Jan, a 67-year-old woman, came to me with the complaint of chronic urinary pain, which varied from mild to severe. The episodes lasted from days to weeks, and her symptoms returned periodically.
Jan's condition, interstitial cystitis (IC), is a urinary pain syndrome that is poorly understood. There are several theories as to its cause, but most involve conditions that lead to an increase in inflammatory mediators in the bladder tissue. Minimizing the triggers that stimulate these mediators--along with rebalancing immune function--is key. This isn't an easy condition to treat. Therapy must be carried out for at least a year, and beneficial effects may not be seen until months have passed.
There are several foods that seem to be connected with IC, including coffee, alcohol, chocolate, carbonated drinks, vinegars, citrus, tomatoes and many fruits. So I recommended eliminating them from Jan's diet. On the other hand, dietary fiber in the form of legumes, hemp seed, flaxseed and whole grains acts to improve detoxification, so I encouraged Jan to eat more of these foods.
Jan's pain management regimen involved the use of herbs and nutritional supplements. I recommended N-acetyl-glucosamine (NAG) at a dosage of 500 milligrams (mg) three times per day to act as an anti-inflammatory and analgesic. And L-arginine, which increases enzyme activity in the urine, can decrease urgency and the intensity and frequency of pain.
I also introduced Jan to herbal pain relievers that reduce spasms and irritability. These include California poppy, Jamaican dogwood, cramp bark and pasque flower. They can be taken in a mixture of several together or as single substances. I suggested taking them in a line warm water several times per day.
Herbal medicines to decrease inflammation and heal the bladder tissue include calendula flowers, licorice root, marshmallow root and nettle leaf. I suggested to Jan that she could brew these herbs into a tea, which can be taken several times a day, or she could take a mix of tinctures at a dose of 1 teaspoon several times per day.
Finally, I recommended nutritional antioxidants such as vitamins A and E, zinc and bioflavonoids, which also aid in decreasing inflammatory complex and increasing tissue regeneration.
Mary Bore received her doctorate of naturopathic medicine and midwifery certification from Bastyr University of Natural Health in Seattle. She currently practices naturopathic family medicine at the Brattleboro Naturopathic Clinic in Vermont.
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