may not be suitable for you right now.
Taking all this into consideration, the best I can do when not working with a client one-on-one, is to provide a general guideline of the types of foods that are safe for most people with interstitial cystitis AND also fit into the holistic healing paradigm that I suggest for IC relief (this is where my suggestions may differ from the standard IC diet list) .
As a general rule, choose organic wherever possible to limit your exposure to harmful pesticides and avoid foods with preservatives and added sugar.
Please note that this information is not all inclusive and further information, as well as helpful charts, can be found in the free course, 4 Weeks to IC Relief.
Let’s break it down!
This is perhaps where IC patients feel the greatest sense of loss since most fruits are acidic and may need to be avoided for the first stretch.
Fruits that you may want to try first include blueberries, pears, coconut, dates, watermelon and lower-acid apples like Fuji, Pink Lady and Gala.
Some of us are lucky enough to be able to tolerate bananas. If this is you, then go, go, go, go bananas. Eat, eat, eat, eat bananas!
As a holistic nutritionist, I believe that this is the most important category that we eat from and lucky for us, we can generally tolerate a wide variety of vegetables. Besides avoiding tomatoes (especially sauces and other concentrated tomato products), raw onions, chilli peppers and veggies fermented with vinegar, go crazy!
If you suffer from any joint pain or autoimmune condition in addition to IC, you will want to experiment with eliminating the nightshade vegetables, such as potatoes, eggplant and bell peppers. The nightshade veggies are also common food allergens.
Lastly, some of us have difficulties with high oxalate foods, like spinach, rhubarb and beets.
Although the standard IC diet allows for most grain products, from a holistic approach, I do not recommend eating gluten-containing grains unless you have determined you can tolerate them through a proper elimination-type diet or food sensitivity test. A food sensitivity test is not the same as a test for Celiac disease. Even if you have tested negative for Celiac disease, you could still be reacting to gluten.
Gluten-containing grains can be difficult to digest and lead to inflammation in the digestive tract and beyond. This is why I suggest that most of my clients at least give gluten-free a go and see if they notice a difference in symptoms or overall health.
Gluten-free grains such as rice, millet, amaranth, buckwheat and quinoa are readily available in health food stores and even many grocery stores. If you decide to eat processed grain products, such as wraps, breads, pastas and cereals, look out for preservatives, artificial ingredients and other unnecessary fillers. The fewer ingredients, the better!
Fresh, non-marinated meats are usually well-tolerated. Wild-caught sardines and salmon are high in anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids.
Grass-fed beef and pork and pasture-raised chicken are all great options.
Eggs are a common allergen, but if you do tolerate them, opt for eggs from pasture-raised chickens. Duck eggs tend to be less allergenic and taste great!
Legumes & Beans
Most legumes and beans are well tolerated when they are soaked and cooked well. Since a lot of people with IC also have IBS and other digestive troubles, beans that are not properly prepared may cause issues.
The legumes and beans I recommend trying first are black eyed peas, garbanzo (chick peas), lentils, pinto and navy beans.
I don’t recommend soy or soy-based products. Soy, unless purchased organic, will be be from genetically modified crops. Also, it is highly allergenic and can be difficult to digest. Soybeans are a concentrated source of isoflavones, which bind to estrogen receptors and cause similar effects as estrogen. Since a lot of us with IC suffer from hormonal imbalances, soy may be best avoided.
Nuts, Seeds & Oils
Fats are an important part of our diet and I never recommend a low-fat diet. It’s all about the types of fats you choose. Nuts and seeds are a great source of healthy fats and contain some protein too.
Most nuts and seeds are okay to try, but some IC patients find they react to them. This could be because they are high on the allergen list.
Hazelnuts, pecans, pistachios seem to cause more issues than other nuts. I caution against consuming too many peanuts and cashews because they tend to grow mould easily.
Unrefined oils such as extra-virgin olive oil, pumpkin seed oil and coconut oil should be well tolerated and are excellent to include in your diet.
In general, dairy products are highly allergenic, inflammatory and mucous forming and I generally advise against their consumption.
If you have access to upasteurized, raw dairy products, they may be beneficial, but pasteurized dairy products are difficult to digest, as all of the enzymes contained in the milk to help with digestion have been wiped out.
Plain organic yogurt and kefir may be tolerated and contain beneficial probiotic cultures.
Butter or ghee from grass-fed cows are okay for most of us.
Seasonings, Spices & Sauces
With most sauces and typical seasonings like soy sauce and hot peppers off the table, you can really start experimenting with fresh and dried herbs. Not only are they tasty, but all of them have nutritional benefits too!
Turmeric, ginger and kelp are especially anti-inflammatory and worth a try.
Other safe options include oregano, basil, rosemary, thyme, dill, tarragon, coriander and sea salt.
Fresh garlic is super healthy, so if you can tolerate it, use it liberally. As a bonus, vampires everywhere will leave you alone!
With beverages, it is best to keep things simple. Filtered water or spring water are your drink of choice.
Some herbal teas may be tolerated, but this will require experimentation. Chamomile and peppermint are two you can give a try. Other teas, like marshmallow root, can be beneficial for reducing IC symptoms in some people.
The occasional glass of blueberry or pear juice may be tolerated. If you are watching your sugar content, water it down a bit!
Almond milk, rice milk or hemp milk can make for good dairy milk substitutes.
Lastly, coconut water is a lovely, refreshing drink that you can try. Some ICers even report that it can actually help their symptoms. But remember, we are all different!
Your best options for sweeteners include raw honey, molasses and maple syrup, but use them in moderation!
Some may tolerate stevia and xylitol, which do not raise your blood sugar or feed the yeast.
I know that we all need something a little sweet sometimes, so for dessert ideas, you can check out my Pinterest page.
You might have noticed a trend – almost all of the foods listed here are whole foods! Therefore, if you are not used to being in the kitchen, this is a perfect time to put your chef’s hat on and do some experimenting.
You are your own best guide
Remember, no one knows your body better than you. Although it is helpful to gather information and use other people’s experiences and suggestions as guidelines, only you can decide what way of eating makes you feel your best!
I hope this post has provided insight into what to eat with IC from a more holistic approach and given you some more options to play with.
If you enjoyed this post, you will want to check out this post on how to incorporate regenerative, healing foods, into your IC diet.
In my next post, I plan to give you an example of what a day of eating looks like for me so you can see how it all comes together.
Please feel free to post your comments and experiences below!