Interstitial cystitis, or “painful bladder syndrome,” affects around one million women in this country. As the nickname implies, it’s extremely painful. And it can cause an urgent need to urinate dozens of times a day. This often keeps them housebound and limits their activity.
This pelvic pain can be so intense that some women resort to injecting an anesthetic into their bladders. And it has even caused others to become so depressed they try to commit suicide.
The pain comes from a bundle of nerves that goes to both the bladder and colon.
You see, these nerves sit right near the spinal cord at the tailbone. Women with interstitial cystitis are “wired” differently than the rest of us. Their bladder nerves constantly send pain signals to this spinal cord area. So does the colon. When something irritates the large intestine, it sends signals through this same bundle. When both nerve pathways are stimulated, the cystitis pain increases.
And because they service both the bladder and the colon, it’s possible that your pain is actually in the colon, not the bladder.
Researchers at Northwestern University discovered this connection between pelvic pain and the colon. They believe they can eventually treat this condition with an anesthetic gel or suppository. An easier solution, they say, could be an anesthetic patch you can just stick on your skin externally. Similar patches are already working to reduce back pain.
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I have an even easier solution.
You may not have to wait for these products to get on the market before you can get relief. Remember, this pain typically originates in the colon – not the bladder. That means making one dietary change can reduce many cases of pelvic pain.
Spicy foods, alcohol, caffeine, tomatoes, and citrus can all cause a flare-up of bladder pain. Begin by eliminating these and any other irritating foods or beverages. You may find that a change in diet greatly relieves your pelvic pain.
But don’t stop here.
You also need to eat foods that soothe the intestines. This would include barley (as in a vegetable barley soup) and oats (hot oatmeal is more soothing than granola). I also recommend taking a supplement that can aid digestion. This also will soothe the intestines. My favorite is Integrative Digestive Formula (available from Health Resolve at this link).
Because inflammation is involved with pelvic pain, add anti-inflammatory herbs to your foods. These include turmeric and ginger. Consider taking an anti-inflammatory supplement to further reduce inflammation. I like InflaThera (ProThera 888-488-2488). But you can find other formulas in your local health food store.
Pelvic pain can be extremely painful, but you may be able to reduce or eliminate it with these herbs and simple dietary modifications.
Your voice of reason in Women's Health,
Dr. Janet Zand
Klumpp, D, Nature Clinical Practice Urology, September 2008.