What is Vulvodynia? Vulvodynia, or chronic pain in the area around the vagina (vulva) is often seen in interstitial cystitis patients. The characteristic symptoms of burning or irritation of this sensitive area can crossover with those of IC. Women with vulvodynia can find sitting for long periods of time and sexual intercourse extremely uncomfortable. The condition is considered chronic with symptoms lasting years.
The Low Oxalate Diet: Many patients report some relief when following a low oxalate diet. Oxalates are tiny molecules found in various foods that generally pass through the body unabsorbed. In some patients, however, oxalates can pass through the intestinal barrier and the molecules accumulate causing inflammation in various areas of the body. To date, researchers have not proven that oxalates play a part in vulvodynia; however I truly believe that patients know best and the researchers need to keep looking!
Finding Personal Trigger Foods: If you have vulvodynia in addition to IC and you want to try to eliminate oxalates to see if it helps your symptoms, you can combine both the low oxalate food list with the IC Food List. Compare the lists, crossing out foods on the IC Food List that are high (H or VH) and moderately high (M) in oxalates. This will give you a basic diet to follow to see if your symptoms improve. After some time, you can experiment with adding some of the M foods back in to see if you react. The important thing is to develop your own, personalized trigger food list and not eliminate foods unnecessarily.
If you need to combine a low-oxalate diet with an IC Diet, I suggest that you consult a dietitian. I have helped many IC/vulvodynia patients over the years. If you are interested in a consultation, please email me at NutraConsults@aol.com. If you would rather see someone in your area, please email me and I can find someone to help you.
Treatments for Vulvodynia: Medical treatments include tri-cyclic antidepressants and antihistamines to help reduce pain and inflammation. Vulvodynia patients may also find relief from creams such as lidocaine that temporarily numb the area. Surgery should be considered a last resort and may include removal of the painful areas of the vulva.
Additional Lifestyle Changes: Many patients find they can treat their symptoms with various lifestyle changes. MayoClinic.com recommends cold compresses to the affected areas, avoiding tight fitting clothing, avoiding hot tubs, limiting excessive personal hygiene, and paying attention to other triggers such as personal hygiene products and toilet tissues.
Some people with vulvodynia take warm baths with a handful of Epsom salts in it to relieve their symptoms. You may also want to use personal lubricants. I LOVE the Desert Harvest Aloe Gele'! It is actually the reason why I decided to write this article! I keep it in the refrigerator since the coolness also seems to help. Desert Harvest also has a Desert Harvest Aloe Gel that doesn't use any preservatives. Again, an excellent product that has helped many IC and vulvodynia patients.
[More product information: Both Desert Harvest's All-Natural Aloe Vera Personal Gel and Desert Harvest Gelé contain all of the anti-inflammatory,pain relieving, and healing properties of the aloe plant without paraben preservatives. The difference between the two is the concentration. DH Gelé starts with 10X concentrated aloe vera juice, while the DH Personal Gel uses 1X juice, which means the Gelé is more therapeutic and healing. The Gelé is 95% natural with small amounts of manmade preservatives. The Personal Gel costs a bit more because it uses 100% botanical preservatives. Many thanks to Desert Harvest for their support of the Confident Choices mission!]
For more information and personal support check out the Interstitial Cystitis Network's Vulvodynia Support Forum
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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
For health care workers: Interstitial Cystitis: A Guide for Nutrition Educators
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