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What is an Interstitial Cystitis Diet?

Allison Boelcke
Allison Boelcke

Interstitial cystitis is a condition that causes pain or pressure in the bladder, making urination difficult or painful. Although the diet is not proven to actually cause the condition, certain foods may make current symptoms even worse. People who suffer from the condition may be advised to follow the interstitial cystitis diet, which eliminates acidic foods and beverages that can aggravate the bladder.

Caffeine is one of the most common ingredients that are forbidden on the interstitial cystitis diet. Coffee and certain teas, such as green tea, contain high levels of caffeine, which acts as a natural diuretic. A diuretic is a substance that makes the body produce more urine than normal. Increased urination can irritate the bladder even more and cause additional pain for people with the condition. Certain teas, such as herbal or peppermint, have not been found to aggravate symptoms and are permitted on the diet.

The cystitis diet allows for low-acid fruits, such as pears.
The cystitis diet allows for low-acid fruits, such as pears.

Another item that is not permitted on the interstitial cystitis diet is acidic fruit and fruit juices. Fruits, especially cranberry, orange, grapefruit, and other citrus fruits, contain high levels of acid and can be irritating to the bladder. Apples and apple juice may be permitted because sweeter apples do not typically contain much acid. Other common low-acid fruits that can be consumed on the eating plan are blueberries, pears, and mangoes.

Gouda and other hard cheeses should be avoided because symptoms from interstitial cystitis may flare up.
Gouda and other hard cheeses should be avoided because symptoms from interstitial cystitis may flare up.

The interstitial cystitis diet generally calls for simple dishes with limited condiments. Commercially prepared sauces, such as steak sauce or barbecue sauce, are usually not recommended on the diet because they usually contain acidic ingredients like vinegar, wine, or citrus juices, for flavor. On the diet, meat dishes in particular should be seasoned as lightly as possible because sauces, marinades, and spicy seasonings can cause flare-ups of symptoms. Most meats, poultry, and seafood are allowed on the diet, although preserved meats, like salami or pepperoni, may contain irritating ingredients and should be limited.

Blueberries are low-acid fruits that can be part of an interstitial cystitis diet.
Blueberries are low-acid fruits that can be part of an interstitial cystitis diet.

Dairy products can typically be eaten freely on the interstitial cystitis diet, with the exception of certain cheeses. Mild, soft cheeses, such as Monterey, mozzarella, and cottage cheese, can be consumed without aggravating the bladder. Aged, hard cheeses tend to contain enzymes that can make interstitial cystitis symptoms worse. Cheeses that should be avoided on the diet include Brie, cheddar, and Gouda.

Salami and other cured meats should be limited on an interstital cystitis diet.
Salami and other cured meats should be limited on an interstital cystitis diet.

Although the majority of natural foods like fruits and vegetables are recommended on the diet, one of the main exceptions is processed tomato products. Commonly forbidden products are tomato paste and tomato sauce. The body appears to absorb more acid from tomatoes after they have been processed compared to fresh tomatoes.

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    • The cystitis diet allows for low-acid fruits, such as pears.
      By: Lana Langlois
      The cystitis diet allows for low-acid fruits, such as pears.
    • Gouda and other hard cheeses should be avoided because symptoms from interstitial cystitis may flare up.
      By: steheap
      Gouda and other hard cheeses should be avoided because symptoms from interstitial cystitis may flare up.
    • Blueberries are low-acid fruits that can be part of an interstitial cystitis diet.
      By: Brian Jackson
      Blueberries are low-acid fruits that can be part of an interstitial cystitis diet.
    • Salami and other cured meats should be limited on an interstital cystitis diet.
      By: Mara Zemgaliete
      Salami and other cured meats should be limited on an interstital cystitis diet.
    • Lemons and other citrus fruits have high levels of acid that may irritate the bladder.
      By: racamani
      Lemons and other citrus fruits have high levels of acid that may irritate the bladder.