Updated: Aug 11
Picture this: You are in your doctor’s office after complaining of bladder symptoms that you’ve had for a while now. The doctor tells you you have interstitial cystitis, something you may have never even heard of before, and proceeds to hand you a list of foods you need to avoid to avoid exacerbating your symptoms. Then, the doc sends you on your merry way.
This is the unfortunate reality for many people living with IC. They are handed a paper copy of the IC diet list and are told to avoid all of the potentially bothersome items, including tomatoes, citrus, chocolate, artificial sweeteners, MSG, coffee, and alcohol, to name a few.
Wait, you’re telling me I have this condition I’ve never even heard of, it has no known cure, AND I have to give up all of the foods and drinks I enjoy? This is bullsh**, I can’t live the rest of my life like this, you may be thinking in your mind.
Well, I’m here to tell you that you don’t have to.
Yes, you may need to restrict these items in the short-term, but not the long-term. Following a restrictive diet like the IC diet long-term can leave you susceptible to nutrient deficiencies if you aren’t careful.
The IC diet was created by IC researchers to be used as a guide to identify your unique dietary triggers. Since we are all so different and respond to different forms of treatment, of course our bodies are also sensitive to different foods and beverages.
I want to bring your attention to a study completed in 2007 at Long Island University. Researchers set out to learn if people with IC are sensitive to specific foods, beverages, and supplements.
These researchers created a questionnaire that was send out to over 300 people diagnosed with IC. They received a little over 100 surveys back.
While the results of this study do help point us in the right direction of where to start with our diet, it did have a very small sample size that might have been skewed if people who were most diet sensitive were the ones who were more willing to take the time to complete the survey.
The study found that 90% of participants were diet sensitive, and 10% were not.
Like I said before, the IC diet was created to be a helpful guideline, but over the years has been turned into a monster. What do I mean by this? I mean that most people I talk to in the IC community tell me they are terrified to eat anything off the bladder-friendly column of the IC diet. Do you realize how many foods and beverages that restricts?
Online support groups, which are one of the most helpful tools for obtaining support from people in a similar situation, is part to blame for the creation of this fear. It is easy for someone to state their opinion like a fact and others believe that to be the truth. Or, just hearing others stories of pain and flaring after ingesting a food or beverage can trigger a fear response in people, creating avoidance of that item.
And even worse is when people eat something off the “try it” or “caution” lists and immediately feel guilty. People should not have to feel guilt for eating something they want!
As a Registered Dietitian specializing in IC, my goal is to help people break free of this fear response surrounding food, as most if not all cultures around the world are centered around food and dining.
I also help people with IC to reduce their symptoms by teaching them how to identify their unique dietary triggers. I do this by guiding them through an elimination diet.
What is an elimination diet? It is the gold standard for identifying dietary triggers. I would not recommend wasting your money on food sensitivity testing, as these tests are highly unreliable and not heavily evidence-based.
Things that are required for a successful elimination diet include:
Time (around 3 months)
Dedication/motivation - if you are not dedicated, you will simply be wasting your time.
Good attitude - staying positive and diving in (not just dipping your toe in the pool)
Resilience - the ability to see a roadblock as a mere obstacle on your journey
Creativity - an elimination diet will challenge you to be creative in your cooking and food preparation methods. Utilizing the internet to find IC friendly recipes can be helpful. Click here for recipe ideas.
Support - you need a solid support system to lean on during your elimination diet
In the program I created, Road To Remission, which just launched its 2.0 version, I combine an elimination diet with education and support. In my professional opinion, this is the perfect combination to help a person with IC get as close as possible to remission.
The program has rolling admissions, meaning you can join at any time. I offer free Discovery Calls if you think you may be a good fit for the program and want to hear more specific details.