Regardless of any other therapy applied in case of severe symptoms, it is worth for IC/BPS patients helping the recovery with lifestyle changes, too. One of the most important parts of it is to create the best possible diet.
The cornerstone of IC/BPS diet is to keep away from food and drinks that can irritate the bladder; doing so can comfort that organ.
Every person responds to a certain food differently, so there is no one-size-fits-all diet which is effective for everyone. Nevertheless, there has been a lot of experience gathered by and from patients, so it is easy to make a list out of food and drinks which do not trigger the symptoms in most cases – and out of those which usually causes problems.
Also, there is some general advice which helps cope with the disease.
- It is better to eat more times and smaller quantities than eat a lot 1–2 times a day.
- It is always worth making a diet log and note everything you eat and drink.
- Most patients can have the following without any problems: rice, potato, pasta, meat, fish and most of the vegetables. It is easy to make proper, nutrient and delicious meal alone from these ingredients.
- In most cases the following food and drinks trigger the symptoms: caffein, alcohol, carbonated (sparkling) drinks, hot and spicy food, chocolate, sour cream, yoghurt, soy, several sorts of fruit and tomato.
- Herbal teas and brews often cause irritation. It is best to avoid them even if certain sources put them on the list of recommended drinks.
- It is worth reading the label and packaging of everything you buy. The shorter the ingredient list is, the most likely it is that it can be had safely. Certain preservatives (e.g. nitrite) may cause problems – they can be found, for example, in several kinds of cold cuts.
- Regarding vitamins, vitamin C (in a dose of more than 500 mg/day) and B may trigger the symptoms. When possible, go for products containing only one vitamin or essential trace element instead of buying combination nutritional supplements.
- If you have any allergy or intolerance besides IC/BPS, you have to keep away from the ingredients in question, too.
To find out which food and drink groups you can have safely, apply an elimination diet.
What is an Elimination Diet?
Following an elimination diet, you have to cut out every food and drink that cause problems for most of the IC/BPS patients, in the first step. (See the list below.) It is essential to follow the diet strictly, and you have to pay attention to the ingredient list of ready-cooked or instant meal you buy. When you are symptomless, start to introduce every food or drink you would like to have; one by one and little by little. (This is called provocation phase.) Record everything in your diet log, and note it down if any symptom occurs. Once you are able to identify the food or drink triggers the symptoms you have to cut it out of your diet.
The following food and drinks cause problems for most of the IC/BPS patients:
- alcoholic drinks
- caffeinated drinks (coffee, black or green tea)
- carbonated (sparkling) drinks
- pineapple, strawberry, orange, grapefruit, grapes, apple and any drink made from them
- pickled food or anything made with vinegar (e.g. sauerkraut)
- tomato, both raw and as an ingredient (e.g. ketchup)
- products containing soy
- chocolate (exception: white chocolate)
- sugared food; cakes, cookies or pies – in large quantities
- artificial sweeteners or preservatives
- hot and spicy food (spices to avoid: pepper, paprika, pepperoni, chili, curry; vanilla, cinnamon or cloves can cause problems, too)
- herbal teas, brews or extracts
During the elimination diet, you have to avoid everything listed above, for four weeks, alongside with any other ingredient you, personally, think it triggers the symptoms. You have to be patient, because the effect of the diet manifests slowly.
In the next step, you can try having everything you cut out, one by one. Each test should last for three days.
On the first day, have the food or drink in question in a very small quantity.
On the second day, increase the dose.
Assuming you still feel well, try having the amount you would normally on the third day.
If the food or drink you have just tested has caused no problems, you can have it safely in the future.
If you have experienced mild symptoms only, you can still have the food or drink tested, but in small quantities only, and sparingly.
In case of severe symptoms, unfortunately, you have to keep away from the food or drink in question. (To lessen the symptoms, drink a lot of water.)
Do not feel desperate if you find your favorite food on the “excluded list”! Each IC/BPS patient responds differently to a certain food or drink – it is not impossible that you do not have to cut out what you love. (Actually, certain IC/BPS patients are able to have coffee even if caffein causes pain for most IC/BPS patients.) However, be patients: always follow the steps strictly, and test every single thing for three days.
It is worth noting down which product or which brand you bought from a certain food. The full ingredient list of products from different companies can be different, too – sometimes, not the food or drink you test triggers the symptoms, but one of the extra ingredients does so. In this case, you only have to avoid the product which causes problems, not the sort of food or drink itself.