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Fem IC and Supplements

What Supplements Are Useful for IC?

Karyn Eilber, M.D.

Interstitial cystitis (IC), also known as painful bladder syndrome (PBS), is a chronic bladder condition that currently has no identifiable cause. It is often associated with pain or general discomfort in the bladder area. 

Despite the number of people who are affected by IC, there is only one FDA-approved medication for IC. As with any medication, there may be some people skeptical about potential side effects. Also, there might be people who are just hesitant to add another medicine into their routine. 

If you’re reading this, chances are you already have some idea of what IC is. You might have been diagnosed with IC, or wondering if you have it. IC symptoms are often triggered by acidic food and drink, stress, and certain times of a woman’s cycle. 

People with IC experience a variety of symptoms that can be triggered by many different things. This begs the question: What do people do for IC? Some turn to supplements for relief and control of their symptoms. 

Supplements for IC

When you have IC, the key to a good quality of life is figuring out what works for your body. In our research, we’ve discovered that supplements are the fourth most common management strategy. It follows managing your diet, taking medications, and avoiding sexual activity (we hope you won’t have to do the latter). 

So, which bladder health supplements make sense to take for IC bladder support? It’s vital that the supplements you choose perform specific functions to ease your symptoms.

Inflammation and Antioxidant Support

Although the exact cause of IC is unknown, it is generally accepted that IC is associated with inflammation. With that being said, supplements with well established inflammation-soothing and antioxidant properties may be beneficial. 

  • Quercetin and Rutin are plant pigments, or flavonoids, found in many fruits and vegetables. They’re known for their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, which make them ideal substances for IC symptoms*. Rutin and Quercetin are chemically very similar. In the body, Rutin is actually converted into Quercetin. Although there is only one small study conducted in 2001 that reinforces the potential for Quercetin to relieve IC symptoms, there is a more recent study demonstrating that Rutin may help protect the bladder against damage from chemotherapy. 
  • Pine bark may help to soothe inflammation and offer a rich source of antioxidants that may help with urinary tract infections.  

Neutralize Acids

Many people with IC notice worsening of symptoms with acidic food and drink. That’s why it’s so important to include supplements that can help neutralize acids. 

  • Calcium glycerophosphate (CGP) can be helpful before eating or drinking things that have a high acidic content.* In a survey, patients took two tablets of CGP before meals. After four weeks, participants noted a 40% improvement of their symptoms. 
  • Sodium bicarbonate, better known as baking soda, might be a surprising addition to this list. It can be a great supplement for IC because of how well it helps to neutralize acids.* 

In a questionnaire, almost 600 people claimed that CGP and sodium bicarbonate helped improve symptoms. This questionnaire suggested that taking CGP and sodium bicarbonate before meals could help reduce sensitivity when triggering foods are consumed.* 

Replenish the GAG Layer

The glycosaminoglycan, or GAG, layer is a mucus barrier that protects your bladder from bacteria. When you have IC, your GAG layer might have been weakened or lost. This exposes your bladder to all kinds of substances, making it prone to infection and irritation. These ingredients could be influential in helping to rebuild the GAG layer of the bladder.* 

  • Glucosamine is a building block that naturally forms within the body and helps many functional molecules. It may help soothe inflammation when paired with chondroitin sulfate. 
  • Hyaluronic acid has many medicinal purposes. In a prospective, unblinded, uncontrolled pilot study, 20 patients (ages 34-80 years), who all suffer from IC/PBS, researchers found that IC patients reported a decrease in bladder discomfort and urinary frequency. For the GAG layer, Hyaluronic acid may strengthen the cell surface.* 
  • Aloe vera is widely recognized for its ability to help soothe inflammation. It’s beneficial for the bladder as it has a richness in GAG molecules that can help alleviate the uncomfortable symptoms of IC and may help replenish the body’s GAG layer.* 

Stress Support

In addition to acidic and spicy foods, many people report that stress causes IC flares. One of the best ways you can manage stress is understanding what causes it. Another solution is adding in supplements that help you take on stress without it overtaking you. 

Ashwagandha is an adaptogen that helps manage your body’s natural stress response. Additionally, ashwagandha promotes antioxidant activity in your body, which could help ease symptoms associated with inflammation.* 

Finding the Perfect Solution for You

No one knows your body like you! Use these bladder health supplements as a guidepost to steer you towards a happier, healthier life. Keep in mind that while these supplements can be useful for IC, they are most effective when used consistently over time. Add in a few dietary changes and you’re ready to conquer the world. 

Femetry and your Down There Doctors are here to support you! 

*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. 

Karyn Eilber, M.D.
  1. Use of supplements in the interstitial cystitis/bladder pain syndrome community: Patient reported utilization patterns and perceptions. The Journal of Urology, September 2021.
  2. Treatment of interstitial cystitis with a quercetin supplement. Techniques in Urology, March 2001.
  3. Overviews of biological  importance of quercetin: A bioactive flavonoid. Pharmacogosy Reviews, Jul-Dec 2016.
  4. Complementary and alternative medical therapies for interstitial cystitis: An update from the United States. Translational Andrology and Urology, December 2015.
  5. Dietary consumption triggers in interstitial cystitis/painful bladder syndrome patients. Female Pelvic Medicine and Reconstructive Surgery, January 2011.
  6. Interstitial cystitis/bladder pain syndrome and glycosaminoglycans replacement therapy. Translational Andrology and Urology, December 2015.
  7. A pilot study on the intravesical instillation of curcumin for cystitis glandularis. Evidence-based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, May 2013.
  1. Use of supplements in the interstitial cystitis/bladder pain syndrome community: Patient reported utilization patterns and perceptions. The Journal of Urology, September 2021.
  2. Treatment of interstitial cystitis with a quercetin supplement. Techniques in Urology, March 2001.
  3. Overviews of biological  importance of quercetin: A bioactive flavonoid. Pharmacogosy Reviews, Jul-Dec 2016.
  4. Complementary and alternative medical therapies for interstitial cystitis: An update from the United States. Translational Andrology and Urology, December 2015.
  5. Dietary consumption triggers in interstitial cystitis/painful bladder syndrome patients. Female Pelvic Medicine and Reconstructive Surgery, January 2011.
  6. Interstitial cystitis/bladder pain syndrome and glycosaminoglycans replacement therapy. Translational Andrology and Urology, December 2015.
  7. A pilot study on the intravesical instillation of curcumin for cystitis glandularis. Evidence-based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, May 2013.