Did you know that interstitial cystitis (IC) appears on the American Autoimmune Related Diseases Association’s list of 88 known autoimmune conditions?
Sending IC into remission, or at minimum reducing symptoms, may not be possible for some unless the obstacles that are interfering with the immune system’s ability to function are addressed and removed. The good news is that once you begin to make the necessary dietary and lifestyle changes to bring about real change, your health will begin to improve.
Step One: Find the right doctor and nutritionist
The first step toward healing is to find the right doctor who can work with you on the path to recovery. It is equally important to seek out a nutritionist who can help you customize your diet, taking into consideration your own unique makeup, food and chemical sensitivities, nutrient deficiencies, and related health issues. Functional medicine looks at the body as a whole, taking a system-oriented approach. This challenges conventional western medicine, which typically takes a disease-centered focus and operates on symptom management. If we hope to regain our health we cannot simply isolate the bladder or focus on one organ alone. We must view the body in its entirety, as an integrated whole. Having the right doctor makes all the difference, believe me! Find a reputable integrative, functional, naturopathic, or holistic doctor (search for a Functional Practitioner in your area), as well as a holistic or integrative and functional nutritionist. For more information, see Services.
Additionally, you may want to consider making an apppoinmment with a trained physical therapist. According to statistics, 85% of women with IC have pelvic floor dysfunction. PFD can be caused my muscles that are too tense or too relaxed. Those with IC who also suffer from PFD tend to have a combination of muscles that are too relaxed and too tense, so that they are affectively working against each other, which can cause the muscles to spasm. Plevic floor therapy is proven to help in relaxing and desensitizing the central nervous sytem, which may help to ease symptoms in both the short and long term. If your symptoms include frequent, urgent or painful urination; incomplete voiding or mid-flow stopping and starting; constipation or painful bowel movements; lower back, pelvic, genital or rectal pain; or pain during or after sex, ask your healthcare provider for a PFD physical therapy refferal.
Step Two: Heal your gut-strengthen your immune system
Few of us truly understand just how important and influential our immune systems are. Protecting us day and night, they can detect a wide range of pathogens, including bacteria, viruses, and parasites. They are our first line of defense against disease and infection. In light of this, we need to keep our immune systems strong so that they can continue to create a vital barrier between our bodies and the toxins we’re exposed to in everyday life. Keeping our immune systems healthy helps to ensure that harmful pathogens are detected and destroyed long before we experience any ill effects.
A strong and healthy immune system will also help to control inflammation in the body, which is the precursor to most diseases. Our goal should be to maintain zero-inflammation levels, but if our immune system is weak our inflammation levels will rise. The type of chronic inflammation often associated with IC is a clear indication that the immune system is overworked and under extreme pressure.
The gut accounts for eighty percent of the body’s immune system. As such, a healthy gut equals a strong immune system. When the gut becomes compromised the tight junctions begin to come apart (known as “leaky gut” or intestinal permeability), toxins, undigested food, and unfriendly microbes are able to breach the barrier and enter the bloodstream, to our detriment. Leaky gut diminishes the small intestine’s ability to absorb nutrients because damage to the villi and microvilli reduces the surface area of the small intestine. This means that even if we’re eating a healthy diet we may not be reaping the full benefits nutritionally. Once leaky gut is in play we begin to have a host of other issues to contend with because, as the name suggests, it also causes the walls of the intestines to leak. As toxic invaders that have no business entering our bloodstream find their way in, the immune system fires up and begins producing inflammatory chemicals in response, creating extra antibodies to fight against these invaders.
One of the most important ways to strengthen the immune system is to maintain gut integrity which can be done by focusing on a healthy microbiome. The gut relies on trillions of bacteria that live within the intestines. In fact, we possess ten times more microbial cells than human cells. Comprising 100 trillion organisms in total, the microbiome in the gut provides an incredibly diverse ecosystem. Good bacteria in your gut help to ensure gut health by sealing gaps in the intestinal wall and allowing you to properly digest your food. This ecosystem, however, is affected by factors such as diet, chronic stress, infections, antibiotics, and toxins including environmental toxins. Focusing on a healthy diet and lifestyle will help in maintaining healthy, balanced gut microbiota, which is directly linked to the health of our immune system. The microbiome is responsible for a number of functions, none of which should be minimized since each plays an important part in our overall health and wellbeing.
Functional medicine looks at the body as a whole, taking a system-oriented approach. This challenges conventional western medicine, which typically takes a disease-centered focus and operates on symptom management. If we hope to regain our health we cannot simply isolate the bladder or focus on one organ alone. We must view the body in its entirety, as an integrated whole. Having the right doctor makes all the difference, believe me! Find a reputable integrative, functional, naturopathic, or holistic doctor, as well as a holistic or integrative and functional nutritionist. For more information, see Services.
- GI Map
- SIBO Breath Test
- Standard Blood Test
- DUTCH Test
- Comprehensive Thyroid Assessment
- Micronutrient Test
- Liver Detoxification Profile
- Inflammatory markers (usually added on to a comprehensive standard blood test)
- Comprehensive General Blood Test
- Mediator Release blood test (MRT), the most clinically proven test for food and food-chemical sensitivity.
- DNA testing (consider Genetics Made Simple and find a doctor in your area at www.gettoknowyourdna.com)
- Bioflims, microbial DNA sequencing for chronic infections.
- Organic Acids Test (Oat)
Supplement recommendation for gut and bladder health:
- Collagen Powder
- Digestive enzymes (Take 20 minutes before you eat)
- L- Arginine
- Omega 3
- NAC (N-Acetyl-L-Cysteine)
- Multivitamin(should be bladder friendly)
- Marshmallow Root powder
- Bone Broth (Consume 1-2 cups per day)
- Fermented Foods (Kombucha, no more than 4 oz a day)
- Aloe Vera
Step Three: Diet and lifestyle changes
As it turns out, what we eat can make or break us when it comes to our health. Diet can both cause and contribute to chronic inflammation and is believed to play a part in a number of illnesses. The foods we choose to eat can either increase inflammation in the gut and bladder and irritate it further, or decrease inflammation, providing the bladder with an opportunity to heal. We need to acknowledge that things like preservatives, artificial additives, chemicals, and GMOs are unhealthy and are making us sick. Eating clean while decreasing your toxic burden and maintaining a healthy microbiome will offer your body the support it needs to detox itself, ridding the cells of damaging buildup while increasing its ability to absorb the nutrients it needs from proper whole foods. This will allow the cells to repair themselves and assist in the body’s overall healing, reducing inflammation and restoring balance.
Removing inflammatory foods such as gluten, conventional dairy, refined sugars, non-organic soy, caffeine, alcohol, common cooking oil, trans fats, conventionally raised beef, processed foods, refined grains, and artificial food additives are a must if you hope to reduce your IC symptoms. Focus should be placed on making the right choices when selecting foods. Eating clean simply means that your diet primarily consists of organic whole foods that are as close to their natural state as you can get them. To learn more about the bladder friendly foods you should be eating, check out our Diet Protocol. If you need additional help and support with your diet, our 30 Day Recipe Guide To IC Bladder Health is the perfect place to start. For safe bladder friendly recipes see our newly released cookbook The Complete IC Diet Cookbook, which will provide you with over 70 delicious and nutritious recipes that you can feel good about.
Our future health depends on a number of factors, including our diet and our human microbiome. Begin by eating a clean diet that is full of organic whole foods and seek to remove any foods considered inflammatory. Additionally, seek to reduce your toxic burden and restore balance to your body. The goal is to maintain a zero-inflammation level, which will allow your body the time in needs to rest. In a continued effort to strengthen the immune system, you must work to increase your microbial exposure. Our immune systems depend on exposure to both good and bad organisms otherwise, they are thrown off balance. The human microbiota is shaped by our diet, lifestyle, and microbial exposure to the environment.
Get outside, drink plenty of water, and eat whole foods that are rich in probiotics, fiber, and healthy fats. Additional supplements or nutrients will likely be necessary in order to address deficiencies and imbalances, so talk with your doctor and nutritionist about which ones you should be taking and in what quantity.
If you are looking for more information about interstitial cystitis and autoimmunity, you can find answers in my newly released book How I Got My Life Back. This book provides inspiration and insight into my personal journey with IC as well as a blueprint for reversing even the worst IC symptoms. Everything you need to bring about real and lasting change can be found within the pages of this book. To learn more CLICK HERE