Interstitial cystitis is something that I see quite often in my practice. It’s also known as painful bladder syndrome and is extremely uncomfortable and even painful. IC often causes bladder pressure, bladder pain, and can also cause pelvic pain. Some people with interstitial cystitis may deal with chronic severe pain on a regular basis from this condition.
If you suspect you may have IC or have been battling it for quite some time, keep reading. I am going to dive further into what interstitial cystitis is, it’s link to digestive conditions and some things you can start doing today to help reduce symptoms.
What is Interstitial Cystitis?
To better understand what IC is, let’s talk about the function of your bladder. Your bladder is an organ that holds urine. Once your bladder is full, it will send a signal to your brain telling you that it’s time to go to the bathroom. The communication happens through the pelvic nerves. (1)
When IC is present, these particular signals get mixed up so you may feel the need to use the bathroom more frequently and you may have a smaller volume of urine than most people.
This condition also affects more women than it does men and it can significantly impair one’s quality of life if not treated.
Symptoms of Interstitial Cystitis
Some of the most common symptoms associated with this condition include:
- Pelvic pain
- Frequent urination up to 60 times per day, which is often in small amounts
- Feeling like you need to constantly urinate
- Pain while your bladder fills
- Feeling relief after you urinate
- Pain during intercourse
Symptoms can vary from person to person, and there may even be periods where you don’t experience any symptoms at all. If you do have any of the following symptoms, they are commonly confused with urinary tract infections. In the case of IC, there is no infection, but the symptoms can be similar. This is why it’s important to work with a practitioner who has experience working with patients with interstitial cystitis so that you can get the proper diagnosis.
Causes of Interstitial Cystitis
While there is not one known cause of IC, there have been some connections made as to what could potentially lead to this condition.
It’s thought that people who suffer from interstitial cystitis may have a defect in the protective lining of their bladder.
Other causes may include:
- An autoimmune reaction
Your age can also play a role as most people who are diagnosed with this condition are usually diagnosed during their 30’s or after.
IC & The Gastrointestinal System
There is a link between interstitial cystitis and the gastrointestinal system. It’s been noted that women who have IC generally have gastrointestinal symptoms as well. (2)
Specifically, the connection between SIBO (Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth) and IC is clear. A study found that most patients who had IC and also had gastrointestinal symptoms tested positive for SIBO. 47% of those who tested positive, and who were treated, showed improvements in their interstitial cystitis symptoms!
This study proves that when dealing with IC, it’s important to take a look at the digestive system and strengthen it as well. In my practice, I always take gut health into account and often run a wide variety of tests to detect potential gut infections. If we can uncover a gut infection and get that treated, there’s a good chance that the IC symptoms may improve.
Improving IC Symptoms
In order to relieve symptoms and keep symptoms at bay long-term, it’s important to get the proper testing to determine if a gut infection is causing some of the pain associated with this condition. On top of the proper testing, there are some additional steps you can take.
- Avoid caffeine and alcohol
- Avoid acidic juices such as cranberry juice
- Adopt an anti-inflammatory diet
- Try a yeast free diet by eliminating things like sugar, vinegar, and malt
- Eliminate wheat, grains, sugar, and processed foods from the diet
- Reduce stress
- Get tested for food sensitivities. Many patients with IC also suffer from food sensitivities so knowing what these are can help get you on a healing path
Essential Oils for IC
Essential oils are great for a number of conditions, and interstitial cystitis is certainly one of them. Some of the most commonly used oils for this condition include lavender and sandalwood. There are also a handful of other options that may be beneficial as well. Let’s take a further look at each one:
- Lavender: This essential oil is a natural pain reliever and acts as an anti-spasmodic which makes it an excellent choice for IC sufferers.
- Sandalwood: Another essential oil that acts as a natural anti-spasmodic and has antiseptic properties. This is a great oil for the pain associated with IC.
- Thyme: Thyme essential oils holds impressive antiseptic as well as antibacterial properties and also acts as an antispasmodic oil.
- Cypress: This essential oil is great for many different types of spasms and is also known for having a very calming effect on the body.
- Geranium: Geranium essential oil holds some anti-inflammatory properties and is even known to help reduce irritation.
- Clary Sage: Clary sage essential oil has some powerful anti-inflammatory as well as anti-spasmodic properties which are both great when treating IC.
- Juniper: This essential oil may be able to help reduce both cramps and gas from the intestines.
When using essential oils, it’s important to use pure grade quality oils in order to gain the most benefit. My favorite essential oil company is Young Living.
How to Use Essential Oils for IC
So, how exactly do you use these oils?
Here are a couple of ways to add essential oils to your healing protocol:
- Massaged into the skin: You can dilute an essential oil with some coconut oil and massage the oil into the skin right above the bladder area. Even when diluting oils, you will want to do a patch test on a small area of your skin to make sure that you do not have any reactions. Essential oils are also very powerful so a couple of drops goes a very long way.
- Diffuse the oil: You can add a couple of drops of essential oil into a diffuser to diffuse the oil in your office or home.
- Add a few drops to your bath: Taking a relaxing bath is a great way to soothe away pain but it’s even better when you add a couple of drops of essential oil.
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- Mayo Clinic. Interstitial cystitis
- The Integrative Women’s Health Institute. (2015) Relief for SIBO With Interstitial Cystitis Related Bladder Pain
- Marcelle Pick, OB/GYN NP. Interstitial Cystitis
- Marc Seward. (2015) Essential Oils for Interstitial Cystitis.