What is Cystitis?

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Cystitis is an infection of the bladder that almost always follows (is secondary to) bacterial infection in the urine. It is the most common type of urinary tract infection (UTI), particularly in women.

The bladder is a muscular bag that stores urine from the kidneys. Urine leaves the body through a tube called the urethra. Cystitis occurs when bacteria travel up the urethra, infect the urine and inflame the bladder lining. Most women will experience cystitis at least once in their lives. While it is painful and annoying, it isn’t dangerous or contagious and the infection can’t be passed on to your partner during sex.

Signs & Symptoms

Cystitis can be mild to severe. The symptoms include:

• Frequent urge to urinate, if only to pass a few drops
• Burning pain or a ‘scalding’ sensation on urination
• Strong smelling urine
• Cloudy or bloody urine
• Lower abdominal pain.

What Causes Cystitis?

There is little scientific evidence to link diet to Cystitis but most people who suffer from it find clear links between diet and flare-ups in the condition.

We look at some of the problems food further on in this article. Here we will just deal with the technical aspects of cause:

The E. coli bacteria
The most common bug or bacteria causing urinary tract infection is Escherichia coli (E. coli). This bacterium is often found when the urine is examined under a microscope; this test is called a microscopy and culture (M&C) of urine. E. coli is commonly found in the digestive tract and bowel. Under normal conditions it is harmless. However, E. coli thrives in the acidic environment of the bladder, where it multiplies and inflames the bladder lining.

Risk Factors:

Women are more at risk
Women in their late teens and older are most susceptible to cystitis, especially if they are sexually active. The female urethra is only 4cm long, which gives bacteria easy access to the bladder. Female sex hormones influence the vaginal secretions that affect the ability of bacteria to survive. This makes a woman more susceptible to infection during certain times including:

• Certain stages of the menstrual cycle
• During pregnancy
• During menopause
• After a total hysterectomy.

Men and the elderly

Men tend to get cystitis later in life. Trouble with urine flow in men may indicate problems with the prostate gland. Cystitis is common in elderly people, particularly if they are unwell. Bladder catheters and some urinary tract operations may also increase the risk of cystitis.

Cystitis in a child always needs to be investigated because it may indicate a more serious condition such as vesico-ureteric reflux. This is a bladder valve abnormality, which allows urine to flow back towards the kidneys.


In some women, one bout of cystitis allows the urinary system to build up a type of immunity and further bouts are rare. For other women, cystitis can occur quite regularly. Although not always backed up by research, some women have found the following suggestions useful:

• Go to the toilet to pass urine as soon as you feel the urge, rather than holding on.
• Drink plenty of water every day to flush the urinary system.
• Wipe yourself from front to back (urethra to anus) after going to the toilet.
• Wash your genitals before sex and encourage your partner to do the same.
• Urinate after sex.
• Wear cotton rather than nylon underwear.
• Avoid wearing nylon pantyhose, tight pants or tight jeans.
• Don’t use perfumed soaps, talcum powder or any type of deodorant around the genitals.
• Avoid bubble baths.
• Treat vaginal infections such as thrush or Trichomoniasis promptly, since these organisms can encourage cystitis.

Controlled trails have shown that cranberry juice may decrease the number of UTIs with symptoms over a 12-month period in women Cranberry juice appears to lower the ability of E. coli to stick to the urinary tract lining cells. (Let your doctor know if you’re having cranberry juice as it can alter the effectiveness of some antibiotics.)

When to seek Medical Advice:

Medical advice needs to be obtained promptly if self-help treatments aren’t working. The doctor usually tests the urine to check which micro-organism is present. It is important to see a doctor if a kidney infection or kidney stones are suspected because lasting damage or even kidney failure can occur if these conditions are left untreated.


Antibiotics are needed to treat bacterial cystitis. It’s important to take the entire course of antibiotics as prescribed by your doctor, even if your symptoms improve within a couple of days.

If you are having recurrent bouts of cystitis, you may need to take a longer course of antibiotics, or your doctor may refer you to a specialist.

Urinary alkalinisers such as Citralite, Citravescent or Ural are available over the counter from pharmacies, and reduce the acidity of the urine to make it more alkaline. This makes it difficult for the bacteria to survive, and also helps to reduce the pain of cystitis. These medications should not be used long term, or by people who have kidney or heart disease.

Drinking as much liquid as possible will increase the production of urine and help wash the bacteria out of the bladder. Drinking cranberry juice may help reduce the risk of cystitis, but you should avoid cranberry products if you are taking warfarin (a blood-thinning medication).

If your symptoms do not ease within 2 days, or start to worsen, see your doctor.

Diet change strategies:

Diet clearly plays a part in Cystitis though there is a lack of scientific study to quantify the links between diet and flare-ups in the condition.

A lot of specific information is available from the Interstitial Cystitis Network

Here is a some information on “problem foods” from their website (Source: http://www.ic-network.com/handbook/diet.html )

Our five worst foods

These foods win our vote as the biggest misery makers for people with IC! These are the foods we hear about from IC patients all the time. Of course just because they cause trouble for so many others, that doesn't guarantee they'll make you miserable too. But if you do eat these, watch out! Be sure to pay close attention to how you feel afterwards. If you feel worse, then there is a good chance that this is a trigger food for you. Information is power. Whenever possible, talk with other patients and compare your trigger foods. They may help you discover some hidden triggers in your own diet.

#1: Coffees and Teas
Yes, we know that "lattes" are all the rage these days. Coffee is, regrettably, our number one bladder irritant. In a sensitive bladder, the acid, caffeine and tannins in coffees have little competition for causing intense irritation and discomfort. In our experience, the patients who seem to struggle the most with symptoms are those who still have that one cup of coffee (or tea) in the morning.

Is decaf coffee safe?? For most patients in flares, it isn't. A decaffeinated coffee is still very high in acid and can provoke symptoms. There are a number of herbal coffees, such as Cafix or Pero, that patients have reported to enjoy. There are also low acid coffees, such as Euromild & Puroast, that may be more tolerable. If you're struggling with IC symptoms and/or a flare, the safest hot drink is hot water and honey!

Teas can be surprisingly irritating to the bladder. A regular tea, such as Earl Grey, is usually out of the question. Remember, just as with coffees, decaf regular teas can still provoke symptoms. Herbal teas, particularly herbal blends, are also notorious for triggering symptoms due to the acidity added from other herbs, such as rosehips. Despite the hype, green tea is so acidic that it can create agonizing pain for some. If you're a tea lover, we suggest that you try a plain organic or mint tea!

#2: Cranberry & Other Fruit Juices

Otherwise known as the ACID BOMB when it hits, cranberry juice may be the biggest bladder irritant in an IC patient's diet. It's often recommended for consumption during urinary tract infections because it is believed to have substances in it that help keep bacteria from sticking to the bladder wall. (If they can't stick, they can't infect. They just get flushed out). But cranberry juice can VERY be difficult for an IC bladder to tolerate. Citrus juices such as orange juice, grapefruit juice, lemonade, will also be very irritating to the bladder. If you're desperate for a juice, we recommend trying a Baby Pear or Apple Juice. Baby juices do not use as much citric acid and seem to be much more bladder friendly!

#3: Carbonated beverages

If we had $1 for everytime a patient reported that they had a flare from drinking a diet cola, we'd be rich today! Whether it be plain carbonated Perrier water or flavored sodas, IC patients often complain about their irritating effects on the bladder. The biggest problem appears to be the acid, though most flavored sodas also have big doses of caffeine.

The most difficult carbonated beverage for an IC bladder to tolerate appears to be diet cola. Diet colas are a quadruple whammy of acidic carbonation, citric and other acids, caffeine, and artificial sweeteners-- four well-known bladder irritants. Taken all at once it can be an IC bladder's nightmare! If you must have a soda, try a non-diet, usually non-caffeinated, root beer-- and load the cup with plenty of ice to dilute it!

#4: Tomato Products
They're found in so many foods these days, tomatoes and tomato products are darn hard to avoid. Though we think of them as mild mannered vegetables, those tempting red globes are really a very acidic fruit. A few IC patients can tolerate tomato sauces on pizzas and pasta, but most cannot. Low acid tomatoes may be good substitutes for some people. The book A Taste of the Good Life: A Cookbook for an Interstitial Cystitis Diet, has a lengthy list of lower-acid tomato varieties you can grow at home!

#5: Tobacco

Ok, we admit it, we cheated to get this one on the list... tobacco isn't really a food. But it does have some significant effects on an IC bladder. For one, it acts to constrict the bladder's blood vessels, interfering with the body's natural way of washing out inflammatory substances from the bladder tissues. Veteran IC patients prefer less pain rather than more. Is that cigarette worth a night and day of pain?

Note If you are using mutivitamins you need to ensure that you use a product that is in balance and working in a wholeistic manner. Mega dose of some suppliments may be a factor is triggiering Cystits. This is especially true with multivitamins that contain high levels of Vitamin C (Ascorbic Acid) and Vitamin B6 as the ascorbic acid may be irritating to the IC bladder.

Vitamin & Nutrient Associations

Once you have a flare up of Cystitis then you may be wise to seek medical intervention to bring the issue under control.

What we want is to find a way to prevent you having flare-ups in the first place.

Use of a broad spectrum nutrition program will improve your overall wellness and increase your bodies ability to resist external attack.

I recommend you take a few minutes and read this article that explains in some detail how we process our food to get nutrition to our cells and why nourishing our body in this way has such a huge impact on our overall health - nutrition

Many people find that using a nutrition program that will rebuild our bodies capacity to ingest food, detoxify and strength our systems at a cellular level gives an outcome of enhanced ability to resist infections, less sensitivity to dietary food choices and better overall health.

Further reading through our articles on health issues will give you a body of information that will help you decide what options you have to deal with the underlying causes of your Cystitis problem through giving your body the nutrition products that will assist you body to heal from the inside out. We wish you well in your search for solutions to this problem and your movement towards better health in all areas.

Below here are examples of Health Success Results other people have had with using a self care strategy for dealing with Cystitis:

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