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There is no scientific evidence linking diet to IC / PBS, but many
doctors and patients find that alcohol, tomatoes, spices,
chocolate, caffeinated and citrus beverages, and high-acid foods
may contribute to bladder irritation and inflammation. Some
patients also note that their symptoms worsen after eating or
drinking products containing artificial sweeteners. Patients may
try eliminating various items from their diet and reintroducing
them one at a time to determine which, if any, affect their
symptoms. However, maintaining a varied, well balanced diet is
The IC Diet: A list of problem food.
There are a variety of lists floating around the IC community which document some of the
diverse IC food irritants. Many lists are similar, yet not identical. Whether or not a particular
food is listed is sometimes a matter of the beliefs, priorities, or personal experience of the
The problem foods we've listed below are the most common ones that thousands of IC patients
have reported trouble with. Your goal is to determine IF these foods irritate you, perhaps by
using an elimination diet! If you are like most, you'll probably be able to eat a few of the foods
listed as "problematic". You also might have to avoid a few others listed as "okay". Remember,
this list is only a rough guide. Be prepared to be creative with your meals and in your kitchen!
Please note: About 15% of women with IC also have vulvar pain (vulvodynia). Some of the
foods in the "May Be Okay" column have high levels of oxalates, which women with vulvodynia
react to. Those who don't have vulvodynia typically don't react to the oxalates, so they may have
a much easier time getting away with foods in the "May Be Okay" column.
emmenthalergruyerhard jackroquefortsorbetsoy milksoy cheesesour creamstiltonswissyogurt peaspotatoespumpkinradishessnow peassplit peassummer squashturnipswinter squashyamszucchini plain pastries w/ almonds coffee ice cream homemade vanilla frosting candies w/o acids pear pastriessugarsugar cookiestapiocavanilla ice creamvanilla pudding tamarivinegarworcestershire sauceMSG (monosodiumglutamate)metabisulfitessulfites Our five worst foodsThese foods win our vote as the biggest misery makers for people with IC! These are the foodswe hear about from IC patients all the time. Of course just because they cause trouble for somany others, that doesn't guarantee they'll make you miserable too. But if you do eat these,watch out! Be sure to pay close attention to how you feel afterwards. If you feel worse, thenthere is a good chance that this is a trigger food for you. Information is power. Wheneverpossible, talk with other patients and compare your trigger foods. They may help you discoversome hidden triggers in your own diet.
#1: Coffees and TeasYes, we know that "lattes" are all the rage these days. Coffee is, regrettably, our number onebladder irritant. In a sensitive bladder, the acid, caffeine and tannins in coffees have littlecompetition for causing intense irritation and discomfort. In our experience, the patients whoseem to struggle the most with symptoms are those who still have that one cup of coffee (or tea)in the morning.
Is decaf coffee safe?? For most patients in flares, it isn't. A decaffeinated coffee is still very highin acid and can provoke symptoms. There are a number of herbal coffees, such as Cafix or Pero,that patients have reported to enjoy. There are also low acid coffees, such as Euromild &Puroast, that may be more tolerable. If you're struggling with IC symptoms and/or a flare, thesafest hot drink is hot water and honey!Teas can be surprisingly irritating to the bladder. A regular tea, such as Earl Grey, is usually outof the question. Remember, just as with coffees, decaf regular teas can still provoke symptoms.
Herbal teas, particularly herbal blends, are also notorious for triggering symptoms due to theacidity added from other herbs, such as rosehips. Despite the hype, green tea is so acidic that itcan create agonizing pain for some. If you're a tea lover, we suggest that you try a plain organicor mint tea! You can find a wide variety of low acid, IC Friendly coffees, herbal coffees & teas in the #2: Cranberry & Other Fruit JuicesOtherwise known as the ACID BOMB when it hits, cranberry juice may be the biggest bladderirritant in an IC patient's diet. It's often recommended for consumption during urinary tractinfections because it is believed to have substances in it that help keep bacteria from sticking tothe bladder wall. (If they can't stick, they can't infect. They just get flushed out). But cranberryjuice can VERY be difficult for an IC bladder to tolerate. Citrus juices such as orange juice,grapefruit juice, lemonade, will also be very irritating to the bladder. If you're desperate for ajuice, we recommend trying a Baby Pear or Apple Juice. Baby juices do not use as much citricacid and seem to be much more bladder friendly!#3: Carbonated beveragesIf we had $1 for everytime a patient reported that they had a flare from drinking a diet cola, we'dbe rich today! Whether it be plain carbonated Perrier water or flavored sodas, IC patients oftencomplain about their irritating effects on the bladder. The biggest problem appears to be the acid,though most flavored sodas also have big doses of caffeine.
The most difficult carbonated beverage for an IC bladder to tolerate appears to be diet cola. Dietcolas are a quadruple whammy of acidic carbonation, citric and other acids, caffeine, andartificial sweeteners-- four well-known bladder irritants. Taken all at once it can be an ICbladder's nightmare! If you must have a soda, try a non-diet, usually non-caffeinated, root beer--and load the cup with plenty of ice to dilute it!#4: Tomato ProductsThey're found in so many foods these days, tomatoes and tomato products are darn hard to avoid.
Though we think of them as mild mannered vegetables, those tempting red globes are really avery acidic fruit. A few IC patients can tolerate tomato sauces on pizzas and pasta, but mostcannot. Low acid tomatoes may be good substitutes for some people. The book A Taste of theGood Life: A Cookbook for an Interstitial Cystitis Diet, has a lengthy list of lower-acid tomatovarieties you can grow at home!#5: MultivitaminsMultivitamins are notoriously irritating to the IC bladder due to both the Vitamin C (AscorbicAcid) and Vitamin B6. Unless you require multivitamins for another medical condition, wesuggest that stop any multivitamins to determine if they are irritating your bladder.
Ok, we admit it, we cheated to get this one on the list. tobacco isn't really a food. But it does
have some significant effects on an IC bladder. For one, it acts to constrict the bladder's blood
vessels, interfering with the body's natural way of washing out inflammatory substances from the
bladder tissues. Veteran IC patients prefer less pain rather than more. Is that cigarette worth a
night and day of pain?
The two hardest foods to give up
As a support group leader, every once in a while I encounter an IC patient who, despite their
horrible, continuous pain, insists on drinking coffee and/or eating chocolate bars. Coffee and
chocolate are among the most common comfort foods. We depend on these to wake up, soothe
our bad mood, or just give us a cheerful lift. In addition to caffeine, these both have a load of
substances any one of which can potentially affect an IC bladder.
For me, as an IC patient, it was a choice between pain and frequency or coffee. I chose not to be
in pain. But, still, some coffee addicts insist that they can drink coffee and not experience
discomfort.I say, PROVE IT!
The only way to know if coffee, chocolate, (or any other comfort food) bothers your bladder is to
do your own research! How? Complete a voiding diary for a few days, WITH COFFEE AND
CHOCOLATE, in your diet. Then, keep the same diary and avoid drinking and/or eating either
for a week!
If your voiding diary shows that you urinate less and/or are in less pain when you're not
consuming them, then they are clearly irritating you! Do you need any more evidence than that?
Many patients feel that smoking makes their symptoms worse.
How the by-products of tobacco that are excreted in the urine
affect IC / PBS is unknown. Smoking, however, is the major
known cause of bladder cancer. Therefore, one of the best things
smokers can do for their bladder and their overall health is to
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