Monday, December 13, 2010

Fighting Interstitial Cystitis Flares

Epsom salts baths can help!The Red Flag Symptom Caveat

Before we delve into this topic, I want to caution you about assuming every serious urinary symptom is an interstitial cystitis (IC) flare. Please seek emergency medical assistance if you experience any of the following “red-flag” symptoms: Severe pain that is not controlled by your normal medications, pain that is different than your usual symptoms, fever or chills, difficulty urinating, blood in the urine, cloudy or foul-smelling urine, nausea and/or vomiting, or pain that radiates beyond the bladder and pelvic area. These symptoms can indicate an infection or more critical condition than an interstitial cystitis flare. 

Food for Flares

If certain foods can trigger your interstitial cystitis symptoms, it only makes sense that you should choose bladder friendly foods if you are in an IC flare. The very safest foods on an IC Diet include plain chicken, pears, green beans, carrots, rice, distilled or filtered water, milk, eggs, and white bread products. You should see positive results within three days of following this very minimal “rescue” diet. Please note that this diet may be nutritionally deficient, and should not be consumed for longer than a week. Therefore, I recommend that you contact your physician if you do not experience relief after a few days. If your physician says that you need to follow this minimal diet longer than a week, a registered dietitian can help you choose foods to maximize your nutritional intake.
Since interstitial cystitis flares are unpredictable and can consume a tremendous amount of mental and physical energy, it is wise to have a flare first aid plan handy. Make sure you always have a supply of bladder friendly food available. You can keep chicken, green beans, and white bread in the freezer to pull out at the last minute. Stock up on canned pears and carrots. Rice can be instant or long grain. (I love using a rice maker. In twenty minutes, you can have the base for almost any meal!) It is much easier if all you need to shop for is fresh milk and eggs.

Other Self-Help Strategies

In addition to following an IC Diet, there are other things you can do to minimize a painful bladder flare. If you are constipated or have diarrhea, other dietary adjustments may be more appropriate than the rescue IC Diet provided. Drinking more water and adding fiber are simple self-care ways to correct these problems. If intestinal problems persist, ask your physician for other treatment recommendations. 

Other IC flare management techniques include getting plenty of rest, practicing stress reduction strategies, taking warm baths with Epsom salts or baking soda, writing in your journal, and talking to other IC patients. Use a heating pad, hot water bottle, or one of those body heat pads that stick on the outside of your underwear. Heat can fool the body into thinking that you are not feeling any pelvic pain. You might also talk to your doctor about medications you can use specifically for a painful bladder flare. 
You will be more comfortable if you wear loose clothing when you have an IC flare. Medical scrubs, pajama pants, and sweat pants with adjustable waistbands are good choices. Women may also be more comfortable in jumpers or loose sundresses. Low heeled shoes or slippers are easier on your back than those with platforms or higher heels.
Sometimes when you have a flare, it is hard to think past the bladder or pelvic pain. To simplify the coping process, you might want to create a list of things to do when you get a flare. Include your urologist’s phone number, sample menus, a list of medicines to take, and remind yourself to rest.
Finally, enlist the help of your loved ones. Even small children can understand that your "tummy" hurts, and most will be content to cuddle on the couch with you and do quiet things. 

Recovering From an Interstitial Cystitis Flare

Regardless which IC flare coping strategies you use to get your fussy bladder under control, it is important not to overdo it when you feel better. It may be tempting to work overtime to catch up on chores and work that piled up when you were not feeling well, but I can’t emphasize enough that it is important to rest and eat only the most bladder friendly foods for a week or so after you recover. Give your body a chance to heal.
Finally, try to think about what may have caused the flare in the first place and add these thoughts to your journal. Did you wear restrictive clothing or try a new food? Were you under more stress than usual, or were you not getting enough sleep? By scrutinizing the things that may have caused your bladder to flare, you may be able to minimize your chances for another one!


Julie Beyer, MA, RDN
Author, Speaker, Patient Advocate Just Tell Me What to Eat!

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

For health care workers:  Interstitial Cystitis: A Guide for Nutrition Educators 

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  1. I thought that Azo Standard contained Cranberries?

    1. Azo does have a cranberry product but Azo Standard doesn't have cranberry. ­čśë

  2. Where can I find it ?

    Thanks, Jennifer

  3. In any pharmacy or from Amazon! If you use my Amazon link it helps pay for this blog: