How Diet Can Trigger IC Flares

Leading theories on why what you eat might bother your IC/BPS.

How Diet Can Trigger IC Flares

There are many theories as to why certain foods and beverages may trigger interstitial cystitis/bladder pain syndrome (IC/BPS) symptoms. Researchers are continuing to learn more about the underlying causes. There may be several factors leading to the sensitivity of substances found in food items. Here are the four leading theories on why what you eat might bother your IC:

Irritate the Bladder Wall

One theory thought to be a cause of IC/BPS symptoms is that a layer of the bladder wall is damaged. This area of the bladder may allow substances found in the urine to seep into the sensitive layers of tissue which make up the bladder wall.  When urine that contains these substances hits these parts of the bladder, they become irritated. This irritation will cause a person with IC/BPS feel pain and discomfort after eating bothersome foods and beverages.

Inflame Nerves

Other scientists propose that IC/BPS may relate to a problem with the nervous system. Substances in certain foods and beverages may excite sensitive nerve endings found in the bladder. This may result in bladder symptoms.

Provoke Increased Nerve Sensitivity

People with IC/BPS appear to have higher levels of pain receptors that are sensitive to certain compounds in foods. For example, they may have more capsaicin receptors. Capsaicin is the substance found in peppers. The more capsaicin a pepper contains, the hotter it is! Bell peppers contain very small amounts of this substance. They usually do not flare IC/BPS symptoms. However, the peppers often used in Thai and Mexican dishes, contain higher amounts of capsaicin and these dishes may cause IC/BPS flares.

Provoke Organ Cross Talk

Researchers have also proposed that IC/BPS bladder pain may actually be due to pain in the large intestines that are in the same area of the body as the bladder. The scientists who suggested this theory dubbed it the “pepperoni pizza” hypothesis. Why? Because, eating a slice of pizza with this spicy meat may hit the stomach nerves so intensely that the pain extends from the intestines to the bladder.

Is what you are eating affecting your bladder symptoms? Watch an interview with Barbara Shorter, EdD, RDN, CDN on the Dr. Melanie Show.