Interstitial Cystitis Home Remedies

For most individuals with interstitial cystitis (IC), dietary supplements are safer, cheaper, and about as effective as the most commonly prescribed oral FDA-approved drug for IC, Elmiron (pentosan polysulfate sodium). 

This drug comes with numerous potential side effects (hair loss, diarrhea, blood in the stool, dizziness, headache, rash, abnormal liver enzymes, and bruising), and higher dosages have worked no better than lower dosages in studies, which is why I believe it isn’t much more effective than a placebo. (Its original intended use was as a blood thinner, but it didn’t work!)

What is Interstitial Cystitis?

Interstitial cystitis, or painful bladder syndrome, is a chronic, debilitating, inf lammatory bladder disorder that occurs mostly in women (80 to 90 percent of cases). The cause is unknown, and there is no effective conventional therapy for it. 

Symptoms include chronic pelvic pain, pressure or discomfort, urgency and frequency of urination, and getting up repeatedly at night to urinate without having an underlying urinary tract infection

Some people even experience pain with sexual intercourse. It’s not uncommon for those who have IC to also have allergies, asthma, irritable bowel syndrome, endometriosis, or fibromyalgia, and about 90 percent of sufferers report a sensitivity to certain foods, such as citrus fruits, artificial sweeteners, and spicy foods.

Dietary supplements and drug therapies work by targeting an area of the bladder known as the GAG (glycosaminoglycan) layer, which is damaged in people with IC. This tissue is made up of chondroitin sulfate and sodium hyaluronate, both of which are seen in increased amounts in the urine of individuals with the condition. Also, people with IC have higher numbers of mast cells (which play a role in allergic reactions) in certain areas of the bladder. As a result, treatment is aimed at restoring the GAG layer or controlling the allergic reaction in the pelvis.

Interstitial Cystitis Home Remedies

1. Calcium glycerophosphate two or three tablets or 1⁄4 teaspoon twice a day or before high-acid meals

Acidic foods and beverages can trigger IC symptoms, and calcium glycerophosphate, found in the product Prelief and generic forms, is widely used to neutralize meal acidity. The best study ever completed with this supplement found taking two calcium glycerophosphate pills before each meal significantly reduced pain, discomfort, and urgency and improved quality of life.

There is a lack of placebo-controlled clinical trials with this supplement, but I’ve ranked it number one due to its outstanding safety record and high patient satisfaction ratings. Surveys of users mirror what was found in the study mentioned above: improved quality of life and reduced pain/discomfort and urgency. The only controversy (apart from a lack of placebo studies) is the issue of whether urine acidity really exacerbates pain. Researchers used to believe that it made pain worse, but studies have shown that’s not necessarily the case. Calcium glycero-phosphate reduces acidity, but maybe that’s not how it works. Regardless, patients swear by it.

Only take calcium glycerophosphate as needed with acidic foods; overusing it could chronically reduce stomach acid, which can affect the absorption of critical nutrients and increase the risk of infections.

I know what you’re thinking: Can’t I just take Tums or Rolaids? This hasn’t been tested; however, in one small, older study of women with painful bladder disease, those who took 300 milligrams of the over-the-counter drug cimetidine (an acid blocker) twice daily saw a significant improvement in symptoms, including decreased suprapubic pain and less nighttime trips to urinate. But there was no change in the GAG layer or other membranes of the bladder. It’s possible that the antacid effects of cimetidine and calcium glycerophosphate have been profoundly underappreciated in IC treatment.

The recommended dosage is two or three tablets or 1⁄4 teaspoon twice a day or

before high-acid meals (it’s available in pill or powder form). You may need more or less. Two tablets of calcium glycerophosphate contain 130 milligrams of elemental calcium, and this should count toward your total calcium intake for the day.

2. Osteoarthritis supplements, such as glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate dosages vary

Glucosamine sulfate, chondroitin sulfate, and hyaluronate sodium help build the GAG layer of the bladder and reduce pain. There has been some preliminary positive research with the dietary supplement CystoProtek, which contains chondroitin sulfate, hyaluronate sodium, quercetin, rutin, glucosamine sulfate, and olive kernel extract. 

In the study, 37 participants who took the supplement for 6 months reported a significant reduction of IC symptoms. A larger study involved 252 IC patients who had failed with other treatments. They took four tablets per day, and the male subjects saw pain scores reduced by 52 percent after 12 months of treatment, while female subjects experienced a 49 percent drop in pain scores. 

More rigorous placebo-controlled trials are needed, but this data is encouraging. I’d also like to see research done with larger doses of a traditional glucosamine or chondroitin osteoarthritis supplement (1,500 and 1,200 milligrams a day, respectively) to see how it would perform against lower doses and other products in this section; I often recommend these dosages to IC patients. (Some doctors are now doing intravesical delivery of chondroitin or hyaluronic acid, placing the compound inside the bladder through the urethra. Cool stuff!)

3. Quercetin complex 500 milligrams twice a day

Quercetin is an anti-inf lammatory compound and localized mast cell inhibitor, which means it calms or prevents inflammatory reactions in and around the bladder, reducing pain and improving urinary symptoms. 

In one small study, patients who took a quercetin complex product (with bromelain and papain for better absorption) called Cysta-Q experienced a signif icant reduction in scores on a problem index, symptom index, and mean global assessment (which is a geeky way of saying they felt better). 

They took one capsule (500 miligrams) twice a day for 4 weeks. There was no placebo tested (and this is needed), but it’s widely prescribed by urologists around the world for other inflammatory issues, such as chronic prostatitis, so I think there’s definitely promise for treating IC.

4. Aloe

Aloe capsules (up to 3,600 milligrams a day, containing 1,200 milligrams of polysaccharides) may help some people with IC, according to some preliminary research. The study was presented at a major meeting and still hasn’t been published; I would be more comfortable taking this off the Honorable Mention list and listing it as a more concrete option if it were to be published. The polysaccharides may enforce the GAG layer, but I’d like to see more research on the safety and efficacy of it.

What Supplements Are Useless For Interstitial Cystitis?

L-arginine and L-citrulline

I discussed these supplements and their limitations in the Erectile Dysfunction section. And the research for IC has not been effective, even with large doses. Perhaps this is because some patients with IC already have high levels of nitric oxide. Since L-arginine and L-citrulline supplements can dramatically increase nitric oxide, they could be exacerbating the problem.

Vitamin C

Its acidity can make IC worse, so if you need to take it, please choose a buffered vitamin C or calcium ascorbate.

What Lifestyle Changes Can Help With Interstitial Cystitis?

Heart healthy = bladder healthy

This is just a theory of mine when it comes to IC. I believe it’s one of the reasons there are fewer cases of this condition in Japan. Staying heart healthy also reduces overall body inflammation, and since IC is an inflammatory condition, it just makes sense.

Log your meals

Keeping a food diary to determine what foods and beverages improve or worsen symptoms is one of the smartest things you can do when it comes to IC.

Go less frequently

If urgency and frequency of urination are a problem, “stretching” your bladder by increasing the time between bathroom visits may help. One study with IC patients who did not have severe pain had subjects increase the intervals between urinating by 15 to 30 minutes; after 3 months, many of the participants reported a large reduction in urgency and frequency of urination.

What Else to Know About Treating Interstitial Cystitis?

Physicians prescribe many off-label drugs for IC, from muscle relaxants to medications that impact a variety of neurotransmitters (such as the prescription drug amitriptyline). If your doctor only wants to stick with FDA-approved drugs for IC, please fire him and seek out an expert in the area of IC (usually an OB- GYN or urologist).

Leave a Comment