Why Chemicals Could be Contributing to Your IC Pain
A few years ago, when I began working on getting to the root of my interstitial cystitis (IC), I devoted much of my efforts to change the food I was eating. This made perfect sense to me since diet seems to be a major contributing factor to so many chronic conditions. In the beginning, it was difficult to pinpoint all of the triggers that my body was flagging as toxic invaders. This led to me removing unnecessary foods from my diet out of pure confusion. Certain foods trigger an autoimmune response – this much we understand – but when there is an Immunoglobulin G (IgG) response to contend with, we struggle even more with the IC puzzle. That’s because it can take up to three days before symptoms are felt. I don’t know about you, but I can barely remember what I ate last night for dinner let alone what I ate three days ago. What I soon came to realize was that despite my efforts to clean up my diet, I needed to be equally as vigilant about environmental toxins which contain chemicals that can also contribute to IC pain.
My personal experience involved living ten long years in daily pain, which made identifying intolerances difficult. However, one thing was certain: the more anti-inflammatory foods I removed, the better I felt. I noticed that I had a number of issues with food aside from gluten, including refined sugar, processed food, and dairy. Once those were entirely removed, I focused my efforts on eating clean. I also supported my body with a number of high-quality supplements. The daily pain finally began to subside. Not only did I have more energy, stamina, clarity, and a ten-pound lighter body, but I was now able to more easily identify food and chemical intolerances.
Learning from experience
The first discovery came one night after showering. My favorite body wash scent from Bath and Body Works is Moonlight Path! I have used it for years. I love to lather the wash into my skin and then let it sit for three to four minutes before rinsing it off so that the scent lingered hours longer on my body. Prior to this particular evening, I had been using an organic coconut oil-based body wash (which smelled faintly of honey) for four months. I wasn’t a huge fan of it but had switched over in order to decrease my exposure to toxins. But on this particular evening, I wanted to smell that old familiar scent that I loved so much. After showering, I wrapped myself in my towel and began my regular nightly bedtime beauty routine. Twenty minutes later, as I slipped into my pajamas, I felt a sharp and quick pain move across my bladder. It startled me but I finished getting dressed and jumped into bed. As the night wore on, the stinging and irritation only grew worse. The pain would be comparable to that of a urinary tract infection (UTI). Except, I didn’t have a UTI. This pain was not something I often felt when dealing with my daily IC pain. Though I have heard that IC and UTI pain can feel similar (making it difficult for those with IC to differentiate between the two), this was not my personal experience. For me, this pain was different and I knew my body was trying to tell me something.
Months later (having forgotten my shower experience), my friend and I treated ourselves to an hour-long body massage. I sunk in and thoroughly enjoyed my time, never giving a thought to the lotion that was being rubbed into my skin, and would soon be making its way into my bloodstream. We joyfully wrapped up our hour of relaxation and decided to extend our time together by grabbing some lunch. As I made my way through my salad and sipped on my water, I suddenly felt that same sharp, quick pain. This time, it would take five days for the pain to subside, and I would also have to contend with nausea, chills, headache, and fatigue. Somewhere around day three, I convinced myself that it had to be a UTI. I hustled over to my doctor’s office to run a urine test only to leave confounded by the negative result. My entire body had paid for that hour’s worth of relaxation. I knew that from here on out, I had to be just as diligent when it comes to chemicals as I am about my food.
Chemical sensitivity can affect multiple organs and systems
Given the current condition of our environment and our excessive exposure to toxins, those with IC and other health issues can find that their body is unable to effectively manage them all. It is now believed that repeated exposure to chemicals may be to blame for a number of illnesses as it is linked to endocrine and immune dysfunction. Digging a little deeper I found that exposure to environmental chemicals is linked to multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS) or environmental intolerance, which is common in those with fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome and can occur simultaneously with other primary conditions.
Reducing our exposure to chemicals is critical. Unfortunately, we can continue to struggle since many are stored in our fatty tissue, forcing us to seek every option available when it comes to detoxification.
If you are wondering if you are among those with IC that experience symptoms when exposed to certain chemicals, simply pay attention to how you feel when exposed to things such as scented candles and products, fragrances, pesticides, synthetic materials, paint, artificial sweeteners, medications, dyes, preservatives, various detergents, soaps, oils, lotions, and body washes. Symptoms that may occur due to intolerance or sensitivity include: headaches, nausea, fatigue, rashes, anxiety, bladder pain, joint pain, digestive issues including IBS, asthma, sinusitis, rhinitis, and more. For the most advanced food and chemical sensitivity testing available consider the Mediator Release blood test.
What you should be focused on
The obvious course of action is to minimize your exposure to toxins. It’s best to remove any and all identifiable toxins in your home and replace them with clean products instead. That includes all of your household and beauty products, including: soap, lotion, shampoo, makeup and other beauty products, detergent, dish soap and dishwashing liquids, plastics, cookware, and cleaning products. If you want to take it a step further, consider purchasing a water filtration system and air purifier for your home. Next, make sure that you are eating clean, which will automatically reduce your toxic burden and decrease your IC symptoms. Lastly, the use of a far infrared sauna or ozone sauna will activate the sweat glands, allowing your body to eliminate the toxins through your largest organ – your skin. And in the future, if you want to get a massage, learn from my mistake! Look for a spa near you that uses natural and organic products.