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A Step-by-Step Guide to Embarking on Your Interstitial Cystitis Journey

Sending IC into remission, or at minimum reducing symptoms, may not be possible for some unless you address the dysfunction and remove the obstacles that are interfering with the body’s ability to heal. The good news is that your health will improve once you begin making the necessary dietary and lifestyle changes to bring about real change. The goal is to support the body’s innate capacity to heal by treating the whole person, not just the bladder.

What is Interstitial Cystitis

Interstitial cystitis/bladder pain syndrome (IC/BPS) is characterized by symptoms perceived to be linked to the bladder, including urgency, frequency, pressure, and pain. It might involve additional symptoms like bladder spasms, nighttime urination (nocturia), and discomfort during sexual intercourse. Importantly, IC isn't exclusively a bladder disorder; it's more accurately described as a chronic pelvic pain condition. This is because factors beyond the bladder, such as structures outside it, can contribute to these symptoms. IC is an umbrella term encompassing a range of pelvic pain issues with similar symptomatology.

Sometimes, the bladder can be considered an innocent bystander in conditions like Interstitial Cystitis (IC). This means that while the symptoms might manifest in the bladder, the underlying causes or triggers of these symptoms could originate from factors outside the bladder itself. This highlights the complexity of conditions like IC, where various interconnected factors can contribute to the symptoms experienced in the bladder region.

If you've received an Interstitial Cystitis (IC) diagnosis or suspect you might have IC, taking proactive steps is essential to manage and potentially alleviate your symptoms. Remember that IC no longer needs to be seen as a lifelong sentence; there are treatment options that offer hope for improvement and relief. By engaging in the following actions, you can address IC and work towards minimizing or even reversing its impact:

Step One: Get an Ultrasound and MRI. Starting with a thorough diagnostic approach, consider arranging for an ultrasound to assess the initial condition. Subsequently, an MRI could provide further insights into potential structural concerns. Consulting with a medical professional will help determine the most suitable imaging techniques to identify any underlying issues.

Step Two: Schedule an appointment with a physiatrist. Physiatrists are specialists in the realm of physical medicine and rehabilitation, possessing the proficiency to offer expert guidance in managing and enhancing conditions pertaining to mobility, function, and pain. Adept at addressing neuromuscular problems, these professionals focus on diagnosing and treating an extensive spectrum of issues that influence the musculoskeletal system's muscles, nerves, and overall functionality. By integrating their insights into your situation, you can gain valuable perspectives that contribute significantly to formulating a comprehensive treatment plan. They also treat the central/peripheral nervous system, which may be a root cause of “IC”.

Step Three: Get evaluated by a pelvic physical therapist. According to statistics, 85% of women with IC have pelvic floor dysfunction. PFD can be caused by muscles that are too tense or too relaxed. For some with interstitial cystitis (IC) who also suffer from PFD they may even have a combination of muscles that are too relaxed and too tense so that they are effectively working against each other, which can cause the muscles to spasm.

Pelvic floor therapy is proven to help relax and desensitize the central nervous system, which may help ease short-term and long-term symptoms. If your symptoms include: frequent, urgent, or painful urination; incomplete voiding or mid-flow stopping and starting; constipation or painful bowel movements; lower back, burning or stinging, discomfort while sitting, pelvic pain, genital or rectal pain; or pain during or after sex, ask your healthcare provider for a PFD physical therapy referral.

Step Four: Find the right doctor and nutritionist. One of the first steps toward healing is to find the right doctors who can work with you on the path to recovery. It is equally important to seek out a nutritionist who can help you customize your diet, considering your unique makeup, food and chemical sensitivities, nutrient deficiencies, and related health issues.

Functional medicine (my go-to) looks at the body as a whole, taking a system-oriented approach. This challenges conventional Western medicine, which typically takes a disease-centered focus and operates on symptom management. If we hope to regain our health, we cannot simply isolate the bladder or focus on one organ alone. We must view the body in its entirety as an integrated whole. Having the right doctor makes all the difference, believe me! Find a reputable integrative, functional, naturopathic, or holistic doctor (search for a Functional Practitioner in your area) and a holistic or integrative and functional nutritionist.

Step Five: Rule out a stealth infection. Taking systematic steps to rule out an embedded bladder infection, potentially overlooked by standard testing, is essential. In cases where recurring urinary tract infections (UTIs) persist despite treatment and negative test results, the presence of biofilms might be a factor. If you've had a history of UTIs, especially those that were seemingly treated yet symptoms resurfaced, exploring a different testing approach could be beneficial. Considering a urine analysis test from MicroGenDX could offer a more comprehensive assessment, potentially detecting an embedded infection that standard tests might miss. This personalized and precise approach could provide valuable insights into underlying infections and guide more targeted treatment strategies.

Step Six: Consider Therapy. Working with a therapist can be incredibly beneficial for individuals with Interstitial Cystitis (IC) due to the intricate connections between chronic pain and the brain. Prolonged pain experienced with IC can lead to the rewiring of the brain, causing pain receptors to become hypersensitive and the nervous system to become dysregulated. This rewiring can perpetuate a cycle of heightened pain perception and discomfort, even when the initial source of pain might have subsided. This phenomenon can significantly impact emotional well-being, daily functioning, and overall quality of life.

A therapeutic approach like Pain Reprocessing Therapy (PRT) holds promise for individuals with IC. PRT employs a set of psychological techniques designed to retrain the brain's response to signals from the body. By utilizing cognitive, emotional, and behavioral interventions, PRT aims to break the cycle of chronic pain by rewiring the brain's interpretation and response mechanisms. This process can help individuals with IC regain a more balanced perception of pain, reducing hypersensitivity and improving overall pain management.

Step Seven: Strengthen Your Immune System by Healing Your Gut

A robust immune system is our frontline against pathogens, but chronic pain can disrupt its balance. It's crucial to keep it strong, especially in conditions like Interstitial Cystitis (IC), where inflammation and immune stress are common. The gut plays a major role, housing 80% of the immune system. When the gut's integrity falters, a "leaky gut" can arise, allowing toxins into the bloodstream and triggering an immune response.

To bolster the immune system, focus on a healthy microbiome. Trillions of gut bacteria maintain gut health, affecting the whole body. Factors like stress, antibiotics, and toxins affect this ecosystem. A balanced diet and lifestyle support a diverse gut microbiota closely tied to immune health. Interestingly, the bladder also possesses a microbiome that interacts with those of the gut and vagina. The harmony of this gut-bladder-vagina axis is crucial for bladder health and UTI prevention.

Embracing an integrated approach by seeking guidance from integrative doctors, nutritionists, and therapists offers comprehensive care and access to extensive testing options. This holistic strategy enhances overall well-being, fostering a proactive path towards improved health.

Step Eight: You will need to make some diet and lifestyle changes. It turns out that our diet has a significant impact on our health. What we eat can contribute to or worsen chronic inflammation and is thought to be connected to various illnesses. Our food choices can either increase inflammation in the gut and bladder, worsen things, or reduce inflammation and help the bladder heal.

We should recognize that things like preservatives, artificial additives, chemicals, and GMOs are not good for us and can lead to health problems. Eating clean, reducing exposure to toxins, and keeping a healthy balance of microorganisms can help our body naturally detoxify itself. This process helps our cells eliminate harmful substances and better absorb the nutrients from natural, whole foods. This, in turn, supports the healing of our cells, reduces inflammation, and brings back balance to the body.

If you're dealing with interstitial cystitis (IC) symptoms, it's important to cut out foods that cause inflammation. These include gluten, conventional dairy, refined sugars, non-organic soy, caffeine, alcohol, certain cooking oils, trans fats, conventionally raised beef, processed foods, and artificial additives. The focus should be on making better food choices. Eating clean means choosing primarily organic whole foods that are minimally processed. If you require further dietary assistance, our cookbook, "The Complete IC Diet Cookbook," features 70+ delicious and nutritious recipes that align with an AIP (Autoimmune Protocol) approach. Additionally, our 10-Day IC Reset Cookbook offers low-oxalate and low-histamine recipes. Lastly, If you require further dietary assistance, our Sip & Thrive is a 30-Day Recipe Guide To IC Bladder Health and provides an excellent starting point.

Testing Options

These tests encompass a range of diagnostic tools used for health assessment:

  • GI Map: Analyzes the gut microbiome to assess digestive health and identify imbalances.

  • SIBO Breath Test: Detects Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth by measuring gases in exhaled breath.

  • Standard Blood Test: Offers general health insights by analyzing blood components.

  • DUTCH Test: is a comprehensive hormone test that evaluates hormone and cortisol levels and metabolites through dried urine samples.

  • Comprehensive Thyroid Assessment: Assesses thyroid function, which is crucial for metabolism and energy.

  • Micronutrient Test: Measures essential vitamins and minerals in the body.

  • Liver Detoxification Profile: Examines liver function and detox capacity.

  • Inflammatory Markers: Identifies inflammation levels in the body, often added to standard blood tests.

  • Comprehensive General Blood Test: Offers an overall health snapshot through blood analysis.

  • Mediator Release Blood Test (MRT): Clinically proven for food sensitivities.

  • DNA Testing: Explores genetic factors influencing health.

  • MicroGenDX: offers a urine testing service for identifying an imbalance in bacteria and fungi in the urine by utilizing qPCR and Next Generation Sequencing (NGS).

  • Organic Acids Test (OAT): Evaluates metabolism and nutritional markers through urine analysis.

On the journey to overcome interstitial cystitis (IC), identifying and confronting its underlying causes is key. Remember, there's hope, and the possibility of reclaiming your life exists. Should you require additional support, I provide consultations aimed at crafting personalized plans, empowering you to embark on a path towards improved health and overall wellness.

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