Now that we’ve established what Interstitial Cystitis (IC) is in my previous blog post, I want to elaborate more about the recommended diet for IC.
Why do I have to follow a special diet at all? You may ask. Well, remember, IC is a condition that can affect the lining of the bladder wall, making it more sensitive to changes in the pH of the urine.
Think of it like this: have you ever gone to cut a lemon or a lime and forgot you had a cut on your finger? Lots of burning, throbbing pain will result. This can be what IC sufferers experience when they eat a food or drink a beverage that causes the urine to turn too acidic.
The most common foods/beverages that are recommended to avoid are: beverages with caffeine (coffee, tea, energy drinks), alcohol, citrus fruit, tomatoes and tomato products, chocolate, and artificial sweeteners, to name a few.
Does this mean I can never have any of these things again?
No, IC is not a “death sentence”. However, if you don’t take the proper steps to identify your personal trigger foods, you may end up in a world of pain for an extended period of time.
The most straightforward way to identify your personal trigger foods is to implement an Elimination Diet. The purpose of this diet is to eliminate the most common trigger foods in people with IC for about 3-4 weeks. This is no simple task - it requires a lot of preparation and time to focus on the food you are putting in your body. One slip up may cause your bladder to “flare up” as the IC community likes to call it.
Once you have successfully completed the Elimination phase of the diet, you should feel some relief in your symptoms. I work directly with individuals to help identify their most bothersome foods, and we work together to slowly add these items back into their diet.
The purpose of slowly adding your most bothersome foods back into your diet is to identify which foods or beverages actually bother you, and identifying if the amount of the food or beverage is the culprit.
For example, if you eat a small serving (2 bites) of yogurt on day 1, and have no reaction, you would proceed to eat a little more the next day (½ of a 4 oz container). No reaction? Great. On the third day, you would eat a full 4 oz container. Did your frequency increase? Do you have new burning in your bladder? First, make sure you did not have any stressful events occur through the 3 day trial of yogurt. If nothing occurred, you may be able to eat yogurt in very small amounts in the future.
You would then wait 2-3 days or however long it takes the pain/frequency to subside, and then move to the next item on your list.
While the Elimination diet is the “gold standard” to identifying individual trigger foods in those suffering from IC, it is no small feat. You will need to dedicate 1-3 months (potentially longer) to following this pattern in order to figure out how to live a life with IC with minimal restrictions at meal times.
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