Low-Acid Foods Interstitial Cystitis

Many of the foods in the Avoid section of the food list above are acidic and can cause bladder pain and urinary urgency in women with IC. If you find your list of troublesome foods leaves you little left to eat, you may want to try a dietary supplement called Prelief®. This supplement reduces the acid in many foods and beverages so that you don’t have to exclude them from your diet. Two studies of more than 200 IC sufferers have revealed that Prelief® does indeed reduce the pain and discomfort associated with consuming foods such as pizza, tomatoes, spicy foods, coffee, fruit juices, alcohol and chocolate.1 The supplement is made of calcium glycerophosphate and it’s available in tablet form to be taken upon eating, or as granules that can be mixed right into foods.

The supplement can be ordered directly from the manufacturer by calling 1-800994-4711. Visit the company’s website at www.akpharms.com to learn more. It’s important to use the correct amount of Prelief® to reduce the amount of acid in certain foods. The company offers a pocket guide, free of charge, to help you do this.

If eating a certain food brings on bladder symptoms, you can neutralize the acid in your urine by drinking a glass of water mixed with 1 teaspoon of baking soda. Practicing this as a precautionary measure when you’re dining out may also help prevent bladder irritation. If you do experience a flare-up after eating, be sure to drink plenty of water to help dilute your urine.

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Supplementing your diet with an amino acid called L-arginine may help lessen your symptoms. This amino acid is used to make an enzyme necessary for the formation of nitric oxide, a compound that relaxes the smooth muscle of the bladder. Studies have shown that patients with IC have reduced levels of these compounds in their urine. Evidence suggests that women with a larger bladder capacity and/or a history of recurrent urinary infections may respond more favorably to this amino acid.

Researchers from the Yale University School of Medicine have found that 1500 milligrams of L-arginine taken orally for six months significantly reduced voiding discomfort, urinary frequency, lower abdominal pain and pelvic pain.2 In another study of 53 patients with IC, the same dose of L-arginine improved symptoms after five weeks of treatment.3

Amino acids are the building blocks of protein. Twenty amino acids exist in high-protein foods like meat, poultry, fish, eggs and dairy products. L-arginine is considered a non-essential amino acid; that means we don’t have to consume it from food because usually the body is able to make enough on its own. Despite the fact that we get this amino acid from our diet, you need to take a supplement to achieve an intake of 1500 milligrams per day.

L-arginine is available in health food and supplement stores. Pregnant and breastfeeding women are advised to not use L-arginine, as we lack information about its use during these times.


This herbal remedy also goes by the name of bear’s grape, hogberry and redberry— to name only a few. Studies suggest that when taken on a short-term basis, this herb may be effective for inflammatory conditions of the urinary tract, including IC. The leaf of the plant contains arbutin, tannins and hydroquinone, three components that may be responsible for its effect. When taken orally, uva ursi has antiseptic and astringent effects in the urinary tract and it may reduce inflammation. It is thought that products that reduce the acidity of the urine (like Prelief® or baking soda) may actually enhance the antibacterial properties of uva ursi.

If you experience a flare-up and you want to give this herb a try, there are some things you must know:

• Do not use the herb longer than one week without medical supervision. Tannins can irritate the stomach and limit the herb’s duration of use. Hydro-quinone can have toxic effects if taken in larger amounts for an extended period of time.

• Your doctor should evaluate urinary tract symptoms that persist for more than 48 hours.

• Limit your use of the herb to five times a year.

• Do not take uva ursi if you are pregnant or breastfeeding. The herb can increase the speed of labor in pregnant women and there is very little information available about its use during lactation.

• Do not use uva ursi if you have a kidney disorder.

You can take the herb as a standardized extract or as a tea. If you are buying the herb in pill or tablet form, buy a product that is standardized to contain 20 percent arbutin; this statement can be found on the front label or the ingredient list. Buying an herb that is standardized means you are purchasing a product that has a guaranteed amount of the active ingredient. If you are using a tea, steep 3 grams of the dried leaf in 150 milliliters of cold water for 12 to 24 hours and then strain; take one cup of tea four times a day. It’s recommended that you prepare the tea with cold water to minimize the tannin content (tannins can cause stomach upset). Uva ursi leaves are available from a certified herbalist.

The Bottom Line…

Leslie’s recommendations for managing interstitial cystitis

1. Determine what foods trigger symptoms and/or what foods you may be allergic to. Start by following an elimination diet for two weeks. Next, try potential trigger foods one at a time. Keep a detailed food and symptom diary during the elimination and challenge phases of your diet.

2. If you find your list of comfortable foods is limited, or you really crave a food that brings on symptoms, try using Prelief®, a dietary supplement that neutralizes the acid content of foods.

3. If you’re dining out and are not sure about ingredients used, take along Prelief® or a little baking soda. Dissolve 1 teaspoon of baking soda in a glass of water and drink right before you eat.

4. If you eat a food that triggers bladder pain and/or urinary frequency, drink plenty of water to dilute your urine.

5. Try L-arginine, an amino acid supplement. Take 1500 milligrams per day.

6. If you are experiencing painful symptoms, consider trying the herbal remedy uva ursi. Do not take this herb for longer than one week and limit its use to five times a year. Using the product for extended periods of time can have harmful side effects. Buy a product standardized to 20 percent arbutin or drink the herbal tea.

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