What You Can Eat When You Have Interstitial Cystitis, Bladder Pain Syndrome or a Sensitive Bladder
The IC Diet is a very healthy, simple, natural diet. If you’re addicted to junk food, this is going to be a big change. Rather than buying pre-made foods, we suggest making homemade meals so that you know exactly what the ingredients are. No one can tell you exactly what you’ll be able to eat because patients often have different food tolerances. So, take it slowly, keep your diet simple and, when possible, organic. Start with small quantities of riskier foods, when possible.
Meats & Proteins
Meats – You can have almost any fresh (obviously cooked) meat or fish that you want but be careful with the spices and sauces used. BBQ sauce, steak sauce and cajun spice rubs, for example, can be very irritating.
Want a steak?? Instead of ketchup, sauté some mushrooms in butter to use on top. Chicken is a popular favorite with IC patients. Fried chicken, without hot spices, is a popular favorite! Be wary of spicy preserved meats, particularly pepperoni and salami.
Eggs – Eggs and egg whites are an excellent source of protein. Surprisingly, early IC food lists suggested that eggs were irritating but new lists and studies have designated eggs as IC friendly. Egg white based protein powders (i.e. dried egg whites – Just Whites) are much better than soy powder products.
Soy – Soy proteins are challenging, particularly preserved, marinated tofu products. Concentrated soy can irritate some patients, however, a fresh tofu may be tolerable in modest amounts.
Other Bladder Friendly sources of protein are:
Green Peas – 7.9 grams of protein per cup
Quinoa – 8 grams of protein per cup
Almonds & Almond Butter – 5 grams of protein per cup
Beans – White, pinto, garbanzo, green beans (black beans can be irritating)
Most vegetables are bladder friendly with the exception of concentrated tomato products (i.e. tomato sauce, soup, etc.) and soy. Some vegetables (i.e. spinach) are high in oxalates which may irritate patients also struggling with vulvodynia.
Look to vegetables to provide naturally sourced vitamins.
Vitamin A: Dark leafy vegetables
Vitamin B-1: Potatoes, dried peas and beans
Vitamin B-6: Dried peas and beans
Vitamin C: Green bell peppers, potatoes, green leafy vegetables
Vitamin E: Green leafy vegetables, legumes
Vitamin K: Green leafy vegetables
Zinc: Most fresh vegetables
Milk and eggs are IC friendly as well as mild, fresh cheeses. Try plain Mozzarella, Cottage, Monterey Jack or mild Cheddar cheese. Farmer’s cheese, string cheese and Parmesan cheese seem to be IC friendly for most patients. Other cheeses may take some trial and error. In general, stay away from hot, spicy or bitter cheeses.
Lactose intolerant? Almond, coconut and rice milk are bladder friendly options, especially if you crave yogurt. Just make sure to pick IC friendly flavors such as: vanilla, blueberry, peach or raspberry.
Breads & Grains
We suggest buying fresh, preservative-free breads made by a local bakery or making your bread at home. Wheat, oat, white and rice breads are usually okay. Rye and sourdough breads may create some problems. Food For Life’s Ezekiel brand of breads and GinnyBakes or Bob’s Red Mill line of organic baking mixes are very popular among patients.
Pastas are generally bladder friendly, particularly quinoa pasta which has a nuttier flavor than traditional wheat pasta. Quinoa pasta (i.e. Ancient Harvest Quinoa pasta) is gluten free, higher in protein and doesn’t cause the bloating that a regular, carbohydrate rich pasta can provide.
When selecting fruit, your goal is to select fruit that is very ripe and sweet. We suggest starting with pears and blueberries, known as the most bladder friendly, low acid of fruits. If you do well with those, try a mild sweet apple (i.e. Gala or Fuji) and just have a few slices to see how you feel over the next 24 hours. If you tolerate the apples well, consider trying mango, papaya, watermelon, cantaloupe or honeydew. Please note, however, that these fruits have provoked symptoms for some patients. Always start with a small amount or serving first, wait a day and see how you tolerate it.
Because fruits tend to have more acid content, it’s important to be moderate with your servings. Don’t gorge on any specific fruit because, eventually, you could consume enough that could irritate your bladder. Keep your servings consistently small yet flavorful. Don’t be afraid of fruit. You can enjoy it daily in small amounts.
Are canned fruits safe? Avoid any canned fruits containing artificial sugar. We think slice pears, peaches and applesauce should be find in small quantities.
You can’t go wrong with fresh, vanilla ice cream. Caramel sauce is IC friendly. Snickerdoodles and other vanilla cookies seem to be IC friendly. If you’re a chocoholic, use carob instead. Carob chip cookies and brownies are great.
Looking for a more formal dessert? Carrot, vanilla, applesauce and pound cakes should be tolerable. Pies can be fun, such as custard or cream pie. Homemade apple pie or tarts made with gala or fuji apples are ideal. Avoid citrus and alcohol based desserts, such as lemon meringue pie.
Looking for something simpler? How about some frozen coconut milk bars or carob english toffee!
More Diet Resources
Still confused? Here are some diet resources that will help:
- ICN Diet Information Center
- 2012 Guide to the IC Diet – IC Optimist
- ICN Food List App
- The IC Diet Project – Simply Delicious: Low Acid Eating Made Simple
- IC Cookbooks – A Taste of the Good Life: A Cookbook for an IC Diet, Confident Choices: Customizing the IC Diet, Confident Choices: A Cookbook for IC & OAB, The Happy Bladder Cookbook