Holistic Treatment for Interstitial Cystitis
Natural Remedies and Treatment for Interstitial Cystitis
Many patients with interstitial cystitis reject the idea they need to be on medications or bladder treatments for the rest of their lives. Natural healing is possible with IC and can provide lasting relief of bladder pain and symptoms. The most proven treatment for interstitial cystitis is natural. Pelvic floor physical therapy resolves IC symptoms naturally and gets to the underlying 'why' of symptoms for lasting relief.
Natural supplements and remedies have also been tested and proven to help those with IC. You can absolutely heal naturally with this condition, reduce your symptoms and live pain-free with interstitial cystitis.
We do a comprehensive overview of the condition and everything you need to know to develop an action plan for natural, sustained healing in the IC: Roadmap to Healing online course ($87). but here is a great summary!
Holistic and Natural Treatments for Interstitial Cystitis
Medical organizations and advocacy groups that have studied IC recommend a holistic approach with a combination of different therapies, including the Interstitial Cystitis Association (ICA), the American Urological Association (AUA), and American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ACOG). You'll also hear fancier synonyms like 'mutli-modal treatment' or 'combination therapy.'
Interstitial cystitis is a complex condition that entangles many different parts of the body - the pelvic floor, bladder, nerves, and even the brain are often affected. It negatively affects sleep and can make eating a healthy diet more difficult. All of the different components of the condition need to be addressed for true healing to take place.
Pelvic Floor Physical Therapy
Pelvic floor physical therapy looks to address the component of pain and urinary symptoms that are due to tight, stressed, and knotted pelvic floor muscles. Pelvic floor dysfunction is almost ubiquitous with interstitial cystitis - measured in at least 85% of patients - and can mimic or create any of the symptoms of interstitial cystitis. Pelvic floor physical therapy works to release tension from these muscles, clear out inflammation, and restore normal function. It's the only treatment shown to sustainably help a majority of IC patients, and the only treatment given an 'A' evidence grade by the American Urological Association.
In the IC: Roadmap to Recovery course we discuss how to find a qualified pelvic floor physical therapist, what questions to ask and how to make sure you're getting the best possible treatment. Most patients have to see two or more pelvic PTs before finding the right fit - there's a wide variety of experience and expertise in the field.
Stretching, Self-Care, and Massage
There's so much we can do on our own to naturally heal from IC symptoms.
Stretching, self-care, and self-massage can be important aspects of a holistic IC treatment. They can help complement physical therapy, allowing you to keep the gains you see with PT. The IC Stretching Regimen takes only 20 minutes each day, but helps to relax the tight pelvic floor muscles and alleviate pain and bladder pressure. Self-care techniques like fascial release, trigger point release, and foam rolling can all help break up knots (or trigger points) in the muscles to restore normal length and function.
You can also use tools like a foam roller (for external trigger points) or a pelvic wand (for internal trigger points) to address the areas causing you the most pain. In the IC: Roadmap to Recovery course we go through each of these tools in detail, giving you the most effective foam roll and internal trigger point release techniques for IC relief.
Diet and Lifestyle Changes
Approximately 85% of patients with IC report sensitivity to certain foods. While there seems to be a spectrum - some patients have no food sensitivity at all, while others are highly sensitive to many items - there are a handful of common trigger foods that are often culprits. Caffeine, alcohol, artificial sweeteners, citrus fruits and juices, and tomatoes are among the most prevalent. An elimination diet can help you understand what foods are triggers. There is no such thing as an 'IC Diet' - it's unique to each patient. Simply 1) avoid trigger foods and 2) eat healthy. That's it!
In the online IC: Roadmap to Healing course we discuss how to do an Elimination Diet to find your specific triggers and the importance of adding in new foods if you have to take something out. We want to have a healthy, fun, enjoyable diet!
So many patients have had their pain trivialized or been told it's 'all in your head' that it's difficult to talk about mental health. Interstitial cystitis is absolutely a physical condition that causes real, physical pain and symptoms. With any chronic pain condition, it actually begins to re-wire the brain to expect pain. Stress has also been shown to have an impact on pain levels. Simple techniques like deep breathing, meditation, yoga, or therapy can have a major benefit on physical symptoms.
We go through several stress relief techniques and their importance in the online course, and downregulating the nervous system can be so important for healing!
Complementary and Alternative Medicine
The line between 'complementary and alternative' medicine and the standard of care is fluid - pelvic floor physical therapy used to be considered an alternative treatment, and is now the most proven therapy for interstitial cystitis. One of the most common drugs in the world - aspirin - began as willow bark tea hundreds of years ago.
There are many supplements that have been shown to have benefit for some IC patients, including Calcium Glycerophosphate (Prelief), L-Arginine, Aloe Vera, Omega-3 Fish Oil, Vitamin D, and the combination of different ingredients in CystoProtek. Acupuncture has been shown in clinical trials to help with many chronic pain conditions - if you have had success in the past with acupuncture, it may be worthwhile to try again.
The condition is complex, and entangles many different parts of the body - the pelvic floor, bladder, nerves, and even the brain are often affected. Holistic treatment is necessary to treat all these different areas for true healing.
Everyone is different; what works for others may not be effective for you, and vice-versa. A holistic treatment plan maximizes your chances for success.
If you need help better understanding your condition (or even if you have IC at all!) or developing an action plan, you can always schedule a remote, 1:1 consultation with our expert team. We'll spend a full hour with you, listening to your journey and giving you advice and clarity on where to go next. If you don't need 1:1 help, much of the information can be found in the online, patient-friendly IC: Roadmap to Recovery ($87) course. It has more than 5 hours of content from Dr. Nicole on the condition and how to find lasting relief. Natural healing with IC is absolutely possible!
Dr. Nicole Cozean is the founder of PelvicSanity physical therapy, Orange County's premier pelvic floor physical therapy clinic. One of only 270 PTs to be board-certified in the pelvic floor, and the first PT to serve on the ICA Board of Directors, Nicole is the author of the acclaimed and best-selling book The Interstitial Cystitis Solution (2016). She is an adjunct professor at her alma mater, Chapman University. The PelvicSanity blog focuses on presenting practical, positive information to help patients beyond the walls of Nicole's clinic.