Eastern vs. Western
Interstitial cystitis (IC) is a chronic bladder condition resulting in recurring discomfort or pain in the bladder or surrounding pelvic region. People with IC usually have inflamed or irritated bladder walls, which can cause scarring and stiffening of the bladder. Symptoms vary from case to case but may include any or all of the following: mild discomfort, frequent urination, urgency to urinate, pressure, tenderness, or intense pain in the bladder or pelvic region, severe lower abdominal pain that intensifies as the urinary bladder fills or empties. The cause(s) of IC is currently unknown. Its diagnosis is often made only after excluding other urinary or bladder causes. IC affects men and women of all cultures, socioeconomics and ages. However, it is more common in women than in men. In this paper Iím going to discuss the basics of IC from a western medicine perspective, their take on the IC diet, then compare it to what Western medicine says.
IC is frequently misdiagnosed as an acute urinary tract infection (cystitis), a disorder that can be successfully treated with antibiotics. A cystoscopy with hydrodistention under general anesthesia is required to make a diagnosis of interstitial cystitis. The bladder is distended to check for pinpoint hemorrhages on the bladder wall that is the hallmark of IC.
A number of other diseases must be ruled out, such as bladder infection, bladder cancer, sexually transmitted diseases, neurological disorders, kidney disease, and vaginal infections.
Treatments that can successfully relieve symptoms in many patients include diet modification (a diet low in acidic foods, and avoiding beverages such as coffee, tea, carbonated and/or alcoholic drinks, can be helpful in reducing IC symptoms), stress reduction techniques (such as biofeedback and pelvic floor relaxation exercises), bladder hydrodistention, Elmiron (pentosan polysulfate sodium) - oral medication specifically for IC, other oral medications such as tricyclic antidepressants (used for their anti-pain properties), antispasmodics, anti-inflammatories and antihistamines, opioid analgesics - for severe IC pain, DMSO (dimethyl sulfoxide) - medication instilled into the bladder, specifically for IC electrical nerve stimulation: TENS (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation), sacral nerve root stimulation devices, and surgery is a last resort.
In the majority of IC patients, IC is not a progressive disease. There is little evidence to suggest that IC symptoms and characteristics of IC pain tend to worsen with time. It is thought that the earlier a diagnosis of IC is made, the better the chance of treatment response. For many IC patients, symptoms tend to wax and wane, and some IC patients experience remissions for extended periods of time. In a small percentage of patients, IC can worsen rapidly, causing the bladder to decrease in size, reducing its ability to hold a normal volume of urine.
Though a few people with IC have bladders that are not sensitive to food, for the overwhelming majority, what they consume plays a significant role in how severe their symptoms are. While it's true that some common trigger foods, such as coffee or cranberry juice, provoke IC symptoms for nearly everyone, it's also true that each of us has a different tolerance level for many of the trigger foods. For instance, some IC patients may comfortably eat a small quantity of a specific food, yet if they eat more, they will have an IC flare. Others, to their great frustration, may not be able to tolerate even a single bite of that same trigger food without suffering increased symptoms. Still others may be able to consume all they want of that food with no trouble at all.
IC patients usually spend their first six months to a year discovering the ways in which their IC food triggers are similar to others', and the ways in which their bladder reacts differently. They do this either through...