Read an Excerpt
In 1996 I was diagnosed with a painful progressive disease called Interstitial Cystitis (IC). The symptoms mimic those of a severe bladder infection, although most lab tests are negative for bacteria and antibiotics generally don’t help. Since urine ultimately comes from what we eat and drink, along with the body’s metabolic processes, it made sense to try a dietary approach. I had good luck immediately excluding known bladder irritants such as tomatoes, caffeine, chocolate, citrus, and alcohol, even though most doctors at the time gave diet little credit for a reduction in symptoms. Nevertheless, over time my IC progressed and I eventually needed to take pain medications, antispasmodics, and other medications to enable me to function, especially while working as a hospital RN and raising a family.
For years, every urine test showed significant amounts of blood. My doctors did not test for inflammation, food allergies or gluten intolerance, and did not consider any other contributive cause. No one looked at my body holistically, or suggested that my symptoms were part of a systemic dysfunction in my body. Fortunately, I was treated with compassion and my concerns were taken seriously. I was given medications with which to control my symptoms, but drugs didn’t solve all of my bladder problems. And there were serious side effects, especially for a working health professional who needed to be alert and clear-thinking.
I was in constant pain not minor discomfort - and made the choice to stop working for a few years to concentrate on rebuilding my health. In my determination to leave no stone unturned”, I began to seek the help of alternative practitioners, experiment with my diet, and undergo testing for food allergy and sensitivities. Careful observation showed me what foods negatively affected my bladder. Eliminating gluten - a protein found in wheat and wheat relatives, barley, rye, and sometimes oats - began to reduce my bladder symptoms, and resolved a long-standing skin rash. A conscious effort to reduce stress, deepen my mind-body connection, and manage my daily symptoms with gentle herbal teas rather than prescription medications began to have a very positive effect on my overall health. After about two years of sticking to my routine, and a lot of alternative bodywork to further support me, my IC gradually went into remission.
Now, thirteen years after my interstitial cystitis diagnosis, my urine tests are perfectly normal and I generally sleep much better at night. My urologist readily agrees that gluten negatively affects the bladder in some portion of her patients, and that eliminating gluten can lead to a reduction in symptoms. Still, there are no published peer-reviewed journal articles linking gluten intolerance and the bladder. We need clinical studies to determine the coincidence, or co-morbidity of IC (and other bladder disorders), and Celiac disease or non-Celiac gluten sensitivity.
I have published my story on a gluten-intolerance website and in print, and the response I received was overwhelming. Many, many people experience gluten-related bladder problems, and I will tell many of their success stories in this book. But it’s important to know that gluten isn’t the only food sensitivity linked to bladder symptoms. Dairy, soy, cane sugar, peanuts, high-oxalate foods, and eggs have also been linked to bladder discomfort, frequency, urgency, and increased incidence of urinary tract infections. And, caffeine’s negative affect on the bladder is legendary!
This book is my attempt to put into words what I have learned in my ten-year struggle with IC and chronic pelvic pain. Getting well requires a very strong and sincere level of commitment, strong enough to weather the hills and valleys along the journey.
This book is all about possibilities. Please believe me when I say that you do not have to live with constant pain or the embarrassment that often comes with chronic pelvic and bladder pain. Anyone who has experienced it knows that having IC in particular can mean experiencing constant visceral pain, pain at the core of our being. It affects our psychological and emotional health, our sense of well-being, our self-esteem, and even our sexuality. Please believe that what we eat, how we choose to live, and the way we treat our bodies deeply affects our health. Good luck with your journey to recovery, and know that there are others who can help you along the way.
The Best in Health,
Wendy Cohan, R.N.