I have been mainly clear of bladder symptoms for over 3 years now. One of the few things that can still flare up interstitial cystitis symptoms for me are B vitamin complex supplements. These tend to cause a burning sensation and a slight loss of bladder muscle tone. There is a reason why B vitamin supplements can be a problem for IC sufferers, which I’d like to share with you today.
What’s in a B complex?
The exact composition may differ between manufacturers but generally a B complex vitamin will contain:
- Thiamine (Vitamin B1)
- Riboflavin (Vitamin B2)
- Niacin (Vitamin B3)
- Vitamin B6
- Folic Acid
- Vitamin B12
- Pantothenic Acid (Vitamin B5)
Why could a B complex be problematic for IC sufferers?
The potential reason why B vitamin supplements may be an issue is the same as why certain amino acids could be an issue – the B complex in general plays a role in increasing the neurotransmitters serotonin, norepinephrine (noradrenaline) and acetylcholine.
High levels or increased metabolites of these neurotransmitters can potentially cause issues in IC sufferers such as spasms, cramping and burning.
Please read my last post to understand the exact mechanisms.
In particular, vitamin B5 goes into the neurotransmitter cycle and vitamin B3 can be produced from tryptophan.
For people with mast cell issues, vitamin B12 supplements could be an issue as they are often derived through a fermentation process (and fermentation results in histamine production, which may be problematic for someone with high mast cell levels).
The Benefits of B Vitamins
Despite the above, we need B vitamins and we probably need more of them when we are stressed and ill.
It is not a result of the B vitamin supplements that we can get problems with the bladder but rather the other way around.
The B complex plays an important role in energy production, among many other functions.
Vitamin B6 can actually help prevent the undesirable degradation of excreted tryptophan in urine and may therefore be one B vitamin supplement that could be helpful for IC sufferers.
However, as B vitamins work together as a complex, long-term supplementation of a single B vitamin is probably not a great idea.
How to get B Vitamins instead
Getting enough B vitamins daily to support energy levels is a good idea, especially for stressed individuals (stress uses up B vitamins). However, if you find (like me) that B vitamin supplements are an issue you may want to consider getting the B complex from other sources.
Here is what I do for B vitamins:
- Consume foods rich in B vitamins: animal foods (most bioavailable), mushrooms, egg yolk, nuts and seeds, fish and seafood.
- Royal Jelly (derived from bees, natural source of B complex)
- Bee pollen (best from a local source, make sure they are tolerated)
- Nutritional Yeast (natural, without added B12. Can be a common sensitivity, so watch out for adverse effects)
Do B complex supplements give you symptoms? Let me know in the comments!
Pin it for later:
GILLESPIE, L. (1993), Metabolic Appraisal of the Effects of Dietary Modification on Hypersensitive Bladder Symptoms. British Journal of Urology, 72: 293-297
Gillespie, Larrian You Don’t Have to Live With Cystitis (New York: Avon Health, 1996)
ShannonApril 16, 2018
I don’t take B-vitamin supplements very often, mostly just in times of stress like you mentioned, but this honestly makes so much sense! My docs said I had was on the verge of being Vit B deficient, but when I’ve taken B-12 supplements in the past, it’s really screwed with me and my IC. Definitely going to share this and pin it for later reference. Thank you so much for the info!
NicolaApril 17, 2018
I didn’t think you could eat nuts and shellfish or mushroom when your on a low histimine diet?
LaylaApril 17, 2018
You’re right, they may be a problem for some people. Good point!
MaryApril 9, 2019
I’m confused. After reading this I came across a site for IC friendly supplements-Desert Harvest. The B-complex supplement that they sell has no B6 because that is the one that is problematic for ic sufferers according to them. So B6 or no B6? I have been diagnosed as deficient in B vitamins
LaylaApril 10, 2019
I don’t know what their sources are, but in my understanding it is B6 that is not problematic and I personally had problems with B complex but not B6 and have had some clients report the same. You could try both and see how you feel, it’s not an issue for everybody.
JodiNovember 5, 2019
Hi Layla, I HAVE IC AND TOOK B COMPLEX TODAY WITH VITAMIN C PLANT BASED IT AFFECTED MY BLADDER AND I agree that its a gut issue can you direct me on how to fix my gut. Thank you, Jodi
TezApril 27, 2018
The last time I took vit B12 +complex (without B6), which was a few days ago, I had a bad flare up (severe burning pain in my bladder and rectum, and anal fissures). I used to take them every 2-3 days and had not noticed that they caused problem because I have pain-free days very rarely.
Barbara VitolaMay 1, 2018
I have had IC for 20 years. I have never been able to take B-complex vitamins. Of course I found out the hard way and put two and two together. Every time I would take them I would suffer from a flare. Pressure in my bladder, constant urgency to urinate and burning. Once I stopped them, my symptoms would calm down. I am not able to take multiple vitamins.
SheedsMay 28, 2018
You’re, definitely on to something. The main reason why I googled about IC flares and B-complex because I’d noticed that shortly after taking it, I’d have problems urinating. My doctor thinks IC is my diagnosis after several rounds of antibiotics.
Ruby ColemanOctober 2, 2018
I had severa l b12 injections and after the last one I ended up in the emergency room the next morning in severe pain I thought it was acute diverticuloses which i had 2 yrs ago Instead a nightmare of pain and no diagnosis began. I saw a Urologist who diagnosed I C I do not eat meat dairy or eggs Question is could the b12 have sparked the IC ? I had just ordered a large quantity of the vitamin b12 they were formulated for energy and weight loss and instructions were give 1 one day and the other the next day alternating them I have not used it I need input here please I really appreciate it
LaylaOctober 4, 2018
I couldn’t say for sure, sorry. Some B vitamins can ‘spark’ pain in the bladder because when their breakdown products aren’t metabolized properly they can trigger nerves in the bladder. If you did something new and then ended up with new symptoms, there is a chance that it could be related. However, the issue in my experience is not the vitamin per se, but that it may not be broken down properly in the gut (and this is would be a gut issue).
Mazoli-ICOctober 15, 2018
There are so many vitamins and supplements that I cannot take because of my Interstitial Cystitis (IC). Magnesium is a supplement that causes bladder spasms for me personally. I am always looking for something to help my IC symptoms. I was diagnosed with IC in 1995 so I have dealt with this disease for a very long time. I recently started a blog – https://treatinginterstitialcystitis.wordpress.com/ – to share my story with others who are suffering with this disease. Any contributions you would like to make to my blog, myself and my readers would be greatly appreciated. I just know one day I will be free of this horrible disease. My blog is a part of my support system. Knowing that I am not alone in this fight helps so much!
LaylaOctober 16, 2018
Hi Mazoli, thanks for sharing – I’ll check out your blog. Interesting about the magnesium, so far my experience has been that it can be quite helpful. But everyone is individual, so it’s always great to hear different experiences!
LeeDecember 6, 2018
Wow last night I took B Complex for the first time and at 3am i got up with urgency and some bladder irritation. I panicked because just recently got diagnosed 3 weeks ago and have not have any bladder issues, frequency or urgency. Today I just happened to Google about Vitamin B not sure why and I stumbled upon this. Makes sense so no more complex for me. Is there anything else IC patients can take to help get Vitamin B. I’m just beginning my journey and decided to go the naturopathic way instead. I m learning that it all starts in the gut so I’m needing to replace the good bacteria after 4 rounds of antibiotics in 2 1/2 months crazy!, if you can provide feedback how I can start addressing my gut first…not sure which probiotic is IC friendly for women? thanks for your blog
LaylaDecember 7, 2018
Vitamin B is tricky. Nutritional sources are bee pollen or nutritional yeast, but many people don’t tolerate them either. Royal Jelly as well. I’m not sure if a food-source B complex would work differently, or even B complex skin patches.
In terms of probiotics there are no particular ‘IC friendly’ ones, you’ll need to find something that works for you personally. I personally haven’t had huge success with them and I’ve tried them all. I find fermented foods much stronger (and cheaper).
Muriel leoneDecember 20, 2018
What do you think about taking buffered sodium acorbate vitamin c. Had interstitial cystitis since 2000. Just eat an oxalate free diet. But I need more energy! What do you think, just ordered this.
LaylaDecember 21, 2018
I like sodium ascorbate but have had some people not tolerate it. I would start low and build up and if you have oxalate issues I wouldn’t go over 4000 mg because vitamin c can be metabolized into oxalates.
MARIA CULBERTSONMay 12, 2019
WHAT type of Mg you recommended for IC
LaylaMay 13, 2019
My preferred way of taking Mg is topical Magnesium ‘oil’ made with pharmaceutical grade Magnesium chloride
KatrinaApril 25, 2021
I also have suffered from IC for more than 20 years. I have been taking Magnesium Glyconate. It is a form that is less acidic than other choices and I seem to tolerate it well. The brand I use is Metagenics.
Rosemary GaudreauJune 22, 2019
I appreciate this information. I have been trying to figure out whats causing flare-up as far as supplements go. I’m new to this and have been miserable. I’m determined to figure this out regarding food and supplements. I now have histamine intolerance. What is your take on quercertin? Is the citrus one a problem? Also any ideas on which natural antihistamine are OK for IC? Thank you
LaylaJuly 1, 2019
Quercetin has been found to be helpful by some IC sufferers – there should be no issue with acidity. Another natural histamine degrader is vitamin C, which you could take in a buffered form like sodium or magnesium ascorbate. Some beneficial bacteria also help with histamine but others produce it, so you have to look for the specific strains.
JodiNovember 5, 2019
Hi Layla, I have if and I agree its not the actual vitamin b its my gut issue setting everything off could you give me some info as where to start with the gut issue? Thank you!
LaylaNovember 8, 2019
This is ideally done with the help of a practitioner who can do some testing to see what the issue is. Then it usually involves supporting digestion and re-balancing the gut microbiome.
It is too complex to simply answer here. I do work with clients 1-1 if you wanted in-depth support.
JodiNovember 5, 2019
Hi Layla, I guess my real ? Is how do I fix my bladder issues. I can’t eat eggs or any nutritional veggies without haveing a reaction my face is so itchy! Plz help me ty
RitaNovember 10, 2019
Niacin – both niacinamide and nicotinic acid – in high doses makes my urine darker and also can cause pain when urinating. For me I almost could trigger Infections. I can usually compensate this with upping my doses of Riboflavin.
Maybe it makes sense to look at the ratio between niacin and riboflavin in your B-complex some are very high in niacine and low in riboflavin.
One should also know that the uptake of riboflavine of a single dose is limited to something like less than 20 mg, while, if I remember correctly, this is not the case with niacin. So by taking a b complex once daily without spreading the Riboflavin intake over the day one might easily end up with a disbalance of Niacin vs. Riboflavin.
So it might be worth to try taking additional riboflavin spread over the day to see if this counterbalance the negative side effects of the B complex.
I almost died several years ago due to a urinary tract/pelvic inflammation. After laparoscopy and i.V. antibiotics and oral antibiotics for months I still had reocurring bladder and urinary tract infections for years. This is why my reaction to niacin was particularly worrisome for me. I also had enlarged lymph nodes at my thighs and while niacin was definitely helping in decreasing them (they are next to gone by now, even though my doctor told me that after such an infection they usually last forever) the niacin was at the same time also causing infections itself. So I felt trapped and didn’t know how I could move forward without causing further damage to myself. Riboflavine helped with preventing the infections and since I know that I can “play” with the doses to speed up the healing of my body.
I have not had a urinary tract infection for three years now. It all feels healthy and clean.
I am glad that I have found this path and I hope that this information will help someone.
judith LambertNovember 27, 2019
Very informative, Thank you
WendyMay 14, 2020
Yes! I found your artical by asking why B vitimins cause bladder incontinence. I have noticed whenever I drink things with b complex supplements, or take the supplements, I havemore of IC issues. Also, Kombucha does this as well. ☹️
LilacAugust 20, 2020
hi I have been having an awful IC flare and then I realized that I had started taking biotin… sigh
There are probitics that are for bladder issues type that into amazon then buy on Iherb or Pharmapacks ( I love them )
this is a great site
Carrie TryonOctober 10, 2020
I’m so happy to read your article! I thought I was getting a UTI every time I took a multivitamin or anything with b12 in it. My doctor said it was probably IC.
My problem is I’m having weight loss surgery next month and I have to take a multivitamin and possibly B12. How.can I do this without suffering from IC the rest of my life? It makes me feel like I’m starting to get the flu and I’m really tired and have urgency.
COctober 10, 2020
I found this article because it was recommended that I supplement with B1 for my Hashimoto’s but every time I take it I feel like I have a bladder infection within a few days.
Payne PaulineOctober 14, 2020
Many studies have examined the use of complementary therapies for managing interstitial cystitis (IC) symptoms and flares. For example, some doctors recommend drinking water with a tablespoon of sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) to help sooth an IC flare. Plus, some individuals with IC report that over-the-counter supplements such as calcium glycerophosphate ( Prelief ®) and aloe vera supplements ( Desert Harvest Aloe Vera ®) help control symptoms.
AngieNovember 5, 2020
Hello, when I was younger, I worked long hours and felt depleted, and was advised by docs to include a B-complex vitamin daily–which I did. I suffered a non-stop roller-coaster ride of UTIs followed by yeast infections from the antibiotics. Shortly after, I was diagnosed with MS (multiple sclerosis). No healthcare professional ever mentioned the probability to me that the B-complex might be causing my UTIs….well-meaning nurses informed that I should “wipe front to back”, as if I had somehow reached womanhood and had three children without ever knowing this fact…!!!
I have since figured out the issue and stopped taking the B-complex vitamins, and have not had any UTIs or yeast infections since. During my painful experience, I did learn that Jarrow Formulas Fem Dophilus with a Probiotic Blend of Lactobacillus rhamnosus, GR-1® and Lactobacillus reuteri, RC-14® will cure a UTI or yeast infection without antibiotics. (Two pills in the morning and two at night for an active issue, and one per day for maintenance.)
I hope this helps others who suffer from the same issue but have had it with multiple rounds of antibiotics due to the enormous damage they cause to our gut bacteria. I wish I’d known about this probiotic sooner; I am convinced I would not have MS, if my gut bacteria hadn’t been constantly imbalanced by antibiotics for so long in my youth.
SarahFebruary 5, 2021
I have been taking MIC IV Infusions for the past month. They largely are made up of B vitamins. I have IC as a result of chronic kidney stones disease over the past 12 years. 8 surgeries all together. I haven’t had a flare in so long. The first The first two weeks of the infusions I felt awesome! Then the third infusion I didn’t feel as awesome and started to have some pain. I just had my fourth infusion. I know that I am either in the midst of a flare or trying to pass a kidney stone. Do you think this could be a result of the B vitamins? I am so sad because I hadn’t felt so good in years!! Then with the third infusion I felt bladder pain… can you help me? Are you for hire?
LaylaFebruary 5, 2021
The reason why B vitamins can trigger flares is that in some individuals they are metabolized into problematic compounds in the gut. This happens when the gut is in poor shape and this is what would need to be addressed. B vitamins don’t cause IC.
If you’ve had kidney stones, there could be problems with oxalates also.
I do work with people 1-on-1, please message me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you’d like to work with me.
KellyJuly 13, 2021
Hello! I’ve found this post because I am pregnant and currently experiencing extremely painful urination but all of the tests are coming back negative. I was prescribed antibiotics because everything pointed to a UTI even though the tests were negative. It seems the antibiotics kept the pain to a minimum but now that I’ve finished the course of them, the pain has returned at full blast. I’m starting to wonder if my prenatal vitamin has started to cause an issue with my bladder? Do you think it’s possible the B vitamins in that could be causing UTI type symptoms? This is my first pregnancy so I haven’t had to take multivitamins before. Please help me, the doctors can’t tell me what’s wrong 🙁
LaylaJuly 13, 2021
I’ve never heard of B vitamins ‘causing’ this – they can flare it up when there’s already an issue in the bladder, but generally they wouldn’t cause the problem. Standard testing can miss up to around 60% of infections – I would consider a Microgen DX urine test for hidden infections. I have several posts about this on the blog.