Interstitial Cystitis, Protocols

The Most Effective Natural Therapies For IC (According To Science)

Many IC sufferers I have spoken to are either interested in trying alternative natural therapies, or have already tried some.

There are a variety of natural therapies and remedies out there, and often it is hard to know what is effective. In my experience, this is highly individual. We do, however, have some data on what seems to help the most people.

Types of Natural Therapies

There are a variety of complementary natural therapies for those suffering from IC, but unfortunately there is pretty limited research into them and most research that has been done has included only a small sample size of patients. Here are the types of therapies that do have some research behind them:

Diet and Lifestyle

  • The ‘IC Diet’
  • Elimination Diet
  • Hydrogen-rich water
  • Regular Exercise
  • Relaxation
  • Stress-reduction
  • Good Sleep ‘Hygiene’

Remedies

  • pH Buffers
  • Calcium Glycerophosphate
  • Sodium Bicarbonate
  • L-Arginine
  • Fish Oil
  • Probiotics
  • Vitamin D
  • Antifungal Treatment
  • Glucosamine/Chondroitin
  • Marshmallow Root Tea
  • Grape Seed Extract
  • MSM
  • Liquorice root
  • Corn Silk
  • Turmeric
  • Colostrum
  • Aloe Vera
  • Chinese Herbs
  • Quercetin
  • Turmeric

Manual Therapy

  • Myofascial Physical Therapy
  • Transvaginal Biofeedback (TVBF)
  • Transcutaneous Electric Nerve Stimulation (TENS)
  • Global Therapeutic Massage
  • Massage Therapy
  • Hot/Cold Therapy
  • Chiropractic
  • Osteopathic Manipulation
  • Biofeedback

Body and Mind Therapies

The Most Effective Therapies

Knowing what seems to work for the most people can give us a good reference point on where to focus our attention first.

We have a meta-analysis of clinical evidence [1] and also data collected from over 2000 IC sufferers by the Interstitial Cystitis Association (ICA) [2].

The number 1 intervention from both of them is (drumroll): Diet!

This was listed as either the ‘IC Diet’ (which mostly avoids acidic foods and drinks), an individualized elimination diet (avoiding personal trigger foods) or a diet that included ‘calming’ foods or drinks.

This fits well with my own experience: I recovered fully after following a strict elimination diet (the GAPS diet).

The meta-analysis concluded that the other most effective therapies were:

  • Acupuncture
  • Physical Therapy

The ICA survey identified additional therapies that seemed to be beneficial, namely:

  • Regular Exercise
  • Hot/Cold Therapy
  • Relaxation, Stress-Reduction, Music, Yoga, Meditation, Guided Imagery (basically anything that helps reduce stress!)
  • Good Sleep ‘Hygiene’
  • Calcium Glycerophosphate, sodium bicarbonate, pH Buffers
  • Fish Oil
  • Probiotics
  • Vitamin D
  • Antifungal Treatment
  • Chiropractic

Therapies that seem to work for some, but not others

We’re all individuals and therefore one-size never fits all! There seem to be some people for whom most things work and others who don’t have much success with anything (me!). One thing I have learned is that there is no golden bullet (but diet is key!).

So here are the therapies that seem to have about a 50:50 success rate:

  • Biofeedback
  • Aloe Vera
  • Quercetin
  • Chinese Herbs

Therapies that seem to be ineffective

Please note that therapies rated ineffective may still work for some people, but not the majority. Studies don’t really take the individual experience into account. But the chances that these will work for you seem to be slimmer:

  • Glucosamine/Chondroitin
  • Marshmallow Root Tea
  • Glucosamine
  • L -arginine
  • Grape Seed Extract
  • MSM
  • Liquorice Root
  • Corn silk
  • Turmeric
  • Colostrum
  • Osteopathic Manipulation
  • Hydrogen-rich Water
  • Global Therapeutic Massage
  • Transvaginal Biofeedback (TVBF)
  • Transcutaneous Electric Nerve Stimulation (TENS)

 

We should also take into account that complementary therapies seem to work better when started close to an IC diagnosis. The longer someone has been sick, the slimmer are the chances of these working overall (In my opinion, this doesn’t mean one shouldn’t address diet and lifestyle though!).

Now I’d like to hear from you: What therapies have you tried and how have they worked? Let me know in the comments

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Sources

  1. Verghese, T.S., Riordain, R.N., Champaneria, R. et al. Complementary therapies for bladder pain syndrome: a systematic review Int Urogynecol J (2016) 27: 1127. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00192-015-2886-3 https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00192-015-2886-3
  2. O’Hare, P. et al Interstitial cystitis patients’ use and rating of complementary and alternative medicine therapies Int Urogynecol J (2013) 24:977–982 DOI 10.1007/s00192-012-1966-x

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