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Expert Tips for Managing IC Flares

Expert Tips for Managing IC Flares

By Callie Krajcir, Registered Dietitian

Do you ever go from your bladder feeling happy and healthy to it feeling extremely angry and painful?

Do you ever go to bed feeling fine just to wake up in the middle of the night to find yourself unable to leave the toilet due to a crazy urge to pee?

We all know from firsthand experience that with IC comes those painful, inconvenient flares that can last from minutes to days and in extreme cases, weeks.

An IC flare looks different for everyone. You may experience an increase in frequency, like you can’t leave the toilet for more than 10 seconds before feeling that urge to go when you know only a few drops will come out. You could also experience pelvic pain or cramping. For me, I experience burning before, during and after urinating with accompanying bladder spasms.

urinary urgency

So what causes these painful, annoying flares? Well, there are a multitude of reasons flares can occur. To simplify things, I like to break it down to two groups: dietary and non-dietary triggers.

Dietary triggers: Drinking a beverage with caffeine or citric acid, or eating a common bothersome food like tomatoes, citrus or chocolate. You can find a list of the most common bothersome foods here.

ic trigger foods

Non-dietary triggers: Stress, hormone fluctuations, trauma, sexual intercourse, tight clothing, and long car rides.

Whatever an IC flare looks like for you, you either know how to calm it down and are looking for additional ideas, or you don’t, and are looking for guidance to deal with these inevitable flares. Either way, you’re in the right place!

My flare-busting methods include drinking additional water, applying an ice pack to my pelvic floor, and taking Pyridium or Uribel as needed.

Determining your personal flare-busters will likely take time and a lot of trial and error. But after some time, you will figure out what your body responds to and what will help decrease your flare durations and intensity of symptoms.

Here are some simple methods to try and calm your flare:

If your flare is related to stress, the goal is to alleviate that stress and calm the nervous system.

Try the following techniques to alleviate stress:

  • Journal: Keep a journal where you can write down everything you’re feeling. Putting your feelings onto paper may help you identify patterns and how you can remedy this stress.
  • Positive outlook: Remember, a flare is only temporary. Having a positive outlook or at least trying to adjust your mindset, can help reduce stress.
  • Meditation/Breathing: One of the most underrated things you can do for stress. Try meditating, or download an app on your phone that can help guide you through deep breathing exercises.  Recommended apps and guided meditations can be found here.
  • Watch your favourite TV show: Have a good laugh and try to distract yourself. After all, they don’t say laughter is the best medicine for nothing!

If your flare is from a physical trigger, your goal is to soothe your pelvic floor muscles:

  • Use a heating pad: Apply wherever you feel you need it.
  • Take a warm sitz bath: Submerging your pelvic floor in warm water can help relax the muscles.
  • Utilize “as needed” medications: If you have a muscle relaxant or Valium suppository to use as needed, this is the time.

If your flare is from a dietary trigger, your goal is to dilute the urine:

  • Drink additional water: This is the easiest way to dilute your urine. If you like tea, try herbal teas such as marshmallow root, chamomile, ginger, slippery elm, peppermint or corn silk.  Teas can be found here.
  • Use alkalinizing agents: Like Prelief or TUMS. Some find relief adding 1⁄4-1⁄2 tsp baking soda to 8-12 oz of water.
  • Follow an IC-friendly diet: Remove the source of the flare to avoid a longer flare duration.

To learn more tips & tricks to manage flares, I am hosting a FREE live webinar on Tues, Nov 16th at 7:30 pm EST.

We will take a deep dive into the causes of flares and discuss additional methods to decrease the intensity and duration of a flare.

Register Here!

Callie Krajcir, MS, RD, is a Registered Dietitian specializing in Interstitial Cystitis (IC). She owns Callie K Nutrition, an online nutrition coaching service where she helps people with IC manage their symptoms through diet. 

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