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Irritated Bladder

Immune | April 26, 2018 | Author: Naturopath


Irritated Bladder

The bladder is a muscular sac located in the pelvis and functions as a urine reservoir, accommodating 300-600 ml of urine.

Bladder pain

Bladder pain and irritation can occur at any age to both men and women, but is most common in adult women. Several problems can cause bladder pain. Common causes include:

  • Interstitial cystitis. It is the most common cause of bladder pain, and is also known as “Bladder Pain Syndrome” or “Painful Bladder Syndrome” - a chronic condition that tends to first affect people in their 30s and 40s, and is much more common in women than men. Symptoms include intense pelvic pain, pressure in the pelvic area, and frequent or urgent urination. The exact cause of this condition is unknown.
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  • Urinary tract infection (UTI). An infection in part of the urinary system. The urinary system includes the kidneys, bladder, urethra, ureters, and, in men, the prostate. Most UTIs occur in the lower urinary tract - the bladder - and are often called cystitis. Around 50% of women and 5% of men will experience at least one UTI in their lifetime. The vast majority of UTIs are caused by E. coli bacteria.
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  • Bladder cancer. Cancer that develops in the lining of the bladder or surrounding muscles or spread to the bladder from another part of the body. Symptoms of bladder cancer include blood in the urine, painful urination, frequent or urgent urination, and lower back pain.
    Urinary incontinence. Loss of bladder control that can be caused by everyday habits, underlying medical conditions or physical problems.
  • Overactive bladder. Also known as urge incontinence, a condition in which there is a sudden urge to urinate, even when your bladder is not full.

Dietary changes for bladder pain

As mentioned, the causes of interstitial cystitis – where there is irritation of the bladder wall but no infection - are unknown. However, up to 90% of patients report sensitivities to a wide variety of foods. According to Interstitial Cystitis Association, dietary changes should be your first line of defense. For some people it may be the only treatment they need, while others may need medications and lifestyle modification.

You may know from your own experience which foods and beverages appear to exacerbate your bladder symptoms. By eliminating items known to cause irritation, based on your own experience, you may avoid exacerbation of the symptoms, or reduce current pain and flare-ups.

Top food triggers

Top food triggersCertain foods and drinks act as diuretics, irritating the bladder by stimulating it to increase urinary frequency, while others, such as spicy and acidic foods, may also cause bladder irritation. Studies of patients with the condition have identified the most bothersome foods as those containing caffeine, citrus fruits and juices, tomatoes and tomato products, items containing vinegar, spicy food, alcohol, and certain artificial sweeteners.  

Eliminate the top food triggers from your diet for a period of three weeks. If your symptoms improve during a three-week elimination period, carefully add foods back into your diet one at a time to see which are your personal triggering foods.

  • Beverages. Alcohol (including beer and wine), carbonated drinks, coffee and tea (regular, decaf and herbal – other than camomile and peppermint), fruit juices, especially citrus, cranberry, and acai, soy milk and chocolate milk, sports drinks, energy drinks.

Note that although cranberry juice is often recommended for the treatment of urinary tract infections, in the case of interstitial cystitis, cranberry juice is very high in acid and can actually cause more irritation.

  • Breads/grains. Rye and sourdough breads, sweetened and flavoured cereal.
  • Meat, fish, chicken. Canned, cured, processed or smoked meats and fish, anchovies, caviar, chicken livers, corned beef and meats that contain nitrates or nitrites
  • Cheese/dairy. Aged cheese, chocolate ice cream
  • Vegetables. Onions and tomatoes, sauerkraut
  • Fruit. Berries – cranberries and strawberries, most citrus – lemons, limes, oranges, grapefruit dried fruit – with preservatives, grapes, guava, kiwi fruit, melon, nectarines, passionfruit, papaya, persimmon, pineapple, golden raisins.
  • Beans/legumes. Fava beans, lima beans, soybeans, tofu.
  • Nuts. Hazelnuts, pecans and pistachios
  • Sweets. Chocolate, sugar, artificial sweeteners, cakes
  • Spices. Chillies/spicy foods, pepper, curry powder, mustard, horseradish, MSG, mayonnaise, ketchup, mustard, salsa, spicy foods (especially ethnic foods such as Chinese, Indian, Mexican and Thai), soy sauce, salad dressing and vinegar, including balsamic and flavoured vinegars

Gluten and bladder irritation

In the last 10-15 years wheat and gluten have received much negative attention. Many people have been switching to gluten-free diets, believing that gluten is inherently bad for their health. Could gluten be irritating your bladder?

Gluten and bladder irritationSome reports suggest that many people with interstitial cystitis also have coeliac disease. Coeliac disease is an autoimmune disease caused by a reaction of the immune system to gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley and rye.
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Even if you have been tested negative to coeliac disease, you may be sensitive to gluten. It is called non-coeliac gluten sensitivity. It means that you experience symptoms similar to those of coeliac disease following the ingestion of gluten-containing food.

Unfortunately, there is no perfect test for non-coeliac gluten sensitivity. If coeliac disease has been excluded, elimination diet is the best way to determine whether your symptoms improve when you avoid gluten.

Bladder friendly foods

Fresh is best. Avoid processed foods as they often contain irritating preservatives, artificial flavourings, and additives.

Include:Bladder friendly foods

  • Water
  • Milk
  • White and wholemeal bread
  • Oats and rice
  • Couscous, millet and quinoa
  • Apples, bananas, blueberries, pears, raisins, and watermelon
  • Most vegetables

Lifestyle changes

Behavioural therapy and stress management techniques can be used alongside dietary changes to improve your symptoms. For example:

Behavioural therapy:

  • Bladder training
  • Biofeedback
  • Pelvic floor rehabilitation

Stress management.

  • Acupuncture
  • Guided imagery
  • Massage
  • Exercise  Australia’s best online discount chemist


Friedlander, J.I., Shorter, B. & Moldwin, R.M., 2012. Diet and its role in interstitial cystitis/bladder pain syndrome (IC/BPS) and comorbid conditions. BJU International, 109(11), pp.1584–1591. Available at:

Gill, B.C., et al., 2016. Bladder Anatomy. Available at:

Interstitial Cystitis Association, 2015. Celiac Disease. Available at:

Interstitial Cystitis Association, 2009. Understanding the Interstitial Cystitis/Painful Bladder Syndrome Diet. Available at:

National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, 2017. Definition & Facts of Interstitial Cystitis. Available at:

Rovner. E, S. et al., 2017. Interstitial Cystitis Treatment & Management. Medscape. Available at:

Swati Jha, A. et al., 2007. Review Painful bladder syndrome and interstitial cystitis. Review, 9, pp.34–41. Available at:

Verghese, T.S. et al., 2016. Complementary therapies for bladder pain syndrome: a systematic review. International urogynecology journal, 27(8), pp.1127–36. Available at:

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