Some studies show that certain alternative treatments may benefit people with interstitial cystitis, a chronic condition marked by inflammation in the tissues of the bladder wall. Sometimes referred to as "painful bladder syndrome," interstitial cystitis often causes pain and/or uncomfortable pressure in the bladder. While there's no cure for interstitial cystitis, a number of therapeutic approaches (including medication and lifestyle changes, in addition to alternative treatments) may help ease symptoms.
Standard and Alternative Treatments for Interstitial Cystitis
Although the cause of interstitial cystitis is unknown, it's thought that the condition may result from defects in the protective lining of the bladder, the immune system, and/or the pelvic nerves. Women and people with other chronic pain conditions (such as irritable bowel syndrome and fibromyalgia) appear to be at an increased risk for interstitial cystitis.
Because the cause of interstitial cystitis is unknown, most standard treatments strive to alleviate symptoms. Oral medications, for instance, may help reduce pain, relax the bladder, and decrease urinary frequency, while stretching the bladder (in a medical procedure called "bladder distention) may improve a number of interstitial cystitis symptoms.
Doctors often recommend certain lifestyle changes, such as lowering your intake of possible bladder irritants (including caffeine and foods or beverages with a high concentration of vitamin C), wearing loose clothing, practicing stress management techniques, and quitting smoking, for further help in managing interstitial cystitis.
To date, few studies have examined the use of alternative treatments for interstitial cystitis. However, preliminary findings suggest that these alternative treatments might be of some benefit for people with interstitial cystitis:
Melatonin, an antioxidant substance available in supplement form, was found to protect the bladder lining from irritants in a 2003 study on rats. According to the study's authors, this finding suggests that melatonin holds promise as an alternative treatment for interstitial cystitis.
In a 2001 trial involving 22 interstitial cystitis patients, researchers found that four weeks of twice-daily treatment with 500 mg of quercetin led to a significant improvement in interstitial cystitis symptoms. Quercetin, which is an antioxidant found naturally in foods like black tea and berries, also produced no side effects in the study participants.
Should You Use Alternative Treatments for Interstitial Cystitis?
If you experience any symptoms of interstitial cystitis (such as pelvic pain and a persistent urge to urinate), it's important to talk to your doctor before using any type of alternative treatment. Given the lack of scientific support for any type of alternative treatment of interstitial cystitis, no natural remedy or alternative therapy can currently be recommended for this condition.
Cetinel S, Ercan F, Sirvanci S, Sehirli O, Ersoy Y, San T, Sener G. "The ameliorating effect of melatonin on protamine sulfate induced bladder injury and its relationship to interstitial cystitis." J Urol. 2003 169(4):1564-8.
Katske F, Shoskes DA, Sender M, Poliakin R, Gagliano K, Rajfer J. "Treatment of interstitial cystitis with a quercetin supplement." Tech Urol. 2001 7(1):44-6.
Marshall K. "Interstitial cystitis: understanding the syndrome." Altern Med Rev. 2003 8(4):426-37.
Whitmore KE. "Complementary and alternative therapies as treatment approaches for interstitial cystitis." Rev Urol. 2002;4 Suppl 1:S28-35.