Changes in diet help many patients control their symptoms and IC/BPS treatment guidelines recommend dietary changes as part of an IC/BPS therapy plan.
The Connection Between IC/BPS and Diet
Studies have found there is a lot of variability from one IC patient to another. Some people with IC report that certain foods appear to irritate their bladders and cause painful IC flares. These patients find that making a few strategic changes to what they eat and drink can help to control their IC symptoms including pain, frequency, and urgency. Other IC patients find that diet does not affect their flares.
While research into the link between IC and foods/beverages is very limited, there is a lot of information on the web promoting various diets for IC. Unfortunately, a lot of it is confusing and inaccurate, and figuring out what to eat—and not to eat—can be stressful. The extensive lists of ‘foods to avoid’ can be daunting, and trying to eat only the ‘safe foods’ can make some patients even afraid to eat! While currently there is no special “IC Diet,” ICA worked with Medical Advisory Board Member Dr. Barbara Shorter*, Ed, RD, CDN and Barbara Gordon, RDN, LD, former ICA Executive Director to develop The IC PlateTM – a guide for eating an IC-friendly, healthy, balanced diet – that also recommends avoiding only certain problematic foods/beverages.
Remember, how much, how often, and the specific foods and beverages that affect bladder symptoms are different for each person with IC. In addition, if you have a milk allergy or are lactose intolerant, your IC symptoms may worsen when you drink milk and eat dairy foods. Many patients also report gastrointestinal problems when they consume gluten, even though there is currently no proven relationship between gluten and IC symptoms. Other patients may need to consider additional dietary modifications when they have existing comorbidities, such as constipation and irritable bowel syndrome.
Meet with a registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN) to learn more about how to identify which foods and beverages might bother your IC. Also, find out if your health insurance covers the cost of nutrition counseling.
MYTH: Avoid foods with preservatives.
At this point, there is no evidence that preservatives trigger bladder flares. Most foods contain some preservatives. Some patients are particularly concerned about citric acid, the most commonly found additive in foods. However, the amount of citric acid used as a preservative may be insignificant. These items may not be bothersome to you, or they may trigger your IC. To find out, include foods which you think may be triggers in the list of potentially bothersome foods during your elimination diet.