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Natural Treatment for Interstitial Cystitis

In the pursuit of symptom relief, many individuals seek natural treatment for interstitial cystitis. In this article, we’ll review treatment options for people with interstitial cystitis using a functional medicine approach.  

What is Interstitial Cystitis?

Interstitial cystitis (IC), also known as painful bladder syndrome, is a chronic condition characterized by recurring discomfort or pain in the bladder and pelvic region. Severity of symptoms vary for each individual, ranging from mild discomfort to severe debilitating pain.

Symptoms of IC may include: 

  • Pain in your pelvis
  • Urinary frequency and/or urgency
  • Pain during sexual intercoarse
  • Pressure or discomfort as the bladder fills
  • Pain relief after urinating
This condition significantly impacts the quality of life of those affected, as the symptoms can be debilitating, leading to disruptions in daily activities, work, and social life. 

You are more likely to have IC if you are a woman, are over the age of 30, and if you have another chronic condition that causes pain (1). Common coexisting conditions include irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), fibromyalgia, endometriosis, and chronic pelvic pain syndrome. These conditions often aggravate the symptoms of IC, making management and treatment more challenging. Plus, differentiating IC from these other conditions can be a challenge. 

Natural Treatment for Interstitial Cystitis

Conventional medicines and treatments play a crucial role in alleviating symptoms of IC; however, embracing natural therapies can offer complementary support. By using functional medicine, we help people with IC by identifying and treating the root causes, instead of symptoms alone. While the exact causes of IC is unknown, experts believe there are many contributing factors leading to underlying inflammation. 

Eliminate Trigger Foods

Certain foods and beverages have been identified as common culprits in exacerbating bladder symptoms and avoiding them can significantly alleviate discomfort in people with IC.

We often recommend avoiding the most common trigger foods for IC:

  • Coffee (regular or decaf)
  • Tea
  • Soda/pop
  • Artificial sweeteners
  • Citrus
  • Spicy foods
  • Juices (including cranberry, grapefruit, orange, pineapple, & tomato)
  • Alcohol (beer, wine, champagne)
Many of these foods can trigger symptoms due to their acidic nature, which can irritate the bladder lining. However, it's important to note that triggers can vary from person to person. Keeping a detailed food journal can help you identify individual sensitivities and determine which specific foods worsen your symptoms. 

Consider a Low Histamine Diet

An imbalance of histamine in the body can also be a trigger for IC. A trial of a low histamine diet may also be recommended. You can read more about histamine intolerance here.

Our dietitians at Root can help you carry out a personalized diet targeting root causes to gain insights into your unique triggers.  

PFC diet (The Root Plate™)

We also suggest implementing the PFC meal planning method. This involves incorporating a balanced combination of protein, fat, and carbohydrates into each meal and snack. Together, these three nutrients can support tissue repair, absorption of essential vitamins, and optimal digestion. Plus, the PFC method also supports optimal blood sugar balance, which can reduce inflammation throughout the body. 

  • Protein: beef, pork, seafood, poultry, eggs
  • Fat: olive oil, avocados, coconut oil, nuts, seeds
  • Carbs: fruit, sweet potatoes, brown rice, quinoa, oats, winter squash, beans, lentils, whole-grain bread
  • Non-Starchy Vegetables:broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, celery, cucumber, leafy greens, radishes, green beans, etc. 
Non-starchy vegetables are a crucial component of the PFC method because they contain rich sources of fiber to feed healthy gut bacteria and antioxidants to reduce inflammation. Aim to eat at least 1 cup of non-starchy vegetables with each meal. 

Adequate Hydration

While it seems obvious, most Americans fail to meet their daily fluid requirements. Plus, people with IC often limit their fluid intake to decrease pelvic discomfort and urinary frequency. However, adequate water intake dilutes toxins in the urine and flushes the bladder to reduce the risk of urinary tract infections. Adequate hydration can also reduce constipation, which can exacerbate symptoms of IC. While fluid needs vary, a good rule of thumb is to drink at least half of your bodyweight in ounces of water. For example, if you weigh 160 pounds, aim to drink 80 ounces of water per day.


Omega-3 (specifically, fish oil) is the healthy fat derived from oily fish like salmon, herring, and anchovies. Since interstitial cystitis is generally known as an inflammatory condition, omega-3 is a useful supplement because of its powerful anti-inflammatory benefits (2). To be most effective, omega-3 supplements should contain two key omega-3 fats derived from fish: EPA and DHA. In addition to eating fish at least twice per week, we may recommend taking around 1,000 mg of total fish oil (EPA + DHA) per day. Purchase Omega-3 from our Root Shop.

Stress Management

Chronic stress is found in over 50 percent of individuals with interstitial cystitis (3). Stress is a factor within both the development and exacerbation of IC symptoms. While you can’t always eliminate the source of your stress, you can control how you react to stressful situations. Effective ways to manage stress include yoga or tai chi, meditation, breathing exercises, therapy, journaling, and more. Try to incorporate at least one stress reducing activity into your routine each day. Ashwagandha is also a helpful supplement to help reduce stress hormone (cortisol) levels. 


Feel calm & relaxed with this powerful adaptogenic herb

Optimize Gut Health

Studies indicate that the bacteria in your gut might affect your urinary system. Dysbiosis, or an imbalance in your gut bacteria, can negatively affect your immune system and lead to further inflammation. We use the 5R gut healing protocol with our members to optimize gut health. While specific protocols are individualized, we may recommend Gut Health Rebalance powder to someone with IC. This powder contains natural, active ingredients that soothe and restore the gut lining. It also contains aloe vera extract, which has shown in research studies to replenish the mucosal lining of the bladder in people with IC (4).
Gut Health Rebalance

Gut Health Rebalance

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Key Takeaways

By integrating natural treatments for interstitial cystitis aimed at treating the root cause of this condition, individuals with IC can have symptom relief and an improved quality of life. Effective strategies may include dietary modifications with an elimination diet, improving hydration, stress management, and lowering inflammation with supplements like omega-3 or aloe vera extract.

Get to the Root at Home 

Curious about where you should start your functional medicine journey? 

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