On Saturday I ate tomatoes and limes, watched a movie, and went to bed.
Rewind a couple of weeks and my account to you would have been different. Instead of having limes or tomatoes, I would have eaten foods that are known not to trigger bladder pain, and I would have probably gone to bed only to lie there for an hour or two with bladder pain.
This has been the story all year. Since late December, I’ve had bladder pain every single day. Most of the time it’s been really bad, and for at least four months it kept me on a sleep schedule of four to five hours of shut-eye a night.
But this weekend I had a hunch and made salsa. Salsa. An interstitial cystitis (IC) patient’s kryptonite. And though this simple account of my Saturday may seem insignificant, it was huge for me. I went to bed, and that was the end of the story. I slept through the night!
So what changed?
At the beginning of the year I did a pretty brutal elimination diet to help calm down my bladder pain and ultimately understand what was triggering my pain the most. I was eating an anti-inflammatory, low-histamine, low-oxalate, autoimmune diet as instructed by my nutritionist. It was hardcore, but we both agreed it was the next step, as the general anti-inflammatory diet that healed my endo pain so many years ago had not worked for my bladder pain. The basic IC diet hadn’t worked either.
Unfortunately, during the elimination diet my pain shot through the roof. I believe it was largely stress-induced and that the root cause of my IC is small intestine bacterial overgrowth and potentially even a biofilm.
So, I worked on getting my SIBO diagnosis. I haven’t started the treatment yet as it’s expensive and I might get some nasty symptoms due to die-off, so I am saving money and planning to do it in the fall after I finish with my current coaching clients.
However, I did make some other changes …
Two weeks ago, inspired by my upcoming interview with IC expert Elisabeth Yaotani, I looked at some key things in my diet that might still be triggering my IC. Sure, I have a cup of tea once or twice during my follicular and ovulatory weekends (any closer to my period would cause my endo pain to kick in), but those teas don’t cause a peak in pain. Cutting them out doesn’t help either. The culprits seemed to be hidden in my day-to-day eating habits. The two key foods I could identify were roasted chicory root granules (a natural caffeine-free coffee alternative) and dairy-free yogurt.
Chicory, in some sources, is high in histamines and oxalates — both of which are known to cause bladder pain in people who have problems breaking them down. The information on roasted chicory root is variable, but I ran out and didn’t replace it to see what would happen.
Yogurt is the only cultured food I have left in my diet, which arguably isn’t great for my gut microbiome. Fermented and cultured foods feed the microbiome, but this is a temporary measure while I heal. Fermented and cultured foods are high in histamines and I experience severe reactions to them, so bit by bit, I’ve had to eliminate them in the short-term. I’ve gone for periods of time without yogurt, and I ruled it out completely during my six-week elimination diet, but I tried removing it again just in case.
It worked. I first took out yogurt and noticed a reduction in pain. A few days later, I took out the chicory. It’s the most relief I’ve had in seven months.
Since then, I’ve added in dandelion root coffee to replace the chicory, and it seems to help keep my IC symptoms at bay. I’ve also started taking biofilm disruptors to help break down any potential biofilms on my bladder.
Bit by bit, I’m testing foods I had previously ruled out, like limes and tomatoes. While I have had an increase in bladder frequency and sensitivity at times, I’ve not had an increase in pain, so I’m taking this as a good sign.
I’m not in remission from my IC yet, and I’m certain treating SIBO will play a significant role, but I hope this is the beginning of recovery.
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