OTC Supplement & Vitamin Review

Natural, OTC Neutraceuticals Suggested For Bladder Health

In 2011, the leading urology association in the world, the American Urological Association (auanet.org), published their first Guidelines for the Diagnosis and Treatment of IC/BPS. Using a six step treatment protocol, they encouraged patients to start with Step One (self-help strategies, diet modification and OTC nutraceuticals) BEFORE proceeding to Step Two, Three, Four and so forth. Why? Self-help strategies have few side effects, are far more affordable and are well known to improve bladder symptoms and quality of life. In the IC and pelvic pain courses offered at the national AUA conference, several supplements are often recommended to physicians to discuss and/or share with their patients.


acidprPrelief is the most widely recognized and popular supplement in IC circles. Developed by AkPharma, Inc. more than twenty years ago, this simple calcium supplement (calcium glycerophosphate) has helped thousands of patients eat a more balanced diet due to its acid reducing properties. Prelief is not suggested for patients who are prone to calcium based kidney stones. Learn more!


altcp-1Developed by IC researcher Theoharis Theoharides MD (Tufts), CystoProtek offers two methods of action. Quercetin provides a nice anti-oxidant, antihistaminic effect while chondroitin sulfate and sodium hyaluronate are believed to provide a bladder coating effect. CystoProtek has dominated supplement sales but recently faced controversy when Amazon banned its sale because of the presence of shark fin as the source for chondroitin. Learn more!

Desert Harvest Aloe

altdharAloe is well known to be soothing to minor wounds and it is for this reason that Desert Harvest Aloe has a very faithful following. Some have found it quite soothing for a tender bladder or urethra. Desert Harvest has been active in the IC community for twenty years and has created a compelling line of aloe supplements, including: B Complex without B6 with Aloe, Calcium & Vitamin D with Aloe, Buffered Vitamin C with Aloe, Glucosamine/Chondroitin with Aloe, Quercetin with Aloe. Learn more!

CystaQ & CystaMD

altcqDeveloped by Farr Laboratories, CystaQ contains a proprietary formula of quercetin and selected herbs. CystaQ has a faithful following, particularly for patients who are allergic to some of the ingredients found in CystoProtek. CystaMD contains the same ingredients as CystaQ with the addition of calcium glycerophosphate.
 Farr Laboratories also carries a line of supplements specifically for men, including ProstaQ and Q-Urol. Learn more!

Cysto Renew

cystorenewDeveloped by Dr. Geo Espinosa, a urologist at NYU, Cysto Renew combines some of the most respected ingredients (i.e. quercetin, chondroitin) with compelling amino acids and herbs (l-arginine, l-citrulline, rhodiola rosea, etc.) designed to help calm the bladder and support healthy functioning of the urinary tract.
 Cysto Renew is the newest supplement on the market and has only been available since Fall 2013. It is receiving mostly favorable reviews at the onset, with some patients preferring it over CystoProtek. It is manufactured by Douglas Laboratories. Learn more!


vitmrThe Low Acid MultiVitamin and Mineral complex was created for people who cannot tolerate vitamins due to acid sensitivity by using a less acidic form of vitamin c (calcium ascorbate) and calcium glycerophosphate. In the first release launched in Spring 2013, 1200 bottles were sold by the ICN with overall very good reviews. Some severe IC patients found it too too irritating for their tender bladders. On the other hand, mild to moderate patients appeared to tolerate it very well. Learn more!

 Frequently Asked Questions

Why does the ICN offer supplements?

The ICN only sold educational materials (books, videos, etc.) for years before it came to our attention that some doctors were promoting the use of a medical device (and surgery) as a first line therapy for IC. In fact, some patients weren’t even told about oral medications in favor of the more profitable surgical techniques. We were outraged. We believed that patients should be educated about the many treatment options available, including traditional and alternative therapies. Thankfully, the AUA not only agreed with our approach but implemented the same philosophy in their treatment guidelines.

How does the ICN select supplements?

We look first at the company selling the product and their focus on quality. We ask why the product was developed. Many have been created by well known IC researchers and clinicians such as Dr. Theoharides (CystoProtek, Fibroprotek) and Dr. Espinosa (Cysto Renew). Are the ingredients known to help bladder symptoms? Is the pricing fair and affordable? We believe that the supplements that we carry today are the best on the market.

Do all doctors recommend the use of supplements?

With the AUA’s recommendation of neutraceuticals in their guidelines, far more physicians are comfortable suggesting OTC products. Every CME class we attended at the 2013 AUA Annual meeting featured comprehensive discussions of available OTC supplements. Unfortunately, doctors who don’t attend the conferences or have not read the guidelines simply may not know that they exist. If your doctor is unaware of the AUA guidelines, you can print out a copy from our website which shares their position on supplement use.

Which one should you select?

Given the fact that IC patients often have very unique food sensitivities, begin first by reviewing the supplement ingredients on our website. If you are sensitive to any of the ingredients, then move to a different supplement. Patients with shellfish allergies, for example, cannot take CystoProtek. Ultimately, though, it’s just trial and error. What works for one patient may or may not work for another.

Are samples available?

No. Most companies suspended their sampling programs years ago. The only sample available is currently from Farr Laboratories and is part of their Introductory Offer.

Strategy for sensitive patients

People often have different tolerances to different ingredients. We suggest starting with one pill or capsule to determine if you tolerate it well. You can then try one pill a day for a week and, again, ask yourself “Do I feel good taking this supplement?” If yes, you can slowly increase to the manufacturers recommended dose. Please note, however, that some patients prefer taking smaller doses.

Side effects

In general, these supplements have very few side effects. Some patients may have pre-existing allergies or sensitivity to any of the ingredients and should avoid any products which contain them. Please carefully review the ingredients on our website to make your selection. Some patients report loose bowels or diarrhea with products containing olive fruit oil. The low acid vitamin might be too strong for patients with very sensitive, injured bladders. If you suffer any uncomfortable reactions, stop the supplement immediately. You may want to consider a different brand. Unfortunately, we simply can’t predict what will work for you! If you have any doubts about trying any supplement, please talk with your doctor first!


Supplements should not be exposed to heat, thus shipping in the hot summer time months is very difficult. Order enough in the Spring to avoid shipping in hot weather.

Available at www.icnsales.com or by calling 800-928-7496

By |2017-01-31T13:24:15+00:00January 21st, 2014|ICN Shop & Mail Order Center, Interstitial Cystitis Network Blog, Self-Help Tips for IC, Bladder & Pelvic Pain|Comments Off on OTC Supplement & Vitamin Review

About the Author:

My Google Profile+ Jill Heidi Osborne is the president and founder of the Interstitial Cystitis Network, a health education company dedicated to interstitial cystitis, bladder pain syndrome and other pelvic pain disorders. As the editor and lead author of the ICN and the IC Optimist magazine, Jill is proud of the academic recognition that her website has achieved. The University of London rated the ICN as the top IC website for accuracy, credibility, readability and quality. (Int Urogynecol J - April 2013). Harvard Medical School rated both Medscape and the ICN as the top two websites dedicated to IC. (Urology - Sept 11). Jill currently serves on the Congressionally Directed Medical Research Panel (US Army) where she collaborates with researchers to evaluate new IC research studies for possible funding. Jill has conducted and/or collaborates on a variety of IC research studies on new therapeutics, pain care, sexuality, the use of medical marijuana, menopause and the cost of treatments, shining a light on issues that influence patient quality of life. An IC support group leader and national spokesperson for the past 20 years, she has represented the IC community on radio, TV shows, at medical conferences. She has written hundreds of articles on IC and its related conditions. With a Bachelors Degree in Pharmacology and a Masters in Psychology, Jill was named Presidential Management Intern (aka Fellowship) while in graduate school. (She was unable to earn her PhD due to the onset of her IC.) She spends the majority of her time providing WELLNESS COACHING for patients in need and developing new, internet based educational and support tools for IC patients, including the “Living with IC” video series currently on YouTube and the ICN Food List smartphone app! Jill was diagnosed with IC at the age of 32 but first showed symptoms at the age of 12.