In a nutshell, how I did I regain my bladder health? I had to become an expert. I read everything I could find, and talked to anyone who seemed to know anything that might help. In the years since my recovery, I have written many articles on bladder issues. As I write more, they will be posted here, along with important articles from peer-reviewed medical journals and clinical studies. This month's articles focus on Interstitial Cystitis. I will try to feature a different aspect of bladder health each month or so.
For those suffering from Interstitial Cystitis it is important to know that IC is seldom an isolated disease that occurs without other symptoms. It is a localized symptom of systemic disease. Many people with IC also suffer from auto-immune disorders. These often include auto-immune thyroid disease, lupus, fibromyalgia, rheumatoid arthritis, sjogren's, and Celiac Disease. For more information on this topic, read some of the articles cited below.
Drinking medicinal teas can help us to stay well-hydrated, neutralize and dilute our urine, and bring our bodies back into a slightly alkaline state for better health. It’s a good idea to become familiar with the use of these traditional medicines, which can be both effective and economical. Learn to relax and take pleasure in a steaming cup of tea when you’re feeling low on a chilly day. Although there are no doubt other powerful medicinal herbs from many Ayurvedic and Chinese medicinal traditions, some really require the direction and supervision of a skilled medical practitioner. Even some of our traditional western medicinal herbs are too powerful to include here, in this guide for self-treatment. These are all generally considered safe, gentle herbs. Even so, some people may experience an unfavorable reaction to any of these herbs, so treat with caution, trying a weak brew in a small amount the first few times to be sure you can tolerate it without any unwanted effects. Please do not doubt that herbs are medicines. That being said, these are closer to over-the-counter medicines, than to prescription medicines, and I have tried to include cautionary information where warranted. Herbal medicine, while practiced world-wide for thousands of years, isn’t a substitute for good medical care, particularly in cases of infection. A urinary tract infection can escalate to a kidney infection or sepsis, and be life-threatening. These herbs are best used to treat ongoing, chronic conditions. In some cases, if you find the right combination and dose, you may be able to wean off your prescription medication, but this should be done with the help and knowledge of your medical practitioner, and the guidance of a skilled naturopathic physician.
To make a tea from any of these remedies, simply steep the desired amount of herb in water brought to a simmer, for 2 to 5 minutes.
Birch Leaf (Recommended)
This remedy comes from the dried leaves of the silver birch, common in the British Isles and in Europe and Asia, but also used in North America as a landscape plant. It is a tall deciduous tree with golden fall color. Birch leaves have long been used as a treatment for both urinary symptoms and as a general pain tonic for arthritic symptoms. They have a slightly bitter taste when dried, but when mixed with other more flavorful herbs, the taste isn’t noticeable, and you don’t need to use many leaves to get the medicinal effect. Birch leaves have a mild diuretic effect and disinfectant properties. They work well in conjunction with Linden Flower. This remedy is probably only available as a dried herb in an herb shop. Or, if you are lucky enough to have a tree in your yard, give it a try. Use just a few leaves at a time until you arrive at a brew that doesn’t taste too bitter, but still has the pain-relieving action you require.
Chamomile Chamomilla recutita/German Chamomile or Matricaria chamomilla
This mild herb has a pleasant, sweet taste, making it useful as a flavored herbal tea. The medicinal effects of chamomile flowers include the following: anti-inflammatory, antiseptic/antibiotic, sedative (mild), and antispasmodic properties. It is useful in treating indigestion, urinary tract symptoms, insomnia and general nervousness. It is important to know that chamomile acts not only on the urinary tract but also relaxes the esophageal sphincter so it isn’t useful for conditions such as gastro-esophageal reflex, or heartburn; especially don’t drink chamomile tea just before lying down, as it may cause acid reflux, even if you don’t normally suffer this problem. Chamomile is useful, however, to drink before a long car-ride, or during a long family dinner. It can help prevent the annoying spasms that require frequent trips to the bathroom. Chamomile is safe for children’s ailments in small amounts and has been relied on for its ability to reduce fever quickly. In addition, chamomile has some antifungal action.
Cleavers (Recommended) Galium verum
Cleavers, which is Galium aparine, and the related Galium verum are both used to treat kidney and urinary disorders, and can be used externally to treat wounds, skin rashes and ulcerous conditions. When grown in you garden, the sweet-smelling white or pale cream-colored flowers are honey scented, and the whole plant, whether fresh or dried, gives off a sweet calming aroma. Cleavers has diuretic, urinary antiseptic and anti-lithic properties. It is should be avoided before bed-time due to its’ diuretic effect.
Corn silk Zea mays
The herbal remedy corn silk is the long strands or beard at the end of the corn cob. Corn silk makes a soothing diuretic for urinary tract symptoms and can help to ease the passage of urinary gravel and stones. Some people are very sensitive to the action of diuretics and should use them with caution. Diuretics can lower blood pressure. But, another property of corn silk is that is a urinary demulcent, similar in action to marshmallow root, so it’s a worthy substitute if other demulcent herbs don’t agree with you.
Couch Grass Agropyron repens
This common grass has long been used in Europe, where it is native, as a gentle cure for urinary tract symptoms. The rhizomes, or long, underground runners, are the medicinally useful part of the plant. When dried, they have a mild pleasant taste, and have the following medicinal properties: antiseptic action, mild diuretic, and mucilage, which make Couch grass useful for soothing inflamed bladders. This herb has also been used to treat gout, rheumatism, prostate problems, and bladder stones. You will can find this herb in an herb shop, or in powdered, encapsulated form in the supplements section of a natural foods store or pharmacy.
This article is an excerpt from "The Better Bladder Book - A Holistic Approach to Healing Interstitial Cystitis & Chronic Pelvic Pain" from Hunter House Publishing.
Interstitial Cystitis and Autoimmune Diseases
|Interstitial cystitis (IC) and systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) in a 20-year-old woman. Chronic IC is an uncommon manifestation of SLE. (PubMed). Do Socorro Teixeira Moreira Almeida M. Rheumatol Int. 2008 Aug 12. (Also see: Lupus)|
|Interstitial Cystitis and Systemic Autoimmune Diseases. Indirect evidence, however, does support a possible autoimmune nature of interstitial cystitis, such as the strong female preponderance and the clinical association between interstitial cystitis and other known autoimmune diseases within patients and families. The strongest association occurs between interstitial cystitis and Sjögren's syndrome. Nat Clin Pract Urol. 2007 Sep;4(9):484-91. (Also see: Sjogren's Syndrome)|
|Sphincter Involvement in Systemic Sclerosis: A Pilot Study. Vesicouretheral sphincter involvement is not correlated to lower urinary tract infections. Although there is a high frequency of esophageal dysfunction in the manometric study, it is not correlated to vesicouretheral dysfunction. J. Marques Neto. FRI0318 EULAR 2004.|
|Intercurrent autoimmune conditions in classic and non-ulcer interstitial cystitis. Several authors have reported on autoantibodies in patients with IC and clinical and histopathological findings show similarities with those in some autoimmune disorders. It appears that systemic and autoimmune disorders are more prevalent in the IC population than in the general population. PubMed. Scand J Urol Nephrol 2003;37(1):60-3.|
|Interstitial Cystitis and Fibromyalgia|
|Clinical evaluation of 30 patients with interstitial cystitis (IC) complicated by fibromyalgia (FM). Approximately 11% of patients with IC have a complication of FM. They feel isolated due to the lack of understanding of the disease and endure generalized intolerable pain. PubMed. Nippon Hinyokika Gakkai Zasshi. 2005 Jul;96(5):554-9. (Also see: Fibromyalgia)|
The relationship between fibromyalgia and interstitial cystitis. These data suggest that IC and fibromyalgia have significant overlap in symptomatology...Although central mechanisms have been suspected to contribute to the pathogenesis of fibromyalgia for some time, we speculate that these same types of mechanisms may be operative in IC, which has traditionally been felt to be a bladder disorder. J Psychiatr Res 1997 Jan-Feb;31(1):125-31 (Also see:Fibromyalgia)
Source: ISN (International Scleroderma Network).
Link to article on Chronic Prostatitis as a Variant of IC