Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Interstitial Cystitis Diet and Overwhelm

should I eat it? interstitial cystitis
I often get frantic calls from interstitial cystitis patients who are overwhelmed trying to figure out what they can or cannot eat.  Trust me, I totally get it. Early on I was frustrated about the IC diet, ending up in a negative cycle of fixating on the foods I couldn't have, thinking I already had to give up so much of my life, and now I can't even have spaghetti or orange juice. How am I going to handle this?

Despite the frustration; however, the key thing to remember is that dietary modification CAN help control symptoms of IC, and it is actually something we have in our control. The one thing that helped turn my head around was to realize that eventually everyone "gets" something. Some people get arthritis, some get diabetes, some have even worse diseases like cancer.

In fact, if you asked ten people on the street if they are supposed to be watching their diet in some way, nine out of ten would say yes . . . and the last one would most likely be lying!

The good news is that an individual's IC diet usually doesn't have to be as strict as you may think. Most people with a painful bladder or interstitial cystitis find that they can have a substantial and healthy diet if they do a little detective work to identify their personal trigger foods. That is the idea of the IC elimination diet. Most people do not have to be on the most restrictive diet forever. And, although others with IC are great counsel, your diet is probably not going to look like anyone else's.

It can be very helpful to remember that eventually you will feel normal again, or more accurately, you will find yourself accepting a "new normal." You will learn coping skills that will help you on a daily basis. You will be able to navigate your refrigerator and restaurants without putting yourself in a flare. You will find exercises that you can do, and fixate less on what you can't do.

So, if you are new . . . hang in there . . . ask questions . . . be your own best health care provider. Keep a diary or a calendar. Write down what you eat, what is going on in your life, the medications you are trying, and how you are feeling. If you can't figure it out, share your diary with a trusted friend or your doctor. Sometimes we are too close to a situation to see what may be hurting us.

The ultimate message here is that you CAN do it, you CAN get better, you CAN begin to heal . . . it just takes some time and patience.

For more help see:  
Customizing the Interstitial Cystitis Diet: A Confident Choices Book

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

 **Please SHARE using the links below!**

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Interstitial Cystitis and Stress: Can Stress Affect Your Bladder?

stress and interstitial cystitis

When I speak to interstitial cystitis support groups, I often tell a story that took place shortly after I was diagnosed for my painful bladder. (If you have heard this story before, please bare with me.)

We had just moved into a new house and took a weekend to wallpaper the kitchen. As many of you can relate, putting up wallpaper can definitely test a relationship! In fact, things were going along just fine until my husband lost his temper briefly about something. I literally doubled over with bladder pain, and he snapped again, "But you were fine just a second ago!"

Yes, I was fine just a second ago, but this scenario was the biggest example yet of how quickly stress can affect our bodies, particularly if you have a condition like interstitial cystitis.

What Is Stress?

Despite all of the psychological talk these days about stress, many people are still not sure what it means and how stress can affect a condition like interstitial cystitis. For example, stress itself is neither negative nor positive. Instead, it is our reaction to stress that turns stress into “dis-stress.” Most interstitial cystitis/IC patients learn early that stress can aggravate their bladder symptoms. Please understand; this is not the same as saying that your symptoms are all in your head. Stress, more exactly the body’s response to stress, produces chemical and physical changes that cause our bodies to react in ways that are intended to protect us, but they can also cause damage to our bodies, including our bladder.

The first thing to keep in mind is that stress can be either “external” or “internal.” Examples of external or physical stress include loud noises, extreme heat or cold, malnutrition, injuries, illnesses, toxins, travel, heavy labor, exercise, harsh weather, smoking, and drug or alcohol use. Internal stress can include emotions like anger, resentment, envy, revenge, tension, anxiety, excitement, guilt, fear, rejection, failure, success, depression, love, joy, expectations, boredom, and even frustration. If you are surprised about the positive emotions being listed there, consider the stress people experience when planning weddings or building their dream house!


Fight or Flight

To understand how these stresses create problems in our body and particularly our bladders, it is important to understand the physiological reaction to stress. 

Imagine that a fire spontaneously breaks out in a store where you are shopping. Some of the people around will call 911; some will work to fight the fire; and some will flee, or run from the scene. The body’s physical responses to this stressful situation (the “fight or flight” response) include:
  • Increased release of stress hormones—frequently triggering IC symptoms
  • Surges of sugar released into the bloodstream—providing quick energy for muscle and brain functions
  • Accelerated heart rate, increased respiration, and increased blood pressure—improving the flow of oxygen and energy to the muscles and brain
  • Increased cholesterol and blood lipid levels—providing a sustained form of energy
  • Increased blood clotting ability—preparing the body to heal potential wounds from “fighting”
  • Increased sweating—keeping the body cool during “battle”
  • Dilation of pupils—maximizing vision
  • Slowed digestion and reduced immune function—allowing the body to focus energy on the “stressful” event
Although all of these physical reactions are valuable when a fire breaks out, many times the stressful events we experience do not require the same level of physical activity that fighting a fire demands. For example, when you are subjected to pressure at work, it is unlikely that you will physically have a fight with your boss. Or, if you are in a traffic jam, you probably are not going to get out of your car and start running. Yet, in each case, your body goes through all of those physiological and chemical changes of stress.

This unmanaged stress negatively affects body systems. Many of these changes can affect your bladder if you have interstitial cystitis or even overactive bladder! Nutrition resources are depleted rapidly. The risk for heart disease and stroke increases. Headaches and muscle aches are more common in people under stress. Both men and women can experience fertility problems, and the body is more susceptible to illness (cancer, infection, colds, and flu) because of a weakened immune system. 

Knowing this, now you can probably see how so many health problems are stress related. People under stress are more susceptible to ulcers and irritable bowel disease. Bingeing behavior can increase after a stressful episode, making weight management difficult. On top of that, stress hormones encourage fat to be stored. Finally, as most IC patients know, unmanaged stress can cause an increase in urinary symptoms. 


Managing Stress to Manage Your Bladder Symptoms

“I believe that a simple and unassuming manner of life is best for everyone,
best both for the body and the mind.”
Albert Einstein

  • Taking action if possible: Procrastinating on a project or sweeping problems under the rug only increases stress in the long run.
  • Committing to a healthy diet: A healthy diet not only keeps the body from going into stress related to malnutrition, but it also reestablishes nutritional balance when nutrients are depleted, and fortifies the immune system.
  • Getting up to move: Exercising gives the body something physical to do when it is in a state of stress and reduces the effects of stress by using up the chemicals released in the “fight or flight” phenomenon.
  • Avoiding the temptation to “relax” by using alcohol or drugs when under stress: These substances only increase stress on a body.
  • Practicing deep breathing, yoga, massage, meditation, or prayer: hugging someone; playing with a pet.
  • Putting your problems into words: Talking to someone or writing the thoughts down can help provide perspective.
  • Practicing forgiveness: Forgiving those who have hurt you and forgiving yourself for not being perfect can help you come to a place of acceptance.
  • Enjoying something “new”: Taking up a craft, or enrolling in a class can help you feel a sense of accomplishment.
  • Letting go when the situation cannot be changed: Putting problems in the past is much healthier than obsessing about problems that can never be solved.
PS: I just wanted to assure you that the wallpaper turned out beautifully! In fact, that was about 12 years ago, and we have redone the kitchen again with nary a cross word! :-)


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

 **Please SHARE using the links below!**

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Interstitial Cystitis Mental Gymnastics - Part Three (The Blame Game)

The Blame Game
The blame game I am talking about today is the one we play with ourselves. Sometimes having a chronic illness like interstitial cystitis seems like the biggest thing in our lives, especially at first. It can be easy to use the disease as a scapegoat for everything bad that happens. Of course, that means we are blaming ourselves, which in most cases is not fair, and certainly isn't healthy.

A great example is the time my family was driving to Florida from Michigan, and we had to stop just short of our Disney destination for me to go to an emergency room. I thought I was in a horrible flare, but actually had a raging bladder infection. At the time, I felt guilty and "blamed" myself for our family "losing" a day of vacation. Let's step back, however, and digest this logically:
  1. First, whether it was an infection or an IC flare, it wasn't my fault. Period. Nothing I did made me sick. Nothing I did gave me IC. 
  2. Second, my family did not really lose a day of vacation. While I was in the ER, they were back at the hotel swimming in a pool and having a great time. It wasn't the Mouse's pool, but it was a pool, and the weather was warmer than it had been in Michigan when we left. No one else perceived it as a problem, why did I?
  3. Third, if I hadn't gone to the ER, I would have become that much sicker. Delaying treatment is never better than seeking help.
  4. Finally, it could have been anyone else that had gotten sick....and they have on other vacations. My husband broke a foot right before we went to Mackinaw Island once. He even rode a horse on that trip. Then, he broke his hand in a car accident before we took a two week cruise. I was totally understanding and even bought him an electronic reader to take so he could read more comfortably. My middle child used to get sick with something nearly every time we traveled or took a vacation. On one trip, I spent the day in the hotel room with her while the rest of the family went to a water park. And, each of my kids have missed parts of vacations because of baseball tournaments and band camp.
Do you sometimes blame yourself when bladder symptoms upset your family's plans? Then it is time to put things in perspective. Try not to exaggerate the burden your condition puts on others. It isn't fair to you and can set a bad precidence where everyone starts to inappropriatly blame you too. Instead, practice taking disruptions in stride and even with a sense of humor. Things happen. People get sick, and everyone gets something sometime. Why should we treat ourselves with less understanding and compassion than we do the rest of our family?

PS: I almost forgot to tell you! When I was at the emergency room in Florida, I used my "Restroom Access Card" from the Interstitial Cystitis Network. The physician's assistant looked up information on IC and was able to help me much more effectively than if I had to explain everything from scratch. These cards can also be handy if you are on a plane or need restroom access in a place that generally doesn't have public restrooms. A bargain at $2.49 for 3.

Related Posts:

Fighting Interstitial Cystitis Flares 
IC Patients - Are You an Introvert or an Extrovert?
Mental Gymnastice Part One (Consider Intentions)
Mental Gymnastics Part Two (Turning Negatives to Positives)

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

 **Please SHARE using the links below!**