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

Updated on April 4, 2017
Sherry Hewins profile image

I have always been interested in health issues and healing. I am an obsessive researcher and label reader.

Woman in pain
Woman in pain | Source

I Have to Pee all the Time, But I Don't Have an Infection

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?

When I was in this situation, I found out that antibiotics don'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 pain-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.

I am not a medical professional. I am sharing 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, there are many things that can cause the same symptoms, and the cause of bladder pain can be hard to diagnose.

The Symptoms of Bladder Spasm

The most common symptoms of bladder spasm are:

  • Urinary frequency and urgency
  • Urethral burning
  • 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 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.

You Don't Have to Live with Cystitis

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

I found great advice in this book; it is very helpful and informative. It goes into depth about the causes of cystitis, how to reduce bladder pain and how your diet can impact the condition.


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 urine. 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

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. add one supplement at a time and wait a few days before adding the next one, just to make sure it's not a trigger for you. I used 21st Century, Glucosamine 250 mg, Chondroitin 200 mg, just because it doesn't have a lot of extra ingredients in it. I don't think the brand matters so much, but look out for added vitamin C in some of them.

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.

Some Seasonal Advice

It is December 21 when I am writing this, and I am seeing a spike in visits to this page. That is making me recall the time when I had my very worst flair. It was Christmas time, and the office I work at was full of tasty treats. I love chocolate, and I was not able to resist the lure. If you are suffering right now, and you are eating a lot of chocolate, please stop!

I know it's hard, but nothing is worth that kind of suffering. Give yourself a gift for Christmas. The gift of healing!

There is Great Advice in These Comments

I have had many people visit this page and leave comments. If you need more advice, I would recommend looking through them.

The list is long, but there is some great wisdom to be gained from others who have experienced unexplained bladder pain.

© 2012 Sherry Hewins


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    • Sherry Hewins profile image

      Sherry Hewins 3 weeks ago from Sierra Foothills, CA

      That's wonderful to hear cw/me. I really appreciate you coming back to update us on your progress, and I'm sure a lot of other people to too.

    • profile image

      cw/me 4 weeks ago

      Hi all, popping in to say how much better I've been doing lately. Am now back to drinking my usual Kava low acid coffee, 2 cups a day without Javacid, etc., and I tried some white wine mixed with sparkling water which I thought surely would kill me, but I've been sipping away for four days now and...I'm okay!! I didn't even use acid reducer! I've recently added a few foods that I'd given up nine months ago, including organic yogurt and garden burgers that include both nuts and spices, two absolute no no's several months back. April 2nd will mark 10 months of my ordeal when I first got the UTI that started all of this. Was in horrific pain every day, mainly burning after peeing and for much of each day, for the first 5-6 months, then it slow began to fade away, and now when I eat an offending food the reaction tends to just be mild to moderate abdominal pain. I was drinking 64 oz of water every day, then a couple of months ago cut down to about 32, and now I just take a few sips whenever I am thirsty. I am about to start testing the biggest trigger foods and see what happens. One at a time, beginning with bananas, then nuts, then some soups and other prepared foods. I now feel confident I'll recover fully from this. I hope everyone will soon see the light at the end of the tunnel from their ordeal, too. I still take glucosamine and chondroitin supplements three times a day. Otherwise, no other treatment, however I do find that aerobic exercise alleviates occasional abdominal pain flareups.

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      Adiel 5 weeks ago

      Thank you so much for this information. I see light at the end of the tunnel.

    • Sherry Hewins profile image

      Sherry Hewins 8 weeks ago from Sierra Foothills, CA

      Joy Cheskes - The amount of water isn't important. I prefer to use only a small amount of water; that way I can swallow it quickly and then chase it down with plain water.

    • profile image

      Joy Cheskes 8 weeks ago

      Thank you for all this information! How much water do you mix with the baking soda?

    • Robyn Mar profile image

      Robyn Mar 2 months ago

      Thank you so much for all of this information. I was having frequent bladder spasms and cramping, plus urgency. After reading this page I quit coffee and chocolate and acidic beverages. The NEXT DAY, I stopped having the bladder spasms and the incontinence is much better. Like a miracle! I have eliminated acidic foods from my diet. Now I need to find a good coffee substitute for breakfast! Thanks again.

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      Joanna 2 months ago

      This page has really given me a bit of hope, I have been absolutely desperate to urinate constantly for 2 weeks, Docs thought I had a UTI and was given three courses of antibiotics, however I had no sign of an infection. He later told me it was most likely Interstitial cystitis, but I'm not so sure as I don't have any of the other symptoms. It just feels so heavy in the bladder all the time. I'm trying to eat completely clean and anti acidic food, but wondering when I might feel some relief, this is my very first experience of this, feeling so overwhelmed and teary! x

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      MJB 2 months ago

      Thank you for sharing your experience. I suffered for about 18 months with OAB as well as a lot of sensitivity in the vulva area. On some days I could not even stand for my underwear to touch my skin. Like you, I finally went on a very strict acidic foods for about 9 months. Prelief did not work for me but I found another product called Acid Zap that has been great. I can now drink fruit smoothies and even have tomatoes and an occasional glass of wine. The glucosamine definitely helped me get well. I actually took a product called Cysto Renew which has glucosamine in it. Also something else that really helped me is Desert Harvest Aloe. You can find all those products on The Desert Harvest Aloe was actually developed for bladder cancer. The IC-Network website helped me as much or more than my urologist. She kept giving me OAB prescriptions and none if them worked all the time. For 6 months I either felt like I had to go to the bathroom all the time or I felt like someone had just taken a catheter out of me and my skin just hurt (that's the only way I know how to describe it). I think my problems stemmed from radiation that I had in 2009. My symptoms started in 2015. For the sensitive skin my Dr. prescribed Amitriptylin and it helped tremendously. It is a cheap drug and I would highly recommend it. It helps with certain types of pain. Another OTC product I found is called V Magic.

      It is very soothing to the skin. Instead of taking calcium citrate I started taking calcium carbonate as I read that it protects the bladder better than the calcium citrate. I also take a lot of magnesium to help the calcium absorb into my body. Good luck to everyone. I hope that everyone that reads this gets well very soon.

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      ebpatt02 2 months ago

      Hi everyone -

      Thank you Sherry for all of your insights - I can't tell you how much your article helped me! It's great knowing that I'm not the only one with these symptoms and that others have had them and found some really productive ways of healing their bodies through diet and supplements.

      My problem started a couple of weeks ago with what I thought was the beginning of a typical UTI (which, by the way, I hadn't had one in 10 years); urgency to urinate, burning and just all around feeling lousy. What was weird was that unlike my previous UTIs, this one seemed to include this occasional sharp sort of stabbing pain in my vagina that only lasted briefly but definitely got my attention. And while I remembered the burning feeling from a decade before, this burning was a bit different - a sort of pressure/burning in my urethra. With lots of water and a dose of baking soda, after a day or so, my symptoms seemed to go away. Flash forward 3 weeks and boom! Same symptoms. I thought that's it - I need to be proactive here and called urgent care and they prescribed macrobid. Took the whole course of it and did feel a bit better, especially after the first 24-48 hours. But it also make me feel a bit nauseous through those five days (definitely squashed the old appetite). I figured it was worth it if I could be cured this nasty UTI.

      My last pill was last Monday morning and today is Thursday. I don't have the occasional stabbing pain in my vagina anymore (thank God for that) but I am still "not quite right" in terms of feeling the urge to urinate and that funny sort of pressure that I'm sure you all understand.

      I read one of your comments that you and others seem to experience the symptoms more profoundly at night. Not the case with me - it seems worse in the day, especially when I'm urinating during one of the episodes. Honestly, I think I feel best in the morning, to tell the truth, and by the end of the day, feel that urgency more. Is this "normal"?

      A couple of questions - did you take anything over the counter for your discomfort? I took one Tylenol tonight and it really helped, although I'm not a big fan and I don't want to start doing that on a daily basis. Also: Did sitting down seem to help? I know that's a strange question, but it's almost as if it relieves some of the pressure.

      Anyway...thank you again for your forum. I know what you mean by working yourself up about it! It DOES make me feel worse (I honestly think tensing up in general seems to make the symptoms worse).

      I was doing really well for the last couple of days, had some Thai food and BOOM - I'm kicking myself. Thanks, Sherry!

    • Sherry Hewins profile image

      Sherry Hewins 2 months ago from Sierra Foothills, CA

      Lauren, I did not have pelvic floor therapy, although I have heard that is can work wonders for some people. I do think those muscles were involved in my discomfort. Honestly, it's getting to be a long time ago for me. I wish I had written things down now. I didn't know this little tale of mine would be getting so many visitors for so long. My best guess is that it was about 6 months. It wouldn't hurt to take them for longer though.

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      Lauren 2 months ago

      Hi, Sherry. I was wondering how long you took all of the supplements for? Also, did you ever receive physical therapy for pelvic floor muscles?

      Currently, I am waiting for physical therapy next week. I have most of the symptoms you shared and mine started after I began high intensity workouts at the gym. It started with cramping and progressively got worse until one morning I woke up with awful cramps and chills.

      Thank you so much sharing your story.

    • Sherry Hewins profile image

      Sherry Hewins 2 months ago from Sierra Foothills, CA

      Thanks for coming back to let us know how you're doing Abby. I hope you continue to feel better.

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      Abby 2 months ago

      Hello everyone, Just wanted to post back that things have settled down with my bladder, much more quickly than I anticipated. I started taking a good probiotic along with the glucosamine, followed a bland diet and only water to drink. Plan on sticking with it for at least another couple of weeks because I do NOT want to risk ruining my progress. I still get some twinges here and there but the constant urgency is gone. I suppose maybe in my case I was just dealing with left over irritation from the nasty UTI I had. I learned a lot through this whole experience and I am glad for that. I went from never thinking about my bladder to knowing how to take care of it and keep it happy. I hope every one else here has a success story soon too. I dealt with this for three weeks and it was enough to make me insane. I feel for all of you.

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      Hollykaplan 2 months ago

      Hi Sherry,

      Thanks for this site. I have learned so much by reading about other people's journey. I had food poisoning a day before I had these terrible symptoms which was about a year and a half ago. My friend showed me the anti inflammatory paleo diet and I was better within days. I've been on it for a year but miss coffe immensely. I do have a cup of Puroroast ( half decaf) when I really need it. Sometimes I get a flare and symptoms but it only lasts a day. Wondering how long it took you to heal and how you were able to drink coffee again. I've been following the diet very strictly and adding a few things in. Also do yoga and chanting everyday. I have been getting migraines for 15 years since early menopause and have been on medication a few times a month. my hunch is that the medication could be part of the culprit of the bladder lining breakdown. ( and its a diuretic). I have been to a few wholistic doctors but can't handle the herbs. Now I have an amazing urologist at UCLA where I'm getting 12 installations of Elmiron ( once a week). I am now on week 5 and know it takes about 3 months to have an effect. And I have hope that it will also help build up the bladder wall. What are your thoughts on that? Just wondering how long it took you. Thanks for this info.

    • Sherry Hewins profile image

      Sherry Hewins 2 months ago from Sierra Foothills, CA

      cw/me - Thanks for sharing your insights with all the people who come here. Unfortunately, when doctors can't find physical evidence, they sometimes assume that an illness is psychosomatic (all in your head). This is especially true with male doctors treating female patients. I think they feel like they need some kind of explanation.

      As you've said, recovery from an inflamed bladder is a very individual thing. It depends on many factors, such as how inflamed the bladder is, and how successful the person is at identifying and avoiding their triggers.

    • profile image

      cw/me 2 months ago

      I wanted to just say to Abby and others out there who either tell themselves or are told by a doctor that their bladder pain is in any form something that exists to some extent "only in their heads" is absolute nonsense. As sufferers of acute and chronic pain, we all need to STOP thinking like this and blaming the physical damage done to our bladders on ourselves, or on our state of mind. The chemicals in certain foods are known to permeate a damaged bladder wall and basically break down to a component that acts like corrosive acid, burning through to the nerves underneath. That my friends is where the pain is coming from. This is NOT in your head. Many dr's surprisingly are very ill informed about the condition. Healing times vary among individuals. I am finally getting a great deal of extended relief as I enter my eighth month of bladder impairment. My bladder pain was triggered by a UTI in June and prior to that I never had a bladder issue in my 50+ years. My advice to all once again is take it slow to find out which foods agree with you and which foods hurt you. It takes a lot of effort and time, especially in the early stages when every food or drink you try will irritate you because your bladder lining is probably quite inflamed. Don't get too discouraged by comparing your case to others and thinking, well she got better after three months and I'm still sick after nine months. It does not work that way. A Harvard study I recently read which I believe I sent a link to in an earlier post suggests that 50% of people suffering IC symptoms eventually fully recover, but recovery time frames may vary from months to years. And those that do have true IC and who may not recover frequently enter remission. There are many things you can do for yourself to help the healing process along, but it starts with careful research, an elimination diet, and strict reintroduction of new foods one at a time, allowing ample time - up to two weeks - to appreciate if that food may be added back into your diet safely. Good luck. The odds are good for a full recovery.

    • Sherry Hewins profile image

      Sherry Hewins 2 months ago from Sierra Foothills, CA

      Abby, I'm glad I was able to be a comfort to you. The nights are the worst, and not sleeping makes the days bad too. I hope you are feeling better real soon.

    • profile image

      Abby 2 months ago

      I just wanted to thank you so much for posting this. I was hysterical just like you were. I actually had a UTI to start out with which is now all gone but the symptoms remain. I spoke to another Dr. Today and he explained I have cystitis due to all the inflammation from the previous UTI and all the antibiotics. I went through 2 courses because neither of the damn Dr's I saw did a culture, both just dip tests and the second just assumed the antibiotics masked the infection so prescribed me even more...So of course there I was still drinking tea, juice and all the other things that make things worse. Had meatball subs for dinner last night and paid for it dearly, only slept two hours. The bladder spasms were awful!! I seem to be on the up and up right now. My symptoms are the worst at night. I think part of its mental. I am going to definitely follow all your suggestions and cross my fingers for relief soon!! I will make sure to post back when things resolve. We need more succes stories out there.

    • Sherry Hewins profile image

      Sherry Hewins 2 months ago from Sierra Foothills, CA

      Hannah, I certainly did have some ups and downs in my healing, and there was a time that I wasn't sure the diet was helping me. It does take time to heal. I doubt that overdoing cranberry for a month is going to cause permanent damage.

      Try to find some safe foods that are satisfying to you. I ate a lot of rice, vegetables and fish. Your body needs nourishment to heal, so don't make the mistake of avoiding all food. Good luck to you, I hope you feel better soon.

    • profile image

      Hannah 2 months ago

      Hello! First thank you for writing this column it has been super helpful and has given me a sense of calm about the symptoms I have.....About 1 month ago I started to feel like I was getting a UTI (more just increased frequency and small sense of burning). For about a week and a half I took cranberry pills (2 when it said to take one and drank cranberry juice...). I know BAD IDEA! It didnt resolve so I went the the gyn and had protein and blood in my urine but no bacteria but they gave me Septra because the results were not back yet. I felt better but after about 4 days the symptoms seemed to be coming back so I returned and they did another culture and said the results were negative. Seems like this is what happens frequently to start with for this issue. He did call me back later and tell me I actually had some candida but he thought that was a contaminate. The problem persisted and I returned another week later and they did an in and out cath and a vaginal swab. I am waiting on those results but pessimistic that they will result in anything. I have been following the IC diet pretty religiously (except I was eating almonds and avocados until yesterday when I saw they were not on the safe eating category)... and he also gave me a bladder spasm med. I have days where I feel almost asymptomatic and days when I am peeing every 30 minutes.. Did you feel that way during your recovery also? I am just nervous this will never go away and frustrated that I am following this diet and not sure I can relate any symptoms to the diet....UGH... Also, in your opinion do you think that I may have damaged my bladder with all the cranberry and I just need to rest it and it will heal?

      worried....and missing food...

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      Cherith 3 months ago

      Thank you so much for this post! I have been constantly having the urge to urinate for over a month. I've had multiple tests done and the only thing that comes up is minute amounts of blood in my unrine. This is very uncomfortable for me and I haven't been able to sleep or fully function. I'm a 19 year old college student who works 6 days a week, and I'm really at my wits end. I am going to try all of your tips as well as praying every spare second. Again, thank you!

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      Sherry Hewins 3 months ago from Sierra Foothills, CA

      Hi Nina. I hope this is just a little bump in the road on your road to recovery. I did have a few of those, but usually it could be traced to something. It's hard to be absolutely good all the time. Also, the relaxing of the pelvic muscles and not straining during urination are very important. When you have one of these little setbacks, don't forget that. I started feeling better within a few weeks, but it took several months to feel normal again.

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      Nina 3 months ago

      Hi Sherry,

      I often visit your site as it's one of the only sources of hope I have at the moment. I'm 31 and have had theses symptoms on and off for the last year and half. Haven't been diagnosed with anything but am seeing a urologist in a few weeks. Just started the diet two weeks ago and I was feeling better until yesterday after having lentils, which I then noticed you recommended not having. I'm just curious as to how long it took you to feel better? And if you had any set backs while you were on the strict diet (ie not including your christmas chocolate mishap)?

      Thank you so much for your post.



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      Deborah 3 months ago

      Thank you for putting this out there. You saved me. I went alkaline and bland and within five days was 75% better. Within three weeks 90%. Unbelievable that we do not always think to consider the food we eat and what it can be doing to our bodies.

      So thank you. I just wanted u to know.

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      Pauline 3 months ago

      I'm waiting for a hip replacement so I have ALOT of hip pain, I've waited two years now and lots of painkillers. However, ended up with burning sensation in my bladder for the last six months, so I'm going to try your diet recommendations and see if they work for me, I'm on my sixth lot of antibiotics which I don't like taking so I'm going to try your recommendations. Thank you

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      Sherry Hewins 3 months ago from Sierra Foothills, CA

      Cathy - So sorry your symptoms came back, but you got better before, you can do it again.

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      Sherry Hewins 3 months ago from Sierra Foothills, CA

      Katie - Congratulations on your baby! I hope your symptoms resolve very soon.

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      Sherry Hewins 3 months ago from Sierra Foothills, CA

      Debbie, I wouldn't go with flavored chips of any kind. Plain potato chips with just salt is probably OK in moderation.

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      Sherry Hewins 3 months ago from Sierra Foothills, CA

      Kelly, I am able to drink 2 cups of coffee in the morning without discomfort. If I have a hint of a symptom though, it's the first thing to go.

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      Debbie 3 months ago

      I do a strict vegan fast every January. I have been eating tons of fruit and vegetables. I thought I had a UTI. I have been drinking lots of coffee everyday to stay awake during my 16 hour days. I have been taking lots of vitamins including vit C. Oh my goodness. I have been eating lots of assorted nuts, onions, and soy. Wow who knew? I have to be careful. I am sticking with oatmeal with honey and baked potatoes with olive oil. What about garlic salt and potato chips? Thanks

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      Kelly 3 months ago

      Thank you so much for your article. I am going to quit coffee tomorrow. Just curios...have you gone back?

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      Katie 3 months ago

      Thank you so much for this!!! After having a baby 2 months ago I started having burning and frequency with no sign of infection. I went to a urologist and had a cysto who thinks I'm having urethral spasms due to my urethra being even shorter than most women and put me on Oxybutynin. I really feel like it was helping (and I had avoided caffeine and alcohol for a full month) on my first day feeling symptom free I had a cup of coffee, and here I go again! I am sticking to your advice and I truly believe things will be ok eventually

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      Cathy 3 months ago

      I had this problem about 15 years ago and it completely resolved. I have had spasms and pain for over a month now and saw a urologist a week ago. He asked me if I wanted to go on medication and I said no for the time being. I am trying to remember everything that helped me before. I forgot how absolutely consuming this constant discomfort can be. I'm thankful that I found your tips and will be using htem.

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      Claire 3 months ago

      I have had like a spasm just when I pass urine and when my bladder is full as soon as it is empty I feel fine again , had it a while , antibiotics haven't touched it , had cystitis in the past and it's not like that , been worrying about it until I read this , wondering if this is what I have ??

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      Sherry Hewins 4 months ago from Sierra Foothills, CA

      Laura Whip - I had two major flares, each one lasting 4-5 months. I don't know if the second one would have ever ended had I not given up that one cup of coffee. The IC diet list is only a starting point, but that is where I would start.

      If you feel better, and reintroduce yogurt to your diet, then you'll know if it's OK for you. If you are strict with your diet, and you don't get better, then you will have to do a bit of detective work to find out what the irritant is.

      Some people swear by a gluten free diet for IC. I didn't give up gluten, and I got better. However, if you've given the IC diet a good try, and it's not helping, maybe gluten free is worth a try.

      Unfortunately, medical science does not have a lot of answers for us, so we have to find our own way as best we can. There is a lot of good advice in these comments. Check out cw/me's comment below.

      I know it's not easy, but you are not the only one struggling with this. I hope you find your own path to health and relief.

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      Sherry Hewins 4 months ago from Sierra Foothills, CA

      Laura Whip - That's fine, a lot of people are confused about that, but this site permits everyone to comment, member or not.

      cw/me - You make some great points. Some foods are common triggers, but not everyone reacts to the same foods. Thanks for adding this great information.

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      cw/me 4 months ago

      Hey Sherry, hope you are well. I just wanted to pop in here again for a minute because I know people are asking why they can't eat this or that food and sometimes look for a blanket explanation that applies to everyone.

      The truth, as you know, is that bladder reactions are very different from individual to individual. Sure there are a handful of foods and beverages that are known to cause irritation like yogurt, tomatoes, juices, coffee, etc. However, other foods you might find listed as "usually safe" on various IC diet lists may NOT be safe for you.

      I found this out the hard way. After six months of suffering and reacting to various foods, it can be assumed I probably do have IC, but I think I am slowly getting better because I spend much less time in a painful burning flare mode and can exercise far more than I ever thought possible without pain, and I find it even alleviates a flareup when I am exercising. Many doctors proved useless along the way as to how this horrible disorder should be treated, and I needed to do a ton of research and experimentation to reach the reasonably tolerable point I am at now.

      I've gotten very good at identifying a number of foods I can eat, and added a decent amount of pain-free food in the last six months. Now, each new food is introduced as scientifically as possible, one at a time, and tried for anywhere from two days to two weeks, since some cause flareups immediately while others take time before the offending chemicals build up in the system.

      A couple articles I wanted to share helped me figure out why certain foods are extremely painful for me yet are supposed to be "bladder friendly". I suffered severe pain with bananas, yogurt, and nuts specifically, among other things, but I wondered if the foods that caused the worst problems might share some similar properties and it turned out all of the ones I react to do fall into an offending group. They are part of a class of foods containing "AAA", which is an acronym identifying a specific grouping of amino acids. These 2 articles provide detailed info and tables identfying the foods that contain these amino acids.

      It isn't enough to merely avoid acidic foods and coffee and other established culprits and expect every other thing you eat or drink will be just fine. There are many other seemingly innocent foods out there that can harm you if your bladder is susceptible to them.

      I hope this info helps someone! And of course the foods on the AAA list aren't the only ones an IC bladder might react to. However there are several listed here that I've seen on so-called "safe" lists and I thought I should make the point that only your bladder has the final word on what is safe for you, so don't rely too heavily on IC lists you might come across. They should just be looked at as a starting point.

      Sending you healing thoughts and prayers :)


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      Laura Whip 4 months ago

      Thank you, Sherry. Sorry I didnt think my first post had actually posted because I didn't have an account. I appreciate your help a lot. You really have been a source of comfort. I appreciate it so much. Can I ask you, how long you were dealing with the problem? Again sorry for the questions, just helps hear from someone who has gone through it.

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      Sherry Hewins 4 months ago from Sierra Foothills, CA

      New to this condition - My problems started with frequency; I had to pee often, but not much at a time. Over time I got sore, and the sensation became more painful. I didn't have headaches, but did have low back pain. I had a lot of trouble sleeping. I did use Azo, it was not great, but helped a little. I use Arm and Hammer Baking Soda, but any brand would probably do. Yogurt was on the list of high-acid food on the IC diet, (from the IC forum) so that's what I went by.

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      Laura Whip 4 months ago

      Good Morning Sherry,

      Thank you for your information. This was encouraging and a little bit of relief. I have yet to be diagnosed with a condition. I have been dealing with issues for the past two months and have had inconclusive answers on whats going on. I thought I had an UTI so went to the doctor and had a dipstick test that came back positive for trace leukocytes in my urine. I was put on antibiotics but had continued problems. They gave me two more rounds of antibiotics with urine cultures and dipsticks coming back negative. During the last dose of antibiotics, I became super ill. I was super nauseous and weak, with diagnosed sinusitis and acute vaginitis. But still super sick and missed a full week of my internship because of feeling ill. During the time, I had burning after I urinated and urgency to pee. I wouldnt necessarily always equate the urgency to pain but just irritating and uncomfortable. Other times it is painful and even seems to make me feel nauseous. I have been to the ER and Dr. They both threw out terms saying that it could be endometriosis or interstitial cystitis. The burning after I pee has subsided and I really just have the urgency to pee and that uncomfortable feeling. The feeling comes frequently but I try and wait to pee some so that I don't go all the time.

      I know that stress and certain foods can irritate it more. The last month in particular has been super stressful, so I am trying to take this next week to do nothing but relax, do some yoga because i heard that helps, and take care of myself before the appointment. I am a student and the most stressful semester starts next Thursday so trying to prepare myself for that as well. I have restricted my diet, mainly because of the GI issues from the antibiotics. I started to eat some things that maybe weren't the best for me and it seems like that has irritated things again. So I thank you for your comments about certain foods. I am going to try and stick to that as best as I can. My urology appointment is next week so I am trying to do things to calm it down. I am also trying to keep a diary to track my urine/water intake/and diet. Just to keep myself regimented and to give the dr a report hopefully.

      I had a question about the yogurt though? I have been eating yogurt for the past 2-3 weeks because of the GI issues and trying to get my flora back to normal. Why shouldn't I eat yogurt? What is the reason?

      Also, I was wondering what type of baking soda did you use? Is there a certain brand I should purchase?

      Did you ever use AZO pills (not the cranberry ones but just the pain reducing/urgency reducing ones)?

      How did your issue start? How long did it bother you? What were your flare ups like? Did you feel nauseous with it ever? Did you have severe headaches? Did you have low back pain? How long did it take until you started feeling better:

      Sorry for all the questions but just trying to better understand the condition. Thank you again for writing this post and giving very important information to people like me. It really did ease my nerves and lowered my stress. Any additional information you can give me would be much appreciated! Thanks again!!

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      New to this condition 4 months ago

      Good morning Sherry,

      Thank you for sharing your information! I really appreciate the positivity. I have yet to be diagnosed with IC but I have been to multiple doctors over the past couple months and 2 have suggested going to a urologist and getting checked out. This was a sudden onset of symptoms, starting the beginning of November. I thought it was a first dipstick came back positive with trace leukocytes but from there the tests came back negative. The dr prescribed me two more courses of antibiotics and now my GI tract is in need of repairing as well. I see a urologist in a week. That's the earliest I could get in. Your tips will help me a lot.

      I was wondering if there was a brand of baking soda that I should use? Did you have use the pain pills AZO (not with cranberry, just pain pills)?

      I was wondering about the yogurt? Why should I avoid that? I have been eating it frequently due to the GI issues and trying to regain the proper flora in my intestines. I don't think it has caused increased pain or anything... but do you know why you shouldn't?

      I was also wondering what your initial symptoms were? How did it start for you? And what exactly happened with your flare ups?

      Did you get nauseous from it? Did you have severe headaches? Did you have low back pain? Trying to understand this and have a better grasp before seeing the urologist.

      Sorry so many questions. Thank you so much for your time.

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      Sherry Hewins 4 months ago from Sierra Foothills, CA

      Congrats Ella90. I'm so glad to hear that you are not in pain!

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      Ella90 4 months ago

      I have had recurring IC for the last 6 years and honestly thought I just had a sensitive urethra as my urine tests found no bacteria. I had one doctor tell me to just have Ural sachets everyday, which of course was no help. My partner was fed up with me being fed up and in pain so I looked into my symptoms further.

      Finding this article was the best thing that has happened to me. I've changed my diet and for the first time in years I have had an extended period of time without pain. It is amazing to go to the toilet and not be worried I'm going to be in pain. Thank you so much for all your information!

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      Sherry Hewins 4 months ago from Sierra Foothills, CA

      Chemist1957 - I'm so sorry to hear that you are having such an awful problem. If you are having pain to the extent that you are calling an ambulance, I wonder if you need further testing that you are not getting. I hope you are seeing a good urologist. I have had other mysterious medical conditions, and the cause was not found until I was admitted to the hospital on an emergency basis and they kept doing tests until they found the problem. That's not a pleasant experience, but at least I got to the bottom of the problem. It's hard enough to get information about urinary tract problems in women, and they are much more common than for men. The diet I have recommended can't make things worse, it might make it better. I really feel for you, and I hope you get the help you need,

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      Chemist1957 4 months ago

      I'm a man and looking for info on urinary tract spasms. They are so painful I have to get an ambulance to the hospital. I'm having a big problem finding info for men. So I can due the diet. It's not medication, which am know on 7 different thing 4 of which are for my urinary tract. Thanks so much for you info.

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      Sherry Hewins 4 months ago from Sierra Foothills, CA

      I have not tried Teeccino. Some people on the IC forum have said they did OK with it, but everybody has different triggers. I would use caution at the beginning, just to make sure it doesn't bother you.

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      AJ 4 months ago

      Hi! Thanks for this article.. it's really helped me learn what to cut out of my diet. I have a question. I LOVE coffee, but it's definitely helping me not to drink it. What about Teeccino - it's natural, no caffeine, non acidic.. etc.

      I love having some sort of coffee like drink during my morning routine - wondering if this would be okay or not?

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      Sherry Hewins 4 months ago from Sierra Foothills, CA

      Melanie V - I use 21st Century, Glucosamine 250 mg, Chondroitin 200 mg, Original Formula. It has few extra ingredients. It does contain shellfish, that's probably wouldn't affect your bladder problem, but it would be a concern for someone with allergies.

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      Melanie V 4 months ago

      Hi Sherry thank you for such a great article and taking the time to write it in order to help others. It has given me hope as I am currently dealing with IC. I bought the supplement glucosamine chondroitin but the specific product I bought has added ingredients such as Avocado/Soybean Unsaponifiables (ASU) Powder for example plus more ingredients. Here is a link to the product if you want to see the full list of ingredients (you'll have to scroll down a little):

      My question is, do you recommend taking a supplement only containing glucosamine and chondroitin or do you think what I bought is ok? Would you mind sharing the exact product you take? Thank you so much for your time!

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      Sherry Hewins 4 months ago from Sierra Foothills, CA

      Katherine - I would stay away from the kefir too. Once you are doing well you can try adding it back in.

      As for the citrus, I got my advice from the IC forum and from reading books. That's what they recommended, and personal experience proved to me that they were right. I could tell within minutes of eating it that I'd done the wrong thing!

      I am not familiar with cacao nibs. I will say that I think eating chocolate was a big factor in my major flair. It was Christmas time, and people were always bringing it in to work. I can eat chocolate now, in moderation.

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