Also known as painful bladder syndrome, interstitial cystitis is a chronic condition that causes inflammation in the muscle layers of the bladder. The condition affects more than 12 million people in the United States, according to the Interstitial Cystitis Association (1).
Due to the inflammation, one experiences bladder pressure, bladder pain and sometimes pelvic pain. Depending on the severity of the condition, the pain can range from mild to severe. The bladder pressure makes you urinate more often and with smaller volumes of urine than most people.
The signs and symptoms of interstitial cystitis vary from person to person. However, periodical flaring of symptoms can be noticed in response to common triggers, such as menstruation, sitting for a long time, stress, exercise, and sexual activity.
Also, the symptoms may worsen if you have interstitial cystitis and get a urinary tract infection (UTI).
The exact cause of interstitial cystitis isn’t known, but certain factors increase the risk of having this problem.
The first risk factor is your gender. It is more common in women than men. People who have fair skin and those over 30 years of age are also more prone to the condition.
Other risk factors include trauma to the bladder’s lining, weakened or dysfunctional pelvic floor muscles, recurring bacterial infections, autoimmune disorders, and chronic pain disorders, such as irritable bowel syndrome or fibromyalgia.
It is important to treat interstitial cystitis or it may cause other complications, including reduced bladder capacity, lower quality of life, poor sexual life, sleep disturbance, and emotional stress.
Fortunately, there are many home remedies and lifestyle changes that can help treat the problem and improve the symptoms.
Here are the top 10 home remedies for interstitial cystitis (IC).
1. Hot Compress
Applying a hot compress on your bladder is a very simple and effective treatment to reduce swelling on the bladder, which is a common symptom of IC.
When the pain is from the bladder wall, a hot compress also will help reduce muscle spasms.
- Wrap a thin cloth around a hot water bag.
- Apply the compress on the pelvic floor muscles for 5 minutes.
- Take a break of 5 minutes, then repeat again.
- Do this for 20 minutes.
- Repeat 2 or 3 times daily, or whenever you feel pain in the bladder and pelvic areas.
2. Baking Soda
Baking soda is a very effective home remedy for IC. Being alkaline in nature, it helps reduce the body’s acid level. This helps alleviate the burning sensation and other symptoms of IC.
Baking soda also reduces the risk of UTIs.
A 2002 study published in Reviews in Urology reports that urinary alkalinization with baking soda or potassium citrate has been an effective treatment for many IC patients (2).
- Just mix ½ to 1 teaspoon of baking soda into a glass of water and drink it 2 or 3 times a day.
- Also, prepare a baking soda bath by mixing 1 cup of baking soda into a bathtub half-filled with lukewarm water. Soak your body in it for 10 minutes. Do this once daily.
3. Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple cider vinegar is highly beneficial for your bladder health. It helps remove toxins from your body and keep your bladder function properly. Apple cider vinegar also helps keep the pH level of the body balanced.
Plus, it helps prevent urinary infections, which can worsen the symptoms of IC.
- Mix 1 to 2 teaspoons of raw, unfiltered apple cider vinegar in a glass of water.
- Add a little raw honey.
- Drink it twice daily until your symptoms have improved.
4. Pelvic Floor (Kegel) Exercises
Exercising your pelvic floor muscles can be a useful way to control IC symptoms. It helps improve bladder control and reduce urine urgency.
The Kegel exercise is something that women can do on their own to improve their sense of control. This, in turn, helps with the emotional symptoms, too.
Before you start the exercise, you need to locate your Kegel muscles. They are the muscles that you use to stop the flow of urine when urinating.
- Sit in a quiet place.
- Contract the Kegel muscles for 5 seconds, while breathing normally.
- Relax for 5 seconds, then repeat the muscle contraction.
- Repeat 10 to 20 times per session.
- Do at least 3 sessions a day.
Make sure to empty your bladder before you begin the exercises.
5. Water Intake
Even if you have the urge to urinate more often when suffering from IC, do not make the mistake of drinking less water.
In fact, you need to increase your water intake. Drinking water can help get rid of some of the toxins in your body. Also, regular water intake will help reduce the inflammation and lower the level of acids in your urine.
To minimize the urgency and frequency to urinate, try sipping on plain water throughout the day instead of drinking a glass or two of water at one time.
Along with water, drink fruit and vegetable juices, as well as, soups or broths regularly to increase your fluid intake.
6. Quit Smoking
Smoking is extremely bad for your bladder health.
The harmful chemicals in cigarettes can worsen IC symptoms and further irritate the bladder. It can increase your risk of UTIs, which can further worsen your symptoms and make treatment more difficult.
A 2007 study published in European Urology analyzed IC symptoms in 981 women, approximately 31 percent of whom in the 20- to 59-year age group were smokers. That group had the highest prevalence of more severe IC symptoms (3).
Another study published in Physiological Reports in 2017 shed light on a possible mechanism underlying smoking‐exacerbated IC symptoms and provides potential therapeutic targets to be further explored (4).