In many cases of interstitial cystitis, mast cells are raised in the bladder and play a big role in the unpleasant symptoms of an IC flare. Modern medicine likes to put names on symptoms but sometimes this may not describe the real issue well.
Interstitial cystitis is often a diagnosis of exclusion and similar to syndromes such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) it is a functional disorder with an array of symptoms. The condition in itself could even be a symptom in itself. In the case of raised mast cells the question is whether it is really IC or could it be mast cell activation disorder (MCAD)?
Both emotional and physiological stressors seem to trigger flares of interstitial cystitis in some patients. For me that was certainly the case. Therefore, I’d like to have a look at why stress can trigger interstitial cystitis flares.
Stress may be one of the biggest culprits of modern life when it comes to triggering chronic illness. The problem seems to be that there is an evolutionary mismatch between the body’s stress response and what we perceive as being stressful.
Mast cells have long been reported to be raised in patients suffering from interstitial cystitis. Mast cells are a type of cell that are usually associated with allergies. Today I’m going to take a look at the relationship between interstitial cystitis and mast cells.
There is new(ish) evidence emerging that recurrent UTIs, also known as chronic cystitis, are not always caused by a reinfection with a new pathogen but rather can be a relapse of the same pathogen.
It turns out that pathogenic bacteria have the ability to invade the cells of the bladder and live there in a dormant sleep-like state.
This is called an ‘intracellular bacterial community’.
In this state, the bacteria remain undetected by standard urine testing and unaffected by antibiotic treatment. They also remain undetected by our own immune system.
Now and again they can leave the cells, causing a relapse of the urinary tract infection.
For anyone who has read my own story, you may remember that repeated courses of antibiotics for chronic UTIs kicked off my interstitial cystitis a few years ago. Can antibiotics cause interstitial cystitis and chronic UTIs? For me, they have definitely played a big role.
This question has been at the back of my mind for a while and today I would like to take a look at some of the scientific evidence to answer this question.
The current gold-standard testing for UTIs involves culturing the bacteria present in a clean-catch midstream urine sample (MSU) in a lab dish.
On top of that, a dipstick test is often used to indicate the presence of infection markers in urine.
The guidelines for these testing methods have been established in the 1950s. With the discovery of the urinary microbiome, inadequacies of this method have come to light.
It turns out that urine is in fact not sterile and that many microbial species cannot be cultured in a lab.
Therefore, current testing for UTIs fails patients by missing infections.
Probiotics are ‘live microorganisms, which when administered in adequate amounts confer a health benefit on the host’ . Historically, probiotics have lacked credibility in the orthodox medical community but with recent scientific advances in the field of the human microbiome the therapeutic potential of different probiotic strains has been recognized.
In my last two posts I have looked into the urinary microbiome and how an imbalance of microbes in the bladder can predispose us to bladder conditions such as urinary tract infections, interstitial cystitis, overactive bladder and chronic pelvic pain.
Today I would like to take a look at several probiotic strains that have been studied for bladder- and genital health.
In last week’s post I talked about the urinary microbiota – the bacterial communities that have recently been discovered to be present in the urinary tract.
We know now that microbes that live in and on our bodies play a crucial role in health and illness. There are friendly and pathogenic microbes (bacteria, fungi etc.) plus opportunistic microbes that can become pathogenic when left unchecked.
When the delicate balance of good vs bad microbes is disturbed we become prone to an array of health conditions and infections. This is called a ‘dysbiosis’.
The human bladder and urine have long been considered to be sterile. Emerging evidence challenges this paradigm.
Recent advances in gene sequencing have made it possible to look at the human microbiome (the collective bacteria that live in and on our bodies) and more and more studies are showing an important link between the microbiome and our health.
Standard urine testing methods are limited in their ability to show the true bacterial composition of the urine and their main use is to show certain strains of bacteria that typically overgrow in urinary tract infections.
In my last post I looked at the GAG layer in the bladder and how damage to it can cause problems for the bladder lining, a.k.a the bladder urothelium.
When the bladder urothelium gets damaged it can lose its integrity and become ‘leaky’ or ‘hyper-permeable’. Molecules that shouldn’t normally leave the bladder can get into the space (‘interstitium’ – hence interstitial cystitis) between the layers of the tissue and into the blood.