Bladder Spasm and UTI Symptoms Not Caused by Bacteria: What Worked for Me

Woman in pain
Woman in pain | Source

Urinary Tract Symptoms Without Bacteria

You go to the doctor with what you're sure is a bladder infection, only to find out it's not. A urinalysis shows that there is no bacteria present. So what now?

Antibiotics won't help; in fact, they may make things worse. Often a doctor will prescribe antibiotics for UTI symptoms without performing a urinalysis, but that can be a mistake if you're actually dealing with a condition such as bladder spasm or, worse yet, interstitial cystitis. After what I have been through, I would recommend that you insist on a urinalysis before taking antibiotics for urinary symptoms.

Through research and trial and error, I found the things that worked for me. I now have been symptom-free for over a year and a half, and I am not taking any medications.

Many women find themselves in a situation like the one I have described at some point in their lives. Their GP or Gynecologist may not be very knowledgeable about it. Trying to get information about urinary symptoms that are not caused by bacteria and getting the appropriate treatment can be very frustrating.

Bladder Spasm

The urologist I went to called my problem "bladder spasm," and he took great pains to explain to me how difficult it is to find the cause and right treatment for symptoms like urinary frequency and urgency. He also said that many women have episodes of bladder spasm at some time in their lives, but recover from it completely.

Subjects I Will Cover

  • Symptoms
  • First Aid
  • What to Avoid
  • Intertstitial Cystitis
  • Seeing a Urologist
  • Don't Lose Hope
  • Healing an Irritated Bladder - What worked for Me
  • Common Food Triggers
  • What to Eat
  • Helpful Supplements
  • Help and Support

The Symptoms of Bladder Spasm

Urinary frequency and urgency; urethral burning and pelvic pain.

In my experience, most doctors, especially male doctors, do not perceive these symptoms in a female as a serious medical matter, certainly not an emergency. After all, your vital signs are all fine, an examination doesn't find anything amiss, nothing is showing up in your blood or urine. Therefore, you're fine.

It's easy to get overwhelmed and very emotional when this happens. You're extremely uncomfortable, it's very hard to get any sleep, and you're physically and emotionally frazzled. But try to get a grip on yourself.

If you show up at a doctors office in that condition, it will be even harder to be taken seriously. (In fact, when I showed up at the ER in tears, I was prescribed Xanax by a doctor who obviously thought I was just hysterical.) Also, the pain cycle can feed on itself, and the more emotionally worked up you get, the worse you may feel. Believe me, it will get better.

Bladder First Aid

I'll get into more details later, but if you are suffering right now, this is what I would do:

  • Drink Baking Soda Mixed With Water - The first line of defense for me is to drink 1/4 tsp of baking soda (do not exceed two teaspoons of baking soda a day) dissolved in a small amount of water. This neutralizes the acid in your urine. I started feeling better within 10 minutes. I read about it in a book, and it helped me much more than anything any of the doctors I had been going to for months had.
  • Take a Hot Bath - I found a soaking in a hot tub to be very palliative.
  • Relax your Pelvic Floor Muscles - The muscle you want to relax is the same muscle you work when doing Kegel exercises. Locate the muscle you use to stop your urine flow by tightening it once, then consciously relax it. It seems like it's too simple, but I was really surprised how much better this made me feel.
  • Don't Strain When You Urinate - You've probably been straining to empty every drop when you urinate; try not to do that, it's making things worse. The muscles in that area are all tense, and the nerves are overstimulated. You need to calm them down

Baking Soda
Baking Soda

Stop Drinking Cranberry Juice!

DO NOT DRINK ANY CRANBERRY JUICE or other fruit juice, it is very acidic and will irritate your bladder. Many people who develop these symptoms have been drinking large quantities of cranberry juice; if you are doing so, stop immediately.

Avoid Acidic Food and Drink

  • Immediately stop consuming all carbonated drinks, alcohol and coffee.
  • Do not eat any chocolate.
  • Drink plenty of plain water, but do not force yourself to drink gallons. Simply drink a glass whenever you think about it.

I give a more comprehensive list of Trigger Foods toward the end of this article.

What To Avoid: Don't Sabotage Yourself

Don't give in and reach for the foods that are hurting you. I really sabotaged myself for a while because I would not give up that one cup of coffee in the morning. Once I got past that, I started to get better. Don't undermine your recovery with that one glass of wine or cup of coffee, the way I did. Just stop. If all goes well, this will be a temporary situation. You can go back to enjoying those things later, but for now, you have to get this situation under control.

Instead of your regular acidic indulgences, milk or vanilla ice cream can be pleasant and very soothing. Make sure you get a brand of ice cream that does not contain a lot of chemicals.

Some Hot Drinks You Can Have

I used to have hot Vanilla Milk in the morning instead of coffee. Just put a drop of pure vanilla extract, and a little sugar or honey in a mug of hot milk. Some other options are Marshmallow Root, Chamomile or Catnip tea. They are usually well tolerated, and can be beneficial. Make your teas weak until you are sure they don't bother you. Sometimes, just sipping a cup of hot water is comforting, and it helps keep you hydrated.


What's Wrong with Me? Could It Be Interstitial Cystitis?

The answer to that question is maybe, but maybe not.

If you are researching these symptoms on the Internet, or talking to your doctor, you may have heard of interstitial cystitis (IC). It is a chronic inflammation of the lining of the bladder.

If you have urinary frequency and urgency, urethral burning, and pelvic pain, you probably have cystitis, which is bladder inflammation. If it doesn't go away and no other cause can be found for it, then it may be interstitial cystitis.

Interstitial cystitis is often mistaken for a urinary tract infection. Patients may go as long as four years between the time they first experience symptoms and the time they receive their diagnosis. It most commonly affects women, although men can get it too.

IC is diagnosed by ruling out other conditions, such as bladder infections or bladder cancer. Also, when it is advanced, it can be diagnosed by cystoscopy, as there will be visible ulcers on the lining of the bladder. For a cystoscopy, you will have to see a urologist.

IC is a chronic condition. Just because you have urinary symptoms without bacteria does not mean that you have IC. It is a possibility, but many people, especially women, have these symptoms yet they recover completely.

Seeing a Urologist

Once your GP recognizes that you don't have a garden-variety bladder infection, you will probably be referred to a urologist. All of this takes time, and it will likely be a couple of months before you actually see the urologist. Usually the first thing he will want to do is a cystoscopy, for which a tube with a camera on the end is inserted through the urethra into the bladder to examine it. My urologist made an appointment for me to have that test, but it was six weeks away. He said that if I got better before then, I should call and cancel.

The idea of that test really freaked me out, given the way I was feeling. And reading the interstitial cystitis forums I found online, I wasn't optimistic about the outcome. I didn't see a lot of positive comments about how great things were after the diagnosis. Everyone seemed to be on a lot of drugs that were marginally effective at controlling their symptoms, and it sounded like a life sentence to me, one of those conditions you just have to live with.

Don't Lose Hope

Now, looking back, I think most people who get over their problems never go back to the forum to share their story, so just because you don't see many success stories doesn't mean they don't exist. I did get some good advice for dietary changes and supplements from the IC forum, but I had to do a lot of digging. Here, I've tried to condense the information that helped me to make it more accessible for someone having a first experience with bladder irritation.

I never did have the cystoscopy. I was able to get my symptoms under control and opted not to have it. The cause of interstitial cystitis is mysterious, and I was never diagnosed with it, but I feel as though if I had continued to irritate my bladder, I could have developed this chronic condition.

From my reading and research, it sounds like it's important to get your symptoms under control early. Dietary changes when you first experience symptoms can prevent your condition from progressing. Patients who have had an irritated bladder for a longer period of time experience less relief from dietary changes.

If, despite your best effort, you don't get better, by all means have the test. If it turns out you do have interstitial cystitis, there are medications and treatments that may be beneficial to you.

Healing an Irritated Bladder: What Worked for Me

The healthy bladder is coated with a mucosal tissue called the glycosaminoglycan layer, generally referred to as the GAG layer. This layer protects the bladder from direct contact with the urine that it contains. The GAG layer can become damaged by bacteria or other trauma, such as pelvic surgery, repeated infections, or a complicated pregnancy. I went on a regimen designed to heal the GAG layer.

First of all, go on a low-acid diet. If you look up Interstitial Cystitis diet or IC diet, you will get a lot of varying advice on this. Different people seem to have different triggers. The ones I mention below in the "Common Food Triggers" section should be avoided. Most of them definitely affected me.

One book I read said, "If you wouldn't put it on an open wound, don't eat it," and this resonated with me. So things like hot spices, lemon and vinegar would be off limits. If I ate acidic food, I could feel it within 10 minutes, burning my bladder.

This list is a good starting point. Pay attention to you body. If you feel worse, ask yourself, "What did I eat?"

Common Food Triggers

Spicy foods are one of the triggers that may cause your symptoms to worsen.
Spicy foods are one of the triggers that may cause your symptoms to worsen.

Foods to Avoid for Bladder Spasm or IC

  • Cranberry
  • Fruits other than pears
  • Coffee
  • Chocolate
  • Alcoholic beverages
  • Tomatoes and tomato sauce
  • Spicy foods
  • Carbonated beverages
  • Aspartame
  • Aged cheese
  • Sour cream
  • Yogurt
  • Corned beef
  • Cured meats like salami, bacon, or ham
  • Vinegar
  • Salad dressing
  • Mayonnaise
  • Lentils
  • Tree nuts
  • Onions
  • Soy
  • Preservatives
  • Artificial flavors
  • Vitamin Supplements - Especially Vitamin C

You Don't Have to Live with Cystitis
You Don't Have to Live with Cystitis

This is one of the best books I have found about how to deal with urinary tract problems. It offers a lot of good advice about how to change your diet to relieve the pain cystitis can cause.


What to Eat

Most vegetables, meats, breads, and dairy products will be fine.
Most vegetables, meats, breads, and dairy products will be fine.

It can be hard, with just a list of things you can't have, to figure out what to eat. There are plenty of foods you can still eat.

  • Any meat, poultry, fish, or shellfish is OK, except cured meats like bacon or salami.
  • Most vegetables other than tomatoes, onions, or hot peppers are fine.
  • You can still eat bread, other than rye and sourdough.
  • Dairy foods including milk, butter, cottage cheese, American cheese, and vanilla ice cream work. You can start adding some of the milder aged cheeses in small amounts once you start feeling better.
  • Pasta, rice, and most cereals are OK.
  • Salads can be a problem because of the dressing, but you can try them with herb infused olive oil and coarse salt.

When you feel better, start slowly adding foods one at a time. It can be tempting to just go back to your regular eating pattern, but you don't want to have to start over. I started with a little mayonnaise on my sandwich because I really missed it.

Add one food at a time, and take it very slowly.

What Supplements I Used

Based on what I read in books and researched on the Internet, I used the supplements and products listed below:

  • Glucosamine and Chondroitin (400 mg 3x per day): It coats the GAG layer, giving it a chance to heal.
  • Calcium Citrate + Vitamin D (200 mg 2x per day): It helps your body excrete oxalates more efficiently this helps prevent vulvodynia, an associated condition which is also very unpleasant.
  • Bromelain (100 GDU 3x per day): Bromelain is an anti-inflammatory enzyme.
  • Quercetin (100 mg 3x per day): Quercetin is another anti-inflammatory agent.
  • Prelief: Prelief is an antacid that you can take before eating acidic foods. I would not recommend eating acidic foods, even with it, until you get your symptoms somewhat under control. But I did use it occasionally as a precautionary measure if I needed to eat out, and I used it more often as my bladder improved and I was able to return to a more normal diet.

You might want to start off with the glucosamine and chondroitin and work your way down the list, adding one supplement at a time and waiting a few days before adding the next one, just to make sure it's not a trigger for you.

One prescription medication I took for a short time that did help me was Ditropan (oxybutynin chloride). It is supposed to relax your bladder muscles to prevent urgent, frequent urination. At first, I was taking 5 mg a day, and it wasn't helping. But when my doctor raised it to 10 mg a day, it gave me some relief.

This Is Based on My Personal Experience

I am not a medical professional. I only want to share my experience in the hope that it helps someone else who is going through this. Every person and every bladder is different. As my urologist pointed out to me, there are many things that can cause the same symptoms, and the cause of bladder pain can be hard to diagnose. What worked for me may not work for you. If it doesn't, don't give up; keep trying until you find something that does.

If you're really suffering right now, you're probably having a flare. It won't last forever; it will pass. It will take time for your bladder to heal, so don't expect a miracle cure overnight. I have experienced two flares that lasted several months each. I am able to eat a normal diet now, even coffee and chocolate. But if I had to give them up forever to prevent that kind of pain, it would be well worth it. Now I know what I have to do when that feeling comes back.

© 2012 Sherry Hewins

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Comments 301 comments

cw/me 7 days ago

Hi Sherry, I hope you are doing well. I wanted to ask if your initial recovery from the bladder spasm was straightforward, without any setbacks, or whether you had setbacks along the way. I am at the four and a half month mark of dealing with this, which was kicked off by a UTI (follow up cultures still negative) and though I do get some good days, it seems like I can't go a full week without a bad flareup that lasts for days. This last one I thought was due to my period, but now I realize it might be from the only new thing I've added in a while, honeydew and cantaloupe. I guess those were too high in Vitamin C and irritated my bladder. before that, the cashews I was relying on suddenly felt like they were burning a hole in my bladder as well as I kept nibbling on them every day. I am getting to the point where I fear I can't eat anything without flaring up and that this might be IC. In your experience, were there setbacks like this, with good days and bad days, before things started to truly improve? thanks!

Hiya24 2 weeks ago

Hi Sherry. Your post has been a boon to me. I was almost on the verge of despair thinking it could be nothing but IC but now I guess it's too soon to say that. I have only urinary frequency and urgency as symptom since the past two weeks. The first week was terrible. Went to a uro who actually told to me up my cranberry juice intake and following that advice made me feel all sore down there and did nothing for my symptoms. I did my own research and cut out cranberry juice and the second week has been better. The second time I went to a gynae who said my symptoms were due to mild cervicitis but her prescribed medicines haven't helped much. In the middle of the week I ate a spicy lunch and coke and it definitely got worse but now I'm going to diligently follow the IC diet. My urgency is on and off...about 9 to 10 times a day..

May I ask what exactly does the baking soda help with?

Jennifer IRL 2 weeks ago


I have just read your article here and I am hoping you can give me some feedback. I have been getting repeat UTI infections, usually after masturbation with my vibrator. Just recently thought 2 days after masturbation I felt my pelvic floor muscles contract and instantly started to feel burning sensation. I am so upset because I can't believe it means not masturbating. I have made an appointment to see my doctor again on monday. I am wondering if being on contraceptives for over 13 years has caused this issue for me? Perhaps coming off of it would stop this problem. any ideas? Thanks for making this article entry. I don't feel like i am going crazy now.

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Sherry Hewins 2 weeks ago from Sierra Foothills, CA Author

Try the Azo, it may help. Many people do find that intercourse irritates it. Use a good lubricant, you may have to try a few to find the one that works best for you.

Ann S 3 weeks ago

Hi Sherry, thank you for your article. I've just recently begun to deal with this bladder pain & burning while urinating with frequent need to urinate after many misdiagnoses of UTI this past summer. I feel like a lot of times my pain is triggered after sexual intercourse. Do you have any insight on that? This pain has come and gone for me for 3 years now. I'm going to print your article and try your suggestions. I have seen a Urologist who thinks she felt knots in my pelvic floor. I have a PT appointment set up for 10/13. She didn't really have much more to offer me. Any thoughts on taking AZO (bladder number) for this pain? Thank you, Ann

Thyme 5 weeks ago

Thank you very much Sherry, this is so lucidly written and so helpful, on an otherwise confusing issue. You have helped me hugely.

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Sherry Hewins 5 weeks ago from Sierra Foothills, CA Author

cw/me, Thanks for mentioning Mast Cells and Antihistamines. They are certainly suspect as a contributing factor to IC. The Bromelain and the Quercetin that I recommended also have antihistamine properties. I hope you reap benefits from your new program.

I have gotten good advice from some doctors, but they certainly don't know everything. If you aren't getting the help you need, you have to keep trying.

cw/me 6 weeks ago

whoops - here is the link to the article I referenced in my last post

cw/me 6 weeks ago

Hi Sherry and all, I am just checking back in to say I feel so much better. I did not look into P/T and I don't believe I ever really needed it. I don't know what that could possibly do for an inflamed bladder and I did not suffer from the tight pelvic muscles which can cause similar symptoms. I am still annoyed that the dr's I discussed my problem with were utterly clueless. How can it be that my primary and the urogyno had NO idea from my symptoms that I suffered from an inflamed bladder and didn't know it could happen after a UTI? The urogyno said "I don't know what's wrong with your bladder" and my primary incorrectly diagnosed me with "bladder dissynergy", which was WAY off base considering the symptoms I had. And no one recommend anything along the lines of changing what I ate or trying certain medications that might help the intense pain.

After going through this I certainly have a much better understanding of how useless dr's can be and the importance of outlets like this where we can discuss our issues, and above all taking matters into your own hands and researching things on your own if your drs don't help you.

I had to be my own dr and your blog was a blessing to me. Anyway, I found an article that was from the Harvard medical school website, noting that prescription antihistamines were sometimes prescribed for painful bladder symptoms. In the article they talk about the theory of mast cells in the bladder releasing histamine packets and this is what is causing the horrific pain we feel, which only ends up causing more inflammation and even more pain. It listed out a few different Rx drugs, and also said that dr's sometimes prescribe Zantac or Tagamet for its antihistamine properties, adding that evidence didn't really back up the use of these OTC drugs. I didn't want to take a prescription antihistamine, but since I have taken Zantac for my flareups of gastritis in the past, I decided to try it. The first day or two nothing really happened. After the third, I began to feel a difference. The constant feeling of tingling/burning started to subside. The worst attacks were suddenly muted as they started to come on. It could be a coincidence and I was starting to get better anyway, though the timing is interesting.

I would recommend all bladder pain sufferers to ask their dr about whether it is okay for them to take Zantac or Tagament for their symptoms. They probably will not have a clue what you are talking about if you ask about these with respect to your bladder pain, as these medications are better known for their acid fighting properties. I started out taking one a day and now I am taking one in the am and one in the pm. Some people do not tolerate Zantac very well so go slow at first. I still get moments of tingling when I eat certain foods that I know were triggers for me, but usually do not get those crippling flareups of pain. Now, I am finally able to add cheeses and a little cottage cheese and avocado into my diet, when all I could tolerate for the last few weeks before this was whole wheat pasta, brown rice, steamed veggies and not a lot else. Also, though I am still drinking about one gallon of water throughout the day, I can now go hours without peeing. Yaaayyy!!! I walked five miles a few days ago, something I never thought I was ever going to be able to do again. I can now walk so much more comfortably without that horrible tingling feeling and get through many hours without that sensation returning.

I also started adding glucosamine and chondroitin supplements. I am only taking one half of a tablet once a day for the 1st week and working my way up since my gastritis and flareups of IBS are aggravated by supplements. One day soon I hope to return to my previous diet. I do miss my coffee, bananas, yogurt, ice cream, walnuts..but I don't want to destroy what has taken three months to rebuild. Like Sherry stated...if you find yourself trying to reach for those foods that hurt you - just stop. This will hopefully just be temporary. For those who do have IC, the antihistamine tip is something that might help you. I wish us all good health and a pain free existence.

Sara 6 weeks ago

Hi Sherry--I'm so glad I found your post. I had been diagnosed with IBS and IC 20 years ago. No one ever talked to me about dealing with the IC. Problems went away in a couple of years. Both issues returned a year ago, much to my dismay. I thought is was IBS, but then after a bladder infection two weeks ago, started thinking about IC. Found your post and have cut out coffee, chocolate, alcohol, spicy food. Symptoms improving greatly!! I am hopeful that I will feel normal in a few months and can enjoy the foods I have given up. Thank you for sharing your experience!

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Sherry Hewins 8 weeks ago from Sierra Foothills, CA Author

That's a great point about checking the ingredients in your ice cream (and whatever else you eat) and also not to rely on only one food. I hope the Physical Therapy helps you. Let us know how that works out. I'm sure other people here would be interested in your experience.

cw / me 2 months ago

I wanted to share that I saw the urogynocologist today and she said that based on my exam she could not explain why I was still getting the burning after the UTI cleared up 2 months ago. I asked if I had IC and she said that since I didn't need to pee many times an hour and that I did not get up at night more than once if that to urinate, I didn't really fit the profile. The only thing that did fit the profile was my reacting to certain foods. I pressed her about this and she said that it can take some people longer before their bladder recovers, and I am going to watch a lot more rigidly what I eat and drink. I also thought I had a PFD and tight muscles after reading that this may cause the symptoms of urethra burning. But surprisingly, she said I actually had WEAK pelvic muscles and that it had nothing to do with my burning. I also want to add here a word about ingredients and eating food in moderation. As I had posted earlier, I was eating a ton of vanilla ice cream. As in up to two quarts a day, and avoiding many other foods. Well guess what...the main ingredient, buttermilk, is actually acidic and I after several days of a binge, HOLY COW my bladder felt like it had been gouged at the bottom with gasoline then poured over it. So WATCH ingredients and everything in small quantities or in moderation. Not all ice cream is created equal. Some ingredients might not even affect you until you consume a specific quantity of them.

Once the ice cream flare started to subside a little, the next new food I added in a tiny amount to my meager diet was lentils, for protein, as I am a vegetarian and struggling with eating enough due to all the foods I have to cut out. The IC Network put lentils on their safe list. I only wish I read Sherry's "bad" foods list first because in only 3 hours after I ate them, the burn got very severe again. What's wrong with lentils, unless they are maybe too alkaline?

Another positive that came from my appointment today was that nothing was physically wrong and I was given a recommendation to two PT's highly recommended for dealing with this type of pelvic pain. I hope it is only a case of residual inflammation trying to clear up.

Sherry this blog and the experience you had gives a lot of hope that it will.

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Sherry Hewins 2 months ago from Sierra Foothills, CA Author

I am several years past menopause. I had symptoms for several months before I got to see a urologist, and I had to wait six weeks after that, basically because that was his schedule. By the time the six weeks was over, I was feeling better, so I decided not to have the cystoscopy. It sounds like you are pretty observant of what's going on with your body. I hope you can get this figured out.

cw 2 months ago

Hi Sherry, yes I avoid acidic foods and beverages and have not had those for several years since I also have gastritis. I always used to drink low acid coffee and also gave that up. Almost everything I ate every day that is very high in potassium seems to be a trigger. I got rid of bananas, walnuts and now suspect dates and avocadoes won't work either. I literally eat vanilla ice cream to survive and I was not a junk food person before this. No sugar or snacks in the house. Can I ask, if you're still getting periods, does the pain get worse during that time? And how long does your urogyno want to wait to see if your issue clears up before doing a cystoscopy? I am glad you are doing a little better lately.

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Sherry Hewins 2 months ago from Sierra Foothills, CA Author

Are you avoiding acid foods? That is the most important thing. I do think I had problems with the pelvic floor muscles. I think everything in that vicinity gets all tensed up, that's how it felt to me. Anything you can do to relax them would be beneficial. I only diluted the baking soda with a half cup of water, just because it was easier to get down that way, while I found that helped, it's not a cure. I have been feeling well, I hope you can say the same very soon.

cw 2 months ago

how are you doing Sherry, and can you tell me how long your urogyn wants to wait after your UTI cleared up to do a cystoscopy? I am scheduled w/ a urogynocologist next month which is a long time away. I tried the water and baking soda trick but it didn't work for a bad flare. What amount of water do you typically use? Maybe I diluted it too much with eight oz. Also, do you think you experienced any issues with your pelvic floor muscles? Although I still get stabbing pain all the time, at least I can now walk without a terrible searing pain forcing me to stop moving but it is still pretty bad. I read a lot about pelvic floor dysfunction and the pelvic muscles contracting that can be one of the reasons, or even the sole cause, behind the burning pain. Hope you are feeling better lately.

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Sherry Hewins 2 months ago from Sierra Foothills, CA Author

Sarah - That is really heartbreaking to hear. I know that I am very lucky that I found things that helped me, and that my condition was temporary. I pray that you find the answers that you are looking for.

Sarah 2 months ago

I wish it could be this easy to "fix" urinary problems ... For myself, it is not. I've had urethral/bladder problems since I was 12, but the doctors finally diagnosed with IC once I was 18. A lot of good that did.

I've been having weekly treatments at a hospital in Kingston Ontario (an hour away from where I live) for a few years now. We have tried everything under the sun, and I'm still stuck with burning, spasms, and ridiculous pain. I'm stuck on the toilet all day, and my partner has had to leave work to take care of our girls (a 3 month old and a 2 year old). I can't even be a mother to my own children because of a BLADDER problem. Really??

They are starting to give up, and will be sending me to Toronto for a nerve stimulation insertion surgery ... If that doesn't work, then I get a permanent catheter installed (which may or may not even help). I am 24!! This is the most awful experience of my life. I've had it for almost ALL my life :(.

If I ever have a success story with this, I will post it. Although if it weren't for my children, I would've committed suicide a long time ago ... This pain is just unbearable. It never seems to go away. I've had a flare for years ... I just need it to ease off. Even a tiny bit :(. Most doctors are clueless ... I'm in two minds of giving up myself. I'm spending money on treatments that I can't afford, and it's all for nothing.

I hope something works soon. This is a pain I wouldn't even wish on my worst enemies.

Me 2 months ago

I am upset to read that you got a UTI after your bladder finally recovered. How long does the urologist want to wait before doing the cystoscopy? I truly believe from the horrific experience I had with the UTI that the antibiotics were at least partly responsible for why I've been suffering lingering side effects. I think your bladder is simply irritated again and needs some time to heal. Somewhere I think I read that if the cause of your bladder problems is inflammation, a cystoscopy can perhaps make things worse. I am not sure if this is correct.

sw 3 months ago

Thanks for your input. It did turn out that this time it was actually a bacterial infection that required antibiotics. I am still having some symptoms after finishing it, as I am sure the bladder is still irritated after the infection. Waiting for a repeat culture to be sure. I am no longer having any coffee and trying not to eat any irritating foods. Hoping this will take care of it,

but if not the uro gyn wants to do a cystoscopy.

Me 3 months ago

thanks for this blog Sherry! It gives me hope to think I can recover from this horrible nightmare that has robbed me of my greatest joy, being able to walk for hours in the woods outdoors at my favorite time of year - I can't even hike around a grocery store and cry so much from the misery and pain. I had a UTI and the infection cleared up, but the pain did not. After being told by a nurse I probably had inflammation resulting from the UTI, I thought it would clear in a couple of weeks. No one ever told me about things like IC and the pelvic floor and what beverages and foods to avoid if your bladder suffers such an insult. You just go into this blind and dr's are typically useless and very clueless. Not knowing things like that in the beginning caused excruciating urethral burning around the clock and nearly put me in the ER. After doing my own research I came across tips on the IC Network website for modifying diet to help prevent bladder spasm, which I am still struggling with. I don't eat acidic foods anyway and so far only brown rice and cashews are the only truly safe foods I eat. Anything that has potassium, like bananas, avocadoes, and the vast majority of my vegetarian diet, seems irritating. My main symptom is a chronic lower abdominal pain in my bladder area and a constant tingling in the urethra, which gets worse and becomes a crippling burn when I walk even a short distance, and the sensation that the underside of my bladder is burning and ready to fall out. I saw my primary today and I was surprised to hear he thinks bladder inflammation after a UTI isn't that common, at least from the patients he's seen, and he has been in practice a long time, is a great dr. and I've been seeing him for decades. So I was discouraged that he was a bit puzzled when I talked about my bladder spasms and my findings that indicated this spasming is responsible for what I am feeling, and probably causing an issue with contracted pelvic floor muscles. So it's reassuring to know that an inflamed spaz'd out bladder is a real ailment, there are people out there with bladder spasms, and I am hopeful that mine occurred from inflammation after a UTI and will eventually heal. It is also likely being aggravated by the fact that I've got a spinal condition requiring surgery, as now my legs feel heavy and my lower back and hips hurt more than usual. I feel like everything is in one relentless spasm. He did refer me to a P/T who specializes in pelvic floor dysfunction and a female urogynocologist. I dread being poked and prodded but I guess it's unavoidable. I am encouraged to hear that after about four months your bladder was healed. I hope I will soon be able to say the same.

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Sherry Hewins 3 months ago from Sierra Foothills, CA Author

sw - I don't know about walking in the swimming pool. It certainly seems like the chlorine could be irritating. I'd for sure give up the coffee, at least for a while. Once you are feeling well, you could try it again.

sw 3 months ago

Do you have any information on walking in a swimming pool? That is my preferred exercise, but just went back yesterday and am having symptoms today. In process of working with a urogynecologist and was told to stop coffee and any carbonated beverages and use premarin cream.

Doing pretty well ( tho still having 1 small coffee) but wondering if the pool has irritated my bladder. Sounds like I will need to really give up the coffee for awhile. The estrogen cream does seem to help some as well. Thanks for your post, it really seems like a good resource.

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Sherry Hewins 4 months ago from Sierra Foothills, CA Author

ZoeReb - Thanks for checking in. Yoga and a support system sound like very good suggestions. I hope you continue to heal. I have found that putting pills in those sectioned pill boxes, for times and days of the week, is helpful, especially when I get busy.

ZoeReb 4 months ago

I haven't posted in a long time, but while I am doing very well, I come here when I need a reminder that I can and will get better.

Quick update: I have been taking Elmiron for over a year now and believe it has really helped me. However I also suspect it has caused some IBS issues and so have lowered my dose to see if that helps. I think this has somewhat slowed the pace of bladder healing, but it's not too bad. At one point, I could drink a fancy coffee drink here and there with minimal to zero discomfort, but that doesn't seem to be the case anymore so now I am on a lower dose, I am once again being strict with the IC diet.

I finally started taking the supplements mentioned in this article and have done well on those. It was getting a bit too much to remember to take so many pills per day, so I slacked off a bit at the very busy end of the school year (I am a teacher and a mom). Now I am trying to be more diligent in the hope it will reboot my healing journey.

I have two things I have found to help the most with IC and Painful Bladder Syndrome: yoga and a strong support network.

I take a restorative yoga class at least once per week and I believe it has helped me tremendously. I laid the foundation with physical therapy for PFD, and this yoga class reinforces the stretches I learned from my therapist. Also, focusing on my mind and body for just 75 per minutes is a wonderful escape and amazingly I can forget completely about my bladder even when my bladder is feeling off when I walk through the door.

Also, finding a support network of fellow IC'ers has helped too. We met through the support forums, but have taken our conversations to email. We are cheerleaders, shoulders to cry on, researchers and friends. We are at different places in our IC journey, but are all doing very well. By communicating with each other, we no longer need to obsess over every little thing. We can turn to each other and it is very freeing. We all firmly believe we will get better, and we will be there for each other every step of the way.

Thank you again, Sherry for posting such an informative and inspiring story. It is so important for people newly struggling with this issue to read. Hope and positivity is vital to recovery, and you offer that here.

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Sherry Hewins 4 months ago from Sierra Foothills, CA Author

Caroline - Two months is really a short time for this problem. I doubt that you have done permanent damage.

You know, if I had known that I would be writing this, and that is would get so many people responding, I would have taken notes during my illness and recovery.

I can't remember exactly how long it took to completely heal, for me it was a process. When I stopped doing the things that were hurting me, like drinking coffee, I started to get better. When I added the supplements, I got even better. About 4 months to heal is my best guess, but during that time I was feeling better and better.

Caroline 4 months ago

Hi Sherry, congratulations on overcoming this. Would you mind answering a few questions for me? I think I may be in the same boat. I'm wondering what the timeline was for you to go from consuming problematic foods (your morning coffee) to being completely healed after your diet change and vitamin regimen.

I started experiencing symptoms about two months ago and have been consuming alcohol/caffeine the odd time (it was exam season!!!) so I'm worried I've done some irreversible damage.

EM 4 months ago

Would like to add this reference. Thank you!m

EM 4 months ago

Hi, I just wanted to follow up on my previous posts. My problem coming on all of a sudden with urinary frequency and feeling like I had to go all the time, along with strange tingling and funny feelings down there. Well, I am happy to report I am doing much better and it seems my frequency is due to pelvic floor dysfunction, probably stemming from having two foot surgeries and the stress( clenching of abdominal muscles) of my life- won't go into details! I started pelvic floor therapy after having tons of tests including a cystoscope which all were normal. They do internal massage which can be very painful when they press on certain spots. No pain except when the PT does her work, then tears, but worth it. The therapists says this should not hurt at all, so I know this is the problem. So, please consider pelvic floor dysfunction if you are having urinary symptoms, with or without pain and burning. I had no pain or burning, just the feeling of having to go all the time. I am shocked that this could have caused all this uproar in my life. The muscles that hold your bladder, reproductive organs etc can get tight and out of whack from childbirth, stress, change of gait, orthopedic issues, and put pressure on your bladder, urethra etc causing many issue. I sought out a reputable urogynocologist, didn't care too much for the first guy Dr, found a female urogynocologist and am thrilled with her and her understanding and compassion! Best of luck and don't give up seeking a cause and cure. I felt like this was never going to end, but I am almost ' normal again'! There is mention I. These books how the foods you can eat can affect your pelvic floor muscles and connective tissue, so it may explain why some of us have a ' normal' cystoscope test but still feel like foods may be a contributer. I did follow the diet (90%) for about two months during all this so that might have helped get this under control. I Recommend Reading these two books. They have so much easy to read information In them that is such a comfort to know what we are feeling is real and has real solutions. Thank you Sherry for starting this blog, it helped me tremendously. Ending Female Pain: A Woman's Manual - The Ultimate Self-Help Guide for Women Suffering from Chronic Pelvic and Sexual Pain Paperback – October 5, 2009

by Isa Herrera (Author)

And Heal Pelvic Pain: The Proven Stretching, Strengthening, and Nutrition Program for Relieving Pain, Incontinence,& I.B.S, and Other Symptoms Without Surgery Paperback – August 27, 2008

by Amy Stein (Author)

Jessica K. 6 months ago

I have battled urinary tract infections all my life. But recently it has changed from the firey urination to feeling like someone is squeezing my bladder every 15 seconds. And I also have some tender and maybe slightly swollen lymph nodes in my groin. Have you heard of that as a symptom to IC? Thanks for the article, it was a Great help!

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Sherry Hewins 6 months ago from Sierra Foothills, CA Author

Umaima - You have my deepest empathy. I hope your pain does not last long.

Umaima 6 months ago

Thankyou for the hope. Experiencing it right now and felt very hopeless

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Sherry Hewins 6 months ago from Sierra Foothills, CA Author

Naomi- Thanks for sharing your opinion. I think there is a difference between acid and acid forming. I was following the IC diet, which calls for the low acid foods I described. This diet worked for me to alleviate my bladder symptoms. Do you have experience with bladder problems?

Naomi 6 months ago

I'm sorry, but almost every animal product is acidic. And the whole "if I wouldn't put it on a open wound don't eat it." Well that's wrong to. Apple cider vinegar is alkaline and so is lemons and oranges. Just because it's 'acidic' doesn't mean it's not alkaline forming. Also pasta, beans, and wheat is acidic, so that can be tricky. So without saying it I think if you want to go alkaline you'll be leaning on veganism.

Em99 6 months ago

Nina Marie, can you share your symptoms with us and the cleanse you used. I see lemon and things that look like irritants in the cleanse. And how long did you do the cleanse and did it make a difference right away. Thank you.

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Sherry Hewins 6 months ago from Sierra Foothills, CA Author

qudiva - I like that term. I'm glad a "wimpy bladder" is all you have, and that you have learned to deal with it. Thanks for chiming in here.

qudiva 6 months ago

Sherry, thanks for the great post. This pretty much is exactly what happen to me two years ago! It took thousands of dollars worth of tests for my urologist to come up with the fact that it wasn't anything life threatening and for me to realize that I have what I call a wimpy bladder. I followed the IC diet to the letter and it did eventually heal itself. I didn't have IC though (my bladder was perfectly normal) - I just had a bladder that if you put anything it didn't like in it - it yelled at me. Because I was trying to jumpstart a weight lost program (I have menopausal weight on - I'm 50) I followed Dr. Oz Cleanse (from 2014 but he updated it in 2015) and my bladder LOVED it. I found that blueberries and flaxseed from the cleanse did my bladder wonders. Recently though a bout of flu and diarrhea upset it all over again. A new trick I found that worked for me is warmed corn (or rice) bags (or an old fashion warm water bottle) and aleve. Did wonders to stop the spasming until I could get my diet back to perfect IC non-acid diet.

To this day I don't drink anything really but water and milk (or almond milk). When my bladder is pretty much healthy I still don't put in citrus, caffeine, tomatoes , or chocolate in it. Otherwise I can eat regularly without prerelief.

Your post is a God send because now I know its not just not me and reading the comments have been helpful too. I would encourage anybody to follow your advice (especially diet restrictions) and not to lose hope because I learned to managed my wimpy bladder and I know others can!!! thanks again!! Nina-Marie

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Sherry Hewins 6 months ago from Sierra Foothills, CA Author

Lauren, That is a really short time when it comes to these symptoms. Odds are good that you will recover completely. As you can see, if you have read through the comments, you are far from alone.

I didn't have the problem you described with the medication. Whether you decide to stick with it or not, I hope you are feeling better.

Lauren 6 months ago

Hi Sherry, thanks for your reply. I've had symptoms since early January. I tested positive for Ureaplasma in January and took the corresponding antibiotics, but I didn't feel like my infection was gone so I killed myself with 4 courses of antibiotics. Now I know that I probably just had residual bladder irritation. Oops.

I've been on the Ditropan for about a week now, and the only thing I've really noticed is that sometimes it makes it harder to pee when I get up in the middle of the night. Did you notice anything like that? I'm still sort of on the fence on whether I should be taking it or not. Thanks for letting me know about sweating! I had no idea.

Thanks for this article by the way, your suggestions have helped keep me sane when I felt like I was alone in this maddening struggle.

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Sherry Hewins 6 months ago from Sierra Foothills, CA Author

Hi Lauren, How long have you had your symptoms? I am sorry to hear that they keep coming back.

I took the Ditropan for a month. By the time I stopped it, I didn't need it anymore, and I had no trouble with stopping. I think it was beneficial in my healing, as it alleviated my symptoms and allowed my overstimulated muscles to relax. I hope it works for you, and gives you the relief you need. I would not worry about dependency. Just continue to avoid acidic food while you are taking it.

One thing I will warn you of though, and I didn't know this when I was taking it, it prevents you from sweating. I nearly gave myself a heat stroke sitting out in the hot sun at a music festival. So, stay out of the sun and keep cool.

Lauren 6 months ago

Hi Sherry, thanks so much for this page! I've been following all of your advice but my symptoms seem to come and go for seemingly no reason. I basically just have frequency that has turned into pain. Like you, I feel totally fine right after I pee and then the discomfort slowly builds. How long were you on the Oxybutynin? I just started it yesterday and I'm nervous of becoming dependent on it.

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Sherry Hewins 7 months ago from Sierra Foothills, CA Author

collicat - you really made my day! I'm so glad my advice helped you. I think I am similar in that I feel fine, but I still avoid highly acidic foods and go easy on the coffee. I never drink citrus juice, I just don't love it enough to take the chance.

I am so glad you are feeling better.

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Sherry Hewins 7 months ago from Sierra Foothills, CA Author

EM - It sounds like your bladder is just irritated, it's really not uncommon. I would advise avoiding the coffee and any other acidic foods for a couple of weeks. Use baking soda for short term relief. You might also get checked for a yeast infection, that can sometimes cause similar symptoms.

collicat 7 months ago

I just want to pass on my experience to you and the people following this site.

Over a year ago I had the same symptoms and history that you have explained. I had spent a month going back and forth to clinics with a supposed UTI that we thought we could not get cleared up. Every test was coming back negative for bacteria but my urine was cloudy with lots of cells in it. When tested, blood was also found. I was SO uncomfortable and was not able to sleep and SO depressed. Peeing all the time and drinking gobs of cranberry juice.

My urologist finally decided that he felt that I had probably had an infection to begin with and that my bladder was now inflamed and would take “a while” to settle down. He said to stop the cranberry juice, cut out acid food, alcohol and caffeine while still taking antibiotics (in case there was a low lying infection that was not detected by culture). I did cut back on all these things but not completely. And…I was not getting better. About this time I came across your post.

I started to follow your dietary restrictions and supplements but was still not seeing much in the way of relief. However I know now that I was not strict enough. This went on for a couple of weeks. After reading your replies to people and you stressing the importance of following the restrictions to a tee (giving up that one cup of coffee) I decided to follow the IC diet religiously. Within a couple of weeks I was slowing starting to feel better. I kept this up for about a month or so and was actually feeling pretty good. I then slowly started to add in foods I had not been eating but was always taking Prelief with everything I ate and drank (except for water). After about another month I was pretty much eating normally and only used Prelief with very acid foods. Slowly I gave up the Prelief and was fine. I went on then believing that this had been a onetime thing and I was over it.

However, about 4 months later, I had a couple of large glasses of orange juice/day for a couple of days in a row and started to feel that urgency and burn coming back again. I was so discouraged. I immediately went back to the IC diet and Prelief as well as using the supplements that you suggested and within a couple of weeks was feeling back to normal. I believe this was of shorter duration because I noticed it and dealt with it right away. That was 6 months ago and I am still feeling fine. I still have a bottle of Prelief in my purse and if I am having an acidy food or more than a cup of coffee a day I take them. I don’t know if I still need to but I am not taking any chances.

I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for taking the time to post your experience and thoughts. I truly belief that if I had not come across your story that I would not have had such a good outcome.

With best wishes,


EM 8 months ago

My quick story- I'm 54 yo post menopausal, no health issues, except high cholesterol- 10 mg Lipitor. Have only had 1 UTI in my life, no previous bladder problems. Always felt I did have a small bladder, but with no problems.

10 days ago in the middle of the afternoon I was struck with the great urge to pee. I went, but the feeling never went away. I have absolutely no pain or burning, just this feeling that I have to go all the time. And I mean every second! Sometimes I can get a good bit of urine out, other times just drops and trickles. Tested for UTI, put on 5 days of Cipro, but UA and culture came back negative, no UTI. I don't think I have IC because I have no pain, but wondering if just this feeling of always having to go could be just because of my diet. I love chocolate, but have always eaten it. Don't do much alcohol, but drink 1-2 coffee, and don't eat spicy foods or soda. Looking for any advice or ideas since my only symptom is the constant need to pee. Driving me bonkers!! Thanks!

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Sherry Hewins 8 months ago from Sierra Foothills, CA Author

Jessiccomacho, Hang in there with the diet. I am sorry to hear about your other problems. I wonder if the antibiotics are not throwing off your natural balance of vaginal bacteria. Once you can get off of them things may improve. I bounced back and forth between yeast meds and antibiotics for a while. Things setteled down when I got off of both.

I don't think you are weird at all for trying anything you think might help. I actually put plain, live culture yogurt in there a few times. It might have helped a little, it certainly didn't do any harm.

Be sure to use a non irritating lubricant. Try Astroglide.

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Sherry Hewins 8 months ago from Sierra Foothills, CA Author

Marielie: I am sorry if you think I was minimizing the suffering of people with IC. That was certainly not my intention. I do not have IC. I have bladder spasm that flares occasionally. Anybody who has those symptoms constantly, as a true IC patient does, would certainly be debilitated.

Bladder spasm has similar symptoms to IC, but most people do recover from it. My purpose here was to reassure people with urinary symptoms, but no bacteria that there is a good chance that they will recover.

When I was searching for information, all I could find pointed to IC, and it sounded so hopeless, like a life sentence. I do have the utmost compassion for people with IC, and I don't at all underestimate its devastating effects. I hope a real cure can be found to end the suffering.

JessicaCamacho 9 months ago

Hello! I'm so happy I found your site, I also added you on Facebook just incase this is not current enough for you to see. I'm 29 ( next month) and a mom of two. I've had uti's my whole life so I'm pretty familiar with the pain. 3 months ago (October 20th) I went to urgent care with what I thought was an infection, the UA showed no infection but the doctor gave me Bactrim for 7 days just incase. I took it and things got a little better but I had weird feelings down there -- almost like I had rubbed icy hot all over myself down there. I must mention that 2 1/2 weeks before this I had a breast lift (2 kids later :) and had to take keflex for 7 days as a preventative for infection. I thought I may have a yeast infection after due to some itching so I treated myself with one night over the counter monistat. A few days later I was in the urgent care with my presumed infection that never showed. Anywho...things stayed "weird" and eventually I noticed I had irritation after I urinated, like my bladder hated being empty? My Leonard care doctor continued to do urine cultures but always nothing showed. Symptoms went on and on and the discomfort and burning remained just not extreme. In early December (a month in a half after my original urgent care visit ) I went to my primary in extreme pain / frequency etc. He told me a infection showed in the urine analysis - nitrates wbc ...etc. I was so excited he finally had proof of my pain- but when he sent it off to culture nothing grew ?!!! I took cipro for a week for that "infection". On December 30th I ended up in e.r from the pain and this time they cultured e.coli and said it was resistant to the cipro, so I took macrobid instead for a week. I was so happy something cultures - but still don't know if this was just a coincidence infection of an irritated bladder or if it's been my problem my whole time. Symptoms still remained (not severe just uncomfortable.) I stated d- mannos and finally decided to be smart and change my diet. Before I was being irresponsible and drinking alcohol still and acidic things while I was not on antibiotics. I said farewell to alcohol etc December 26th. Yet still ended up in the e.r on the 30th with infection. I had a cytoscope done last Monday and my bladder looked fine, and for the first time in 3 months my urine no longer contains flakes of tissue !(the white flakes freaked me out and my primary Doctor lol) however I still feel bad. The most depressing thing is I can't seem to be able to be intimate with my husband without it flaring up. We don't even have intercourse, just "hand action" because I thought that would be better but it made me flare and I'm still feeling the flare 4 days later :(. Keep in mind I always feels weird especially after urinating but when I say "flare" that's when I can't take it and have to take pyridium or Uribel just to stay sane. My urologist told me to just "ignore" the pain and eventually it will go away. He's a great doctor don't get me wrong he's been trying to help, but I get the feeling he is not taking me seriously. The thought of not being intimate with my husband or feeling this way forever depresses me. I start nursing school next month and it's hard to focus little lone try to take on such a task while dealing with this. I pray often and research constantly and that's how I came across this blog, which I love. I'm currently on macrobid (low dose) for 30 days to kill any residual infection. However, he took urine straight from my bladder last Monday when he did my scope and it was normal. He agreed with me that the infection is no longer there but is clueless why I still feel bad after a month - total of 3 months- so he wants me to at least take the meds for one more week. I finished my powder of mannos which I was taking religiously without much relief. I began taking the most expensive probiotics the health food store had to offer due to antibiotic use. This is embarrassing but tonight I even went to target and bought the rephresh pro-b vaginal health probiotics and inserted one directly into my vagina - sounds crazy, I know, but online various sites (even ones regulated by online physicians) recommend doing so to combat yeast and I'm desperate for a "cure" so am trying everything. I'm thankful the white tissue is gone from my urine and I'm not in "e.r" pain- but each time I have to urinate (which is often!) I literally loath the trip to the bathroom because I know the feeling that comes with it. I also get pelvic cramps that almost feel like period cramps but when I'm not ovulating or on my period. I apologize for this lengthy comment, I think I just really needed to tell someone before I go crazy. I fear that I now have I.C . I miss being normal and I try not to envy my friends that can pee normal, drink wine, have intimacy etc. I try to tell myself this is temporary and that I will eventually find a diet and a solution that works- I'm just feeling discouraged since

I've been strict with this diet for four weeks and still no relief. The only trigger that makes symptoms so much worse than the usual seems to be orgasm or intimacy :/ . Please help.

Marielie Vasquez 9 months ago

Second article I find of someone that makes IC SEEM SO TOLERABLE. IC IS NOT A CONDITION THAT GETS ANY BETTER. Some of us got fired because of it and articles like this dont help. Im happy you are not as bad as most of us, but please stop making it seem like is manageable because in 15 years Ive gotten no results but be unemployed and this wont help people who are trying to fight disability.

Mel Felbaum 9 months ago

This is a very good article! One thing I would like to add though, I agreed every IC patient is not a "cookie cutter" of symptoms as is referred to in the article and for many, milk in any form is very irritating to the bladder and that includes whey, sodium casseinate, etc. Also, water that is not ph balanced can be extremely irritating to the bladder lining. My child has this and was diagnosed at 14 so don't let drs. tell you you're too young to have this, there are babies under 2 diagnosed with this. You have to fight for yourself because drs. will fight against it since this does not show up in bloodwork or urine work.

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