Interstitial Cystitis Network - From our families to yours!

Happy Holidays From the IC Network

A Special Holiday Newsletter

If this is your first holiday season with a diagnosis of IC, we've assembled some quick tips and resources that we hope will help you enjoy the season. Surviving the holidays is all about pacing yourself, communicating clearly with your family and, of course, avoiding those things that we know can trigger IC flares. From our families to yours, we wish you a peaceful and joyful holiday season. May 2013 be the year of the cure for interstitial cystitis! - Jill Osborne & the ICN Family

Finding Joy

 It's easy to blame yourself when IC limits your ability to enjoy a holiday. I want you to remember that IC is not your fault. You are NOT to blame. You have nothing to be ashamed of. Be proud of yourself. You are working hard to treat your IC. Treat yourself with kindness and compassion. Take in the small moments of joy that a holiday can bring. The lights, the music, the games, the sports and the laughter. Do things that will bring you comfort and joy, even if that means that you stay home and sit by the fire with a favorite book. If you need a shoulder to lean on, visit the ICN Support Forum or your favorite IC groups.


Over the river and through the woods in a bouncing car, much less sleigh, isn't appealing for anyone with pelvic pain and discomfort. Enduring hours of bouncing, jiggling and stress associated with travelling is a recipe for an IC flare. If at all possible, invite family and/or friends to your home instead or travel shorter distances until you are feeling better.

Holiday Food

We often hear patients lamenting that they won't be able to enjoy their favorite holiday meals & foods. Yes, this is true if your favorite foods involve acids or caffeine! The last thing we want you to do is eat or drink something that is very bladder irritating on Christmas Eve only to ruin your Christmas Day with a terrible flare. This is the time to be a bit more protective with your diet. The good news is that the majority of holiday foods and trimmings, from pancakes christmas morning to a christmas turkey or roast beef for dinner are IC friendly.  It's the heavy Italian foods with red sauce (i.e. pasta, lasagna) or spicy ethnic foods that you'll want to avoid in favor of milder foods.

  • If you're going to someone elses house for several days over the holidays, bring some of your favorite foods with you, such as your bread, cheese, veggies, cookies and the like. Explain to your host that certain foods really irritate your bladder and that you'll be happy to contribute some dishes that are flavorful and comfortable for you.
  • If you're going to someones house for a meal, especially if they have a history of preparing food that you know will be irritating, eat some snacks ahead of time so that you are full. For potlucks, bring a favorite dish or two that you can know you will enjoy.
  • Don't eat a food that you know may bother your bladder just to appease your host. Simply put that food to the side of your plate and eat something else instead.
  • Practice the art of distraction. If someone makes a comments about what you are or aren't eating, divert their attention to something else such as: the latest news, politics, holiday decorations, etc.
  • There isn't a better time for using an acid reducing supplement like Prelief! It helps to reduce the overall acid level of the food so that it's less bladder irritating. If you don't have any with you (and it's too late to order from the ICN) check your local Walgreens or CVS.
  • ICN Website - ICN Diet & Food Lists
  • ICN Article - Holiday Foods & Parties
  • ICN Shop - Find an IC Friendly Wine ($.99 Download, instant access)
  • ICN Shop - Wine, Beer and Spirits: Finding IC Friendly Products ($.99 Download, instant access)
  • ICN Shop - The Happy Bladder Christmas Cookbook ($9.99)

Family & Friends

Why, oh why, is there atleast one family member who, rudely, doesn't believe that IC is a real disease? We suggest that you put out our free IC Information Booklet (free download), the book the IC Survival Guide, a few of our IC Optimist magazines or even some of our Living With IC videos! When it comes up, calmly look that person in the face and say "Three to 8 million women in the USA suffer from this disease and 1 to 4 million men. Here are some reading materials that will help you understand what I'm struggling with." Then change the topic. Don't be defensive. Don't be hurt. Remember, these individuals are just extremely naive or uninformed. It says far more about them than you if they bring it up in a hurtful way! I encourage you to calmly and firmly stand up for yourself!

Managing IC Flares

If you are struggling with an IC flare, take heart! There are strategies that you can use to help reduce your discomfort.

Fighting a flare is like fighting a fire. You want to catch it when it's small, early and managable. So, don't wait until the pain or symptoms are out of control before you take action. The key to fighting a flare (and pain) is to catch it early! So, within 30 minutes of feeling pain or discomfort, stop what you are doing and put your feet up. A heating pad placed over your bladder can help!  If your symptoms persist for another 30 minutes, it's time to take action but to do so, you'll need to try to figure out what kind of flare you are having.

Most newly diagnosed patients mistakenly assume that their bladder symptoms are the result of an infection. If you suspect you have a UTI, using an OTC Urine Test Kit can help! (These are available at most local drug stores.) If the test strips turn color, then an infection is possible and you should call your physician or visit your local urgent care center. If the test strips stay white, then an IC flare is the likely culprit!

A "bladder wall" flare occurs when your bladder wall is irritated, usually by foods. The dominant symptom is pain or discomfort as the bladder fills with urine that is relieved, perhaps just slightly, by urination. Your first defense is to follow the IC diet and atleast avoid the worst trigger foods such as coffee, soda and alcohol. Drinking some water to dilute your urine and reduce bladder irritation can be helpful. Using antispasmodics as prescribed by your doctor (i.e. Ditropan) can help calm bladder spasms. The OTC AZO Bladder Pain Relief tablets act by numbing your bladder wall. If pain is intense, use pain medication as prescribed by your physician. Take it easy until your symptoms improve.

A "pelvic floor" flare results when the muscles become tight and/or are spasming, such as from a long car ride and/or intimacy. Symptoms are similar yet can often include a sensation of tightness, tension, feeling as if something is falling or even a deeper burning sensation, the result of lactic acid building up in the muscles. Strategies that reduce muscle tension include: rest, heat, putting your feet up or, as prescribed by your physician, a muscle relaxant. Patients who are undergoing physical therapy quickly learn that some stretches can also be very effective and reducing pain and discomfort. The books "Heal Pelvic Pain" and "Ending Female Pain" include several stretches that can help.

Remember, if your symptoms are so intense that you can't sleep, can't walk, have a high fever, etc., then a call to the physician on duty or a visit to your local urgent care center is appropriate. Most remain open during the holidays.

If you're looking for MORE flare and/or pain management tips, you can purchase:

ICN Holiday Hours

To give our staff a well deserved break after a long fall season, our phone lines will be closed from Saturday 12/22 through January 2, 2013. We will continue to accept orders through the holidays in the ICN Shop, via FAX (707)538-9444 or on our secure voice mail system (707)433-0413.