I’ve recently come across an info-graphic on Twitter, claiming that interstitial cystitis (IC) is an autoimmune condition where the immune system attacks the bladder lining, causing the painful symptoms of IC. This reminded me that it’s about time that I explore this question further: Is interstitial cystitis an autoimmune condition or not?
The short answer is: maybe sometimes.
Interstitial cystitis (IC) is a painful bladder condition that, in the research, is usually described as being of ‘unknown etiology’  i.e. the true cause is unknown.
Several researchers have suggested that IC should be called ‘Painful Bladder Syndrome (PBS)’ or ‘Bladder Pain Syndrome (BPS)’ .
When we talk about a syndrome (such as IBS – Irritable Bowel Syndrome), we normally talk about an array of similar symptoms for which the causes are not known or for which several causes could exist.
If you’ve been following my blog, you will have seen several articles about different root causes of IC. This begs the question: is IC really just one disease? Or could it be several conditions, resulting in similar symptoms in the bladder?
There are different forms of Inflammation, ranging from acute to chronic. Inflammation plays an important part in the immune response and is designed to help us survive – it is the immune system’s response to infections and injury.
The inflammatory response has helped us to survive in the evolutionary environment. Throughout evolution, the inflammatory response has stayed the same – our environment however, has changed drastically in the past couple of centuries (not a long time in evolutionary terms!).
The changes in our environment are thought to parallel the rise in chronic disease. Could inflammation be one of the reasons?
Interstitial cystitis is often associated with a range of other degenerative diseases such as IBS, IBD, Fibromyalgia, Sjoegen’s, Lupus and also allergies.
‘Classic’ interstitial cystitis has some common features with allergies such as increased mast cells, histamine and inflammation.
Is something else causing IC, allergies and associated diseases or could allergies be a root cause? What if some cases of IC are simply a symptom of food intolerance? I call this the allergic bladder.
When speaking about urinary tract infections, we usually speak about bacterial infections. Fungi (a.k.a yeasts or mold) are different organisms from bacteria and they can cause infections such as thrush in some parts of the body. Fungal infections in the vagina for example are a well-known condition. But can there also be fungal infections in the urinary tract?
Last week I had a look at how hormones affect the urinary tract. Changes in the female hormones oestrogen and progesterone and even the ‘male’ hormone testosterone appear to affect urinary tract symptoms.
Oral contraception affects hormone levels in the body and may therefore also affect urinary tract symptoms.
Other contraception may not affect hormones but may have an impact on the urinary tract in other ways.
Today I would like to take a look at what we know about different forms of contraception and bladder health.
Today I’d like to take a closer look at the role of hormones on bladder health. Hormones have been known for a while to play a role in lower urinary tract symptoms such as UTIs, interstitial cystitis and stress incontinence. Hormones may be the reason why women generally seem to be more prone to bladder problems than men and also why some symptoms may get worse at certain times of the month.
Last week I talked about the theory that some cases of interstitial cystitis may not be IC per se, but rather a mast cell activation disorder affecting different systems in the body.
Today I would like to offer a couple of natural options that may help to reduce mast cells or at least their effects in the body.
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.