Navigating The Supermarket Aisles
The IC Diet is, at its core, a very healthy, simple and natural diet. You’ll be shopping the outer edges of the supermarket rather than the center aisles which contain most of the premanufactured and junk foods. Some experts suggest that if the product is made in a laboratory, it’s not healthy food and we agree with that. Get back to the basics and eat real food. If you’re addicted to junk food, this is going to be a big change. Rather than buying premade foods (i.e. like boxed Macaroni & Cheese, canned soups, etc.), we suggest making it homemade where you know exactly what’s put in it. When possible, also eat organic. Organic foods are less contaminated with pesticides and chemicals which could irritate the bladder.
The Meat & Fish Department
The meat department is generally your friend, as long as you purchase fresh meat and are careful with the marinades and sauces. BBQ sauce and steak sauce can be very irritating. Fresh fish, chicken, turkey, pork and beef are ideal! Look for uncured ham, bacon, sausage and other deli meat items to avoid the nitrite preservatives. The strong, spicy preserved meats (pepperoni, salami, etc) may be more irritating. Spicy meat sticks and most jerky products are not recommended.
The Vegetable Aisle
Most vegetables are bladder and prostate friendly with the exception of concentrated tomato products (i.e. tomato sauce, soup, etc.) Look for fresh, seasonal vegetables, preferably organic and grown in your own country. Potatoes, peas, summer squash, winter squash, broccoli, mushrooms, carrots, celery, parsnips, rutabaga are just some of the veggies that IC patients can usually enjoy! Just one serving of peas is approximately 16 grams of fiber and a great way to help constipation. (Please note that asparagus has irritated a minority of IC patients.)
The Dairy Aisle
Milk – Fresh cow and goats milk are considered IC friendly unless the patient has lactose intolerance. For vegetarians, almond and coconut milks work well. We suggest caution when considering soy milks. In large quantities, soy can irritate the bladder for some patients.
Egg – Totally IC friendly! Enjoy with abandon.
Cheese – In 2012, many cheeses were reclassified into the “bladder friendly” category. Try a plain fresh mozzarella, cottage cheese, or soft monterey jack. Farmers cheeses, string cheeses, cheddar, brie, gouda and even parmesan cheese (in a small amount only) seem to be IC friendly for most patients. Avoid the spiced, strong cheeses!
Yogurt – Yogurt (milk, goat milk, coconut milk) is an excellent source of acidiphilous but, unfortunately, manufacturers are now adding lots of sugar and artificial sweeteners to their product lines. Check the labels carefully to avoid products that contain aspartame, sugar alcohols and other artificial sweeteners. Avoid all citrus and chocolate flavors. We suggest vanilla, blueberry and peach flavors.
Ice Cream – You can go wrong with a fresh vanilla, caramel, almond or peppermint ice creams though you must look at the labels to make sure that they haven’t added artificial sugars or sugar alcohols. Avoid chocolate and other citrus flavors
The Bread Aisle
Breads – Breads and pastries are now strongly associated with obesity and should be consumed in much smaller quantities just for your overall health. When possible, go for the fresh, preservative free breads made by a local bakery. If you have a breadmaker, make your own to avoid the extra preservatives and chemicals found in supermarket brands. Patients with IBS might struggle with hard, condensed high fiber breads. They may need to try simpler breads, such as wheat, oat, white and rice. Made with sprouts rather than flour, the Food For Life (Ezekiel) brand of breads are easier to digest and very popular among IC and IBS patients for their high fiber and protein levels. Rye and sourdough breads, on the other hand, may create some problems.
Cereals – Hey, what you are doing walking down this junk food filled aisle of nastiness? This is the WORST and most deceptive aisle in the supermarket. The vast majority of boxed cereals make outrageous claims of being heart healthy and so forth, yet they contain high levels of preservatives, sugars and other chemicals which not only drive obesity and carbo craving all day, but they also irritate the bladder. Put down the Lucky Charms, Cocoa Puffs, Corn Flakes, Rice Krispies, Cheerios and BACK AWAY SLOWLY! Move, instead, to the simple hot rice or oatmeal products instead! Again, think real food NOT food made in a laboratory.
Gluten Free? Some patients have reported a dramatic improvement in their symptoms when they eliminated gluten from their diets. Others, on the other hand, had no change. We think it’s a valid experiment, especially if you struggle with vague stomach or bowel issues. Gluten free products can be sourced from a variety of beans and grains. We suggest starting with products made from rice or amaranth flour to see how you do. Bisquick makes a wonderful gluten free biscuit and pancake mix!
The Fruit Aisle
Fruits are the hardest part of the IC diet because most fruits are very acidic. Start with a small amount of pears and blueberries. If you do well with those, try a mild sweet apple (like Gala or Fuji) and just have a few slices to see how you feel. If you tolerate the apples well, try the tropical fruits of mango or papaya. If those sit well, try the melons like watermelon, cantaloupe or honeydew. Please note, however, that melons do provoke symptoms for quite a few patients just, hopefully not you! Please avoid all citrus fruits, including lemon, lime, oranges and grapefruit.
The Beverage Aisle
This center aisle in the store is definitely NOT bladder friendly. From energy to sport drinks, sodas to dried powders, these beverages are generally not recommended for someone with a bladder or prostate condition or injury. Think about it this way. If you poured acid on a wound on your hand, what would happen to that wound? It would get worse. The vast majority of prepackaged beverages contain high levels of citric acid, sweeteners, artificial coloring and vitamin C (ascorbic acid).
Still Water – Avoid all vitamin and fancy waters. Look, instead for infused waters such as HINT ESSENCE water. Learn how to make your own infused spa waters at the IC Diet Project.
Sparkling Water – Look for low sodium sparkling water (i.e. San Pellegrino) though they may be somewhat irritating. Some patients let these waters go flat before drinking them.
Soda – Avoid all traditional sodas (Coke, Pepsi, Dr. Pepper, 7-up, Orangeade, etc). You might, however, be able to tolerate a homemade italian soda made with a low sodium mineral water and some flavoring. Some old fashioned root beers may also be more tolerable provided they haven’t added citric acid or caffeine to it.
Coffee & Energy Drinks – No! No! NOOO!! With high acid levels and caffeine, these cause urinary frequency in healthy patients. In the IC patient, however, these can be devastating.
Powdered Drinks (Teas, Fruit Drins, etc.) – Back away slowly! Powdered drinks are generally filled with acids, artificial flavorings, colorings and very little in the way of healthy drinks.
Fruit Juices – Start with an organic apple or pear juice and dilute 2:1 with water. Enjoy cold or hot. Avoid all orange, grapefruit, lemon and cranberry fruit juices. Blueberry makes a nice alternative and is very refreshing on a hot summer day!
The Coffee & Tea Aisle
Coffee – Friendly? Not even close. Coffee can contain high levels of acid and caffeine. Patients who drink even one cup a day struggle with long term, constant discomfort. If you’re in newly diagnosed and/or struggling with IC symptoms, you’ll need to take a pass on traditional coffees until your bladder calms down and/or heals. Look for herbal coffees such as: Pero, Kaffree Roma or Teecino as an option. When it’s time to try coffee again, look for a low-acid coffee, such as Simpatico instead! It has a great flavor without the acid irritation. (Take Our Five Step Coffee Challenge to see if you’re ready to drink coffee again!)
Tea – Both black and green teas (sweet, powdered, instant, etc.) are notoriously acidic and irritating to most IC patients. Some herbal blends can also be irritating due to the presence of acidic orange, lemon, rose hips and other herbs. Look for a chamomile or peppermint herbal tea, both known for a gentle antispasmodic effect in the bowel and, we believe, the bladder. Roasted rooibios teas are also worth trying! The ICN Shop sells a variety of herbal teas that might work for you!
The Cleanser Aisles
Laundry Detergents – Because IC patients are often chemically sensitive, we often find the conventional brand name laundry soaps and detergents irritating to our skin, especially heavily scented fabric softeners and dryer products. Look for sensitive skin, scent free products instead. Febreze type products should always be avoided!
Soaps – Many bar and liquid soaps are irritating as well. Patients with sensitive skin do better with mild, scent free products such as Basis or Dove bars.
Cleaning Products – Chemical sensitivity is common in IC patients, especially those of us with functional somatic syndrome (extreme sensitivity). Look for natural, vegetable derived cleansing products rather than the harsh, toxic chemicals of yesteryear.