Extra Healing - part 1
Interstitial cystitis is often a combination of different things creating symptoms alongside the cause. Therefore whilst hyperoxaluria is being treated (see LOD part 1, LOD part 2 and Supplements), and other dietary factors that may affect IC are being taken into account (see Other Factors part 1 and Other Factors part 2), it may be necessary to look at other ways to help reduce IC symptoms. Five things to consider are:
1. Managing and reducing stress
2. Getting the sleep you need
3. Taking regular exercise
4. Having a positive attitude
5. Being aware of candida and constipation
1. Managing and reducing stress
Stress can be a major contributor to IC symptoms causing them to persist and flare up. It is therefore important to manage and reduce stress as much as possible.
How does stress affect an IC bladder?
Stress can affect the bladder in two ways, firstly by increasing inflammation and secondly by causing pelvic tension.
i. Stress can increase inflammation in the bladder
Prolonged stress, both physical stress (e.g. pain, lack of sleep, food intolerances) and emotional stress, can lead to increased inflammation in the bladder. This is due to chronic stress potentially causing a condition called adrenal fatigue. The adrenal glands are responsible for controlling histamine levels in the body by producing cortisol, a natural anti-inflammatory. When the adrenal glands are over-used they can become fatigued and cannot keep up with the cortisol production required. This allows histamine levels in the body to increase beyond a safe level which can result in tissues becoming inflamed (or increasing in inflammation), including those tissues found in the bladder.
How to combat adrenal fatigue
Certain foods can put a strain on the adrenal glands. These include: cane sugar, alcohol, caffeine, chocolate, deep-fried foods, hydrogenated fats and oils, junk food, fast food, white flour and foods that you are intolerant/sensitive to. These foods should be avoided.
Taking time to manage physical and emotional stress is critical for adrenal recovery. If necessary this might include taking time off from work, ending a stressful relationship or removing demanding friends from daily life. It is also important to take time out daily to practice relaxation techniques .The more you can do to reduce stress the better.
Certain supplements can be helpful, such as an increase in omega-3 oils, the B vitamins, zinc, vitamin A, magnesium, l’glutamine, co-enzyme Q10. However, be aware that some supplements can cause an IC flare (see Supplements). Vitamin C is also recommended but this should be avoided due to its conversion to oxalate.
NOTE: It is best to work with a qualified health practitioner when using supplements to heal from adrenal fatigue.
ii. Stress can cause pelvic tension which can increase bladder pain, frequency, urgency and pressure
Everybody holds stress in certain parts of their body, most commonly it is felt in the shoulders or neck. For many IC patients tension often occurs in the pelvic muscles as these are tensed in response to bladder pain and discomfort. This tension can lead to the pelvic floor muscles compressing the bladder which intensifies the feeling of pain, frequency, urgency and pressure. Learning a relaxation technique can reduce this tension and also elongate the pelvic floor muscles which can shorten and constrict when constantly tensed causing further compression.
Recommended relaxation technique
One of the best techniques to help you release tension, relax and combat stress is Autogenics Training (AT). AT is recommended by the Royal London Hospital for Integrated Medicine to help people manage urinary problems, IBS, insomnia, anxiety as well as manage the emotional difficulties often associated with chronic illness.
How does AT help urinary problems and manage emotional difficulties?
Auto-genic means self-generating, i.e. you are treating and healing yourself. It works by putting the mind and body into such a deep level of relaxation that the fight or flight mode is switched off, allowing rest, recovery and recuperation to take place. The body then has the opportunity to utilise its own healing power and balance the autonomic nervous system. During AT the muscles in the body let go of all tension and relax.
What is Autogenics Training (AT)?
AT was developed by the German neuro-psychiatrist Professor Johannes Schultz in the 1930s. It is a sequence of simple mental exercises (repeated silent thoughts) focused on bringing awareness to different parts of the body using visualization. AT needs to be taught by a qualified practitioner. Training is 1-2 hours for 8-10 weeks and can be taken in a class or individually. It may be easier for IC patients to have individual sessions as this will allow for the numerous bathroom breaks that may be needed.
Finding an AT instructor
The British Autogenics Society regulates AT practitioners in the UK and internationally, for further information go to http://www.autogenic-therapy.org.uk
2. Getting the sleep you need
IC is notorious for causing a continual lack of sleep in sufferers due to IC symptoms persisting throughout the night. This not only causes brain-fog and an inability to manage stress and emotions, but it also heightens pain sensitivity and diminishes healing. Natural sleep cycles are around 3 hours long, and it is during these cycles that the body restores and repairs itself. If your sleep cycles are continually interrupted (due to urinary frequency or pain) your body is being denied the opportunity to heal.
How do you get a good night’s sleep?
There is no magic solution to getting a good night’s sleep, however there are things you can do to help:
- Practise AT 3 times a day, including 1 session whilst in bed last thing at night. This will aid restful sleep and can help to stop the bladder being compressed by tensed pelvic floor muscles.
- Drink enough water throughout the day and in the evening to keep urine diluted. Concentrated urine is more irritating to a damaged bladder.
- Follow the standard protocol for insomnia so that sleep in-between bathroom trips is easily achieved. Protocol includes: switching off your TV, computer and mobile phone an hour before bed, taking a warm bath (with Epsom salts) immediately before bed, not eating a heavy meal before bed, making sure you have eaten enough carbohydrates throughout the day, sleeping in a well-ventilated room, avoiding caffeine, alcohol and tobacco anytime during the day, making sure you are not magnesium deficient.
- Take a sleep aid if necessary (short term use only and under supervision of a doctor). Sometimes the body can get out of the habit of sleeping – both the going to sleep and staying asleep. By using a sleep aid (such as sleeping tablets) for a few days you are giving your body a chance to get back into sleep mode - and at the same time you are receiving the healing sleep you so desperately need. Although many IC patients still wake up during the night when using a sleep aid sleep should be less interrupted. If you achieve 3 hour cycles of sleep this is a great achievement.
NOTE: Be cautious of herbal sleeping tablets as they may be high in oxalate.
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too long, I’ll never get better” will only continue to maintain this reality. You need to truly believe you can get well to get well. Thinking the right thoughts really can work in conjunction with other healing methods to promote recovery.