Thursday, January 29, 2009

Interstitial Cystitis: It's Not All In Your Head--Or Is It?

Pelvic and Bladder Pain
My daughter had surgery this week for endometriosis. It was her second surgery for a condition that causes her incredible pain and upsets her system enough to make her periods madly unpredictable.

She is doing much better today, but she said something that really bothered me. She said she was glad to have proof that it wasn't all in her head. It killed me to hear that; but unfortunately almost every person with pelvic pain has heard that line at least once in their quest to get a proper diagnosis.
The thing is, there is definitely a connection between a person's emotions/stress level and their IC symptoms. The science is called "psychoneuroimmunology" or PNI. That doesn't mean a person with IC is imagining their symptoms. Rather, when a person experiences heavy emotions or stress, a cascade of chemicals is released that causes dozens of physical reactions in the body. These chemicals actually serve a purpose; for example, they help a person faced with an emergency react quickly.
Unfortunately, these chemicals can do a lot of damage to our bodies if left unchecked. They can also increase the symptoms of various chronic diseases including interstitial cystitis.
The good news is that you can somewhat control the effects of stress on your body. Things to try include:
  1. Take three deep breaths. Fill your lungs completely with air then releasing it slowly. 
  1. Don't procrastinate on tasks you need to do. Procrastinating can cause an unnecessary increase in stress when actually doing the task can reduce it. 
  1. Engage in a hobby or learn something new. Giving your mind a pleasant diversion can be a great way to reduce the unwanted effects of chronic stress.
  1. Exercise. Take a walk, stretch, lift light weights.
  1. Pray or meditate. Connect with your spiritual purpose. Even yoga can help create a state of relaxation several times a day.
For more information about PNI and how emotions, hormones, and body chemistry are interrelated with disease states, check out these books:
  • Molecules of Emotion (Candace Pert's first book about PNI. A bit medical, but extremely interesting and really helps explain the body/mind connection.) 
  • Everything You Need to Know to Feel Go(o)d (Pert's recent book...much like Molecules of Emotion but easier to read. It also talks about her's and her husband's discovery of Peptide T, the closest thing we have for a cure for HIV/AIDS! Very very good!!) 

The thing to remember is that even though your disease isn't really "all in your head," there is an undeniable mind-body connection.

You can also read more about PNI at the American Psychological Association website: Psychoneuroimmunology

Author, Speaker, Patient Advocate

Helping Yourself Is the First Step to Getting Well

For step by step guidance for creating your own personal interstitial cystitis meal plan, see: Confident Choices®: Customizing the Interstitial Cystitis Diet.

For some basic, family-style, IC bladder-friendly recipes, see: Confident Choices®: A Cookbook for Interstitial Cystitis and Overactive Bladder