Helping Yourself Feel Better:Keep a bladder diary
Along with the treatments your doctor offers, you can take steps to help control your symptoms. The more active you are in your own disease management, the better you’re likely to feel. Dr. O’Leary and the Interstitial Cystitis Association suggest you give some or all of these self-help tips a try.
Pay attention to your diet. Many patients and doctors have noticed that certain foods can contribute to bladder irritation and inflammation. They include alcohol, tomatoes, spices, chocolate, caffeinated and citrus beverages and high-acid foods. You can try eliminating them to see if there’s any reduction in your symptoms. You also may want to restrict aged cheeses, yogurt, onions, MSG, aspartame (Nutrasweet), most nuts and cured or smoked foods.
Keep a bladder diary. Record urination times, symptoms, response to foods, exercise, etc. That way you can keep track of what helps your symptoms, what has no effect and what makes them worse.
Eat several small meals a day instead of larger ones.
Try exercises such as low-impact aerobics, walking, yoga and tai chi. If your symptoms are mild you may want to try swimming, jogging, weight training and bicycling.
Reduce stress by learning basic relaxation techniques, using meditation and self-hypnosis and getting massages. Biofeedback also has been helpful for some people with IC.
Try using a heating pad or a cold pack on your bottom. You’ll have to experiment to see which feels better.
Take a warm sitz bath.
Wear loose-fitting clothing such as baggy pants or skirts.
Wear cotton underwear.
Avoid belts and other articles of clothing that put pressure on your waist and below.
The Bottom Line
There’s no cure for IC, but it’s not a progressive disease, either — it doesn’t continue to get worse as time goes by. In fact, most people get their symptoms under control and live comfortably. “At least now there’s a much greater awareness of the disease and much more research being done today than even 10 years ago,” Dr. O’Leary says. “So I think — I hope — we’ll have a better understanding of what the condition is, and when we understand it better, I believe we’ll be better able to treat it and ultimately prevent it.”