Conditions, Interstitial Cystitis

The Problem with B Vitamin Supplements and Interstitial Cystitis

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
  • Biotin
  • 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)


  • Reply


    April 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!

  • Reply


    April 17, 2018

    I didn’t think you could eat nuts and shellfish or mushroom when your on a low histimine diet?

    • Reply


      April 17, 2018

      You’re right, they may be a problem for some people. Good point!

    • Reply


      April 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

      • Reply


        April 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.

  • Reply


    April 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.

  • Reply

    Barbara Vitola

    May 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.

  • Reply


    May 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.

  • Reply

    Ruby Coleman

    October 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

    • Reply


      October 4, 2018

      Hi Ruby,
      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).

  • Reply


    October 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 – – 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!

    • Reply


      October 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!

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    December 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

    • Reply


      December 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).

  • Reply

    Muriel leone

    December 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.

    • Reply


      December 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.

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    May 12, 2019

    WHAT type of Mg you recommended for IC

    • Reply


      May 13, 2019

      My preferred way of taking Mg is topical Magnesium ‘oil’ made with pharmaceutical grade Magnesium chloride

  • Reply

    Rosemary Gaudreau

    June 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

    • Reply


      July 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.

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