Entering the world of IC can be overwhelming. You see a list of supplements you can try to alleviate symptoms, but what exactly do they all do? Do you need one or multiple? I’m going to try to make things a little easier for you to understand in this post.
Why do I need supplements? Dietary supplements are considered a type of complementary therapy for managing symptoms of IC. For example, one of the simplest supplements recommended by some doctors is drinking 8-16 oz water with 1 tablespoon of baking soda to soothe a flare(1).
Let’s break things down by their purpose:
Neutralize Acid - The goal of the following supplements is to neutralize acid and therefore decrease irritation of the bladder lining. These supplements can be used to eat a trigger food and lessen the symptoms that food may cause. This can create a bit more freedom in your diet.
Prelief® - a safe and effective dietary supplement that can help reduce up to 95% of acid from foods and beverages(2).
TUMS - produces the same effect as Prelief®
Alkaline water - this is a bit of a controversial topic and is still being studied. The ICN recommends only drinking alkaline water in small amounts to counteract an acidic food or beverage. They recommend Spring water or tap water(3).
Promote Tissue Healing - In IC, it is hypothesized that the lining of the bladder wall has losses of something called glycosaminoglycans, or the GAGs. If the bladder lining has damage to it, this can result in burning when acidic urine touches that layer. The goal of these supplements is to improve the integrity of the bladder lining(4).
D-Mannose - may help prevent UTI’s through flushing out low levels of bacteria.
Slippery Elm - helps repair the damaged layer of the bladder and digestive tract.
Anti-Inflammatory - IC is a chronic inflammation of the bladder that can cause constant or occasional discomfort during a flare. The following supplements fight inflammation. Some can actually be found in bladder-friendly foods!
Omega 3 fish oil- a natural anti-inflammatory. Found in fatty fish, nuts and seeds and plant oils.
Magnesium- can also help with constipation and support muscle health
Palmitoylethanolamide (PEA) - believed to have neuroprotective, anti-nociceptive (anti-pain) and anticonvulsant properties.
Quercetin - Reduces inflammation by scavenging free radicals within the body. Also occurs naturally in broccoli, blueberries, onions and apples.
L-Arginine and L-Citrulline- common amino acids that are precursors to a molecule that helps increase blood circulation by opening up blood vessels.
Decrease Frequency - frequency, urgency and nocturia (frequency at night), are common symptoms of IC.
Pumpkin Seed Oil - in a study of 45 subjects given pumpkin seed oil daily for 12 weeks. The study found that pumpkin seed oil significantly reduced the degree of frequency in the subjects. It is important to note that this study was not a randomized, double-blind study and had a small sample size(5).
Soothing - during a flare, you may be desperate for relief. The following two supplements can help soothe the burning and frequency that accompanies a flare:
Marshmallow Root - can be taken as a tea and will cover the bladder wall, forming a protective “layer” (6).
Aloe Vera - aloe helps soothe wounds and has anti-inflammatory properties. The most common brand in the IC community is Desert Harvest Aloe Vera®.
*I want to note that dietary supplements are not regulated by the FDA, meaning a company can put basically any claim on their supplement and they don’t get in trouble for it(6). This is why you need to do research on brands prior to buying a supplement.
Let’s remember - everyone with IC is different and therefore has a treatment plan. This means what may work for one person may not work for another. You may need to try one supplement, or you can try a combination. I always recommend running a supplement by a doctor to verify that it is safe.
Dietary supplements are just one piece of the puzzle. You will likely need a variety of modifications to produce results. Diet modification, pelvic floor physical therapy, stress management, and medications may be a few other pieces of the puzzle.
1.Supplements. (2016, July 06). Retrieved March 15, 2021, from https://www.ichelp.org/living-with-ic/interstitial-cystitis-and-diet/supplements/
2. Frequently asked questions. (2018, June 11). Retrieved March 15, 2021, from https://www.prelief.com/faq/
3. Frequently asked questions about the IC diet & food list. (2017, January 18). Retrieved March 15, 2021, from https://www.ic-network.com/interstitial-cystitis-diet/frequently-asked-questions-about-the-ic-diet/
4. Cervigni, M. (2015, December). Interstitial cystitis/bladder pain syndrome and glycosaminoglycans replacement therapy. Retrieved March 15, 2021, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4708541/
5. Nishimura, M., Ohkawara, T., Sato, H., Takeda, H., & Nishihira, J. (2014, January). Pumpkin seed oil extracted FROM Cucurbita Maxima Improves URINARY disorder in human OVERACTIVE BLADDER. Retrieved March 15, 2021, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4032845/
6. Nicole Cozean, P. (2020, September 21). The best supplements for interstitial cystitis. Retrieved March 15, 2021, from https://www.pelvicsanity.com/post/2017/06/01/the-best-supplements-for-interstitial-cystitis