If you have been diagnosed with a chronic illness like interstitial cystitis, you may feel as though all of the decisions about your life have been placed in someone else’s hands. Yet, dietary modification is entirely within your control and can be one of the most successful ways to manage painful bladder symptoms.
You probably already suspect that certain foods trigger their symptoms. For most IC patients, the worst offenders are tomatoes, cranberry juice, citrus fruits, soy, coffee, tea, chocolate, alcohol, and various spices and food additives. Other foods may bother an painful bladder as well, depending on the individual and the current condition of their bladder. The most important thing, therefore, is to determine your own personal trigger foods. Although this three-stage process may seem cumbersome, most patients find the results extremely valuable, especially if they find they can eat more foods than originally thought.
In the first stage of the elimination diet for interstitial cystitis, you need to keep a detailed food and symptoms diary. It is important to get a baseline of the foods consumed as well as the symptoms. You may also include things like daily stressors, sexual intercourse, unusual physical exertion, and any medication changes they may have. During the second phase, you will begin a wash-out period of one or more weeks, consuming only those foods considered “bladder friendly” until your symptoms diminish. (For complete IC Food List see the IC Food List.)
The third phase of the elimination diet for IC is the "challenge" phase. Here, you will test one food at a time to see if you have a bladder reaction. I suggest consuming a small amount of food on one day, increasing the portion size the second, and if you haven’t experienced symptoms, try a full serving on the third day. This way you can test both the food and portion size. For example, you may be able to eat half of a banana two times a week, but a banana a day may cause you to flare. This process should be repeated until the you have created a personalized Bladder Friendly list of foods.
Julie Beyer, MA, RDN
Author, Speaker, Patient Advocate
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 BladderFor health care workers: Interstitial Cystitis: A Guide for Nutrition Educators