Interstitial Cystitis: Might You Have an Allergic Bladder?
Calling all interstitial cystitis and non-bacterial prostatitis sufferers! Do you experience any of the following?
- Hay fever
- Hives or non-contact dermatitis
- Itchy, runny, or sore eyes
- Runny nose or scratchy throat
- Foggy brain
If so, your painful bladder symptoms might have a histamine component to them. Histamine is an organic compound, produced in the mast cells. Mast cells are found in connective tissue including the skin, stomach and intestines; in mucosal tissue; and around blood vessels, nerves and lymphatic tissue. The purpose of histamine is to provoke an immune response such as inflammation, increased mucus production, capillary dilation, or smooth muscle contraction when the body is exposed to an allergen. It also acts as a neurotransmitter for the brain, spinal cord and uterus, assists with digestion, and helps regulate the sleep/wake cycle.
In appropriate situations, histamine carries out an essential role, helping us to remove pathogens from our bodies and assisting us with vital bodily functions. However, if we are exposed to irritants for a prolonged period of time, don’t have enough diamine oxidase to deactivate histamine after it has done its job, or eat a diet high in histamine we may develop elevated histamine levels. The result of this is that we start to experience some of the allergic health issues listed above, as well as digestive problems, sleep problems and brain fog. Crucially for interstitial cystitis sufferers, we might also start to suffer with painful bladder symptoms.
Mast cells have been found to be raised in many people suffering with interstitial cystitis, with histamine levels sometimes twice that of a normal, healthy bladder. This can contribute to the urinary symptoms such as frequency, pain, burning and pressure that are familiar to so many IC and non-bacterial prostatitis sufferers. For this reason, IC patients are sometimes prescribed antihistamines as part of their treatment strategy. While these can be successful for some, for others they are not very helpful, and some people also dislike the side effects they might experience with long term antihistamine use. Fortunately there are natural ways that histamine levels can be reduced.
One of these is by taking quercetin. Quercetin is a plant pigment belonging to a class of antioxidant substances called bioflavonoids. It occurs naturally in many fruits and vegetables, as well as red wine and green tea. It reduces allergic responses by inhibiting histamine release and decreasing production of the COX-1 and COX-2 enzymes that cause systemic inflammation. It also inhibits mast cell activation, is anti-inflammatory, is antibacterial and may help to heal leaky gut (a crucial factor in managing IC, in my opinion). Unfortunately, quercetin occurs in many foods that people with IC tend to avoid, meaning they miss out on dietary sources – although if you haven’t read this blog post about why I don’t rate the IC diet, please do check it out. However, quercetin is easily obtained in supplement form.
There are several brands of quercetin supplement available and quercetin is actually the antihistamine component in both Cysta-Q (Farr Laboratories) and CystoProtek (Algonot), both of which have been studied for IC with successful results. Desert Harvest make their own version of quercetin, derived from the flower buds of the Japanese pagoda tree, with added freeze-dried, organic aloe vera powder, which may help with absorption. Each serving (two capsules) contains 500mg of quercetin, 100mg of aloe vera and 3mg of silica dioxide (a naturally occurring earth mineral that acts as drying agent). Obviously, as with all their oral products, it is IC-friendly and gentle on the gut.
You don’t actually need to know if your bladder issues have a histamine component to try quercetin – it won’t do you any harm either way. You’ll simply either notice improvements or you won’t! If you have any of the symptoms listed at the start of this post, or if you’ve been cleaning up your diet and taking Desert Harvest Super Strength Aloe Vera Capsules but still feel that something is missing, you might want to incorporate a quercetin supplement to see if that helps. However, if you want to be more scientific, you could run a urine test. If it shows positive for white blood cells, but negative for bacterial infection, your IC might well be linked to elevated histamine. Aside from helping with allergic bladder symptoms, quercetin may also help with any other histamine conditions, including those bulleted at the top.
Besides taking a quercetin supplement, there are other things you can do if you suspect you have elevated histamine levels. You could try eating a low histamine diet for a couple of months. This involves avoiding high histamine foods, such as fermented foods, fermented beverages, processed or smoked meats, aged cheese, avocados, shell fish, citrus fruits and dried fruits. It includes avoiding histamine triggering foods such as alcohol, tomatoes, wheat, chocolate and nuts. And it includes avoiding foods that block diamine oxidase production, such as alcohol and tea. Plenty of non-citrus fruits, vegetables (except the few ‘black-listed’ ones), fresh meat and fish, eggs, non-gluten grains and non-dairy foods should be consumed. This is far from all there is to it, so do research it more thoroughly before you try it. I’ve never actually followed a low histamine diet myself, so my knowledge of it is not very expansive!
Another way to help lower histamine is to take digestive enzymes and diamine oxidase supplements. Digestive enzymes obviously help to break down food, but this article also reckons that taking them between meals works to reduce systemic inflammation and helps the body to eliminate irritants. I’ve never heard that before, but you might have guessed by now that I’m passionate about all things nutrition and it’s certainly an interesting line of thought for those with IC.
Probiotics can also be an invaluable tool in lowering histamine levels, as well as promoting overall health, but you must exercise caution here. Some strains of probiotics work to lower histamine, while other strains actually elevate it. Desert Harvest’s Probiotic contains Bifidobacterium infantis which has been shown to reduce histamine levels, so it is fine for those with allergic conditions, including histamine related IC. It is also the strain most recommended by gastroenterologists for patients with autoimmune conditions and has been found in clinical studies to help alleviate symptoms of IBS, ulcerative colitis, chronic fatigue syndrome and psoriasis.
There are dozens of strains of probiotics, and hundreds of brands of probiotic supplements, so I can’t possibly make recommendations about which to take if you have elevated histamine. However, it is generally believed that the following strains should be avoided by those with histamine issues:
- Lactobaccilus casei
- Lactobaccilus bulgaricus
- Lactobaccilus delbrueckii
- Streptococcus thermophilus
There are plenty of posts online about which strains are safe for high histamine and I’d recommend a search term like ‘what probiotics lower histamine’ if you want to read up about it in more detail. It’s far beyond the scope of my expertise to attempt to address it here in a single paragraph. Do beware of buying unidentified proprietary blends – a good quality probiotic supplement will always tell you exactly what is inside and exactly how many of each strain are present.
I hope you’ve found some of the information in this post useful. If you feel that elevated histamine levels might be a component of your own interstitial cystitis, I’d really recommend trying a quercetin supplement alongside your aloe vera capsules. It might make all the difference for you.
Wishing you the best of health,
PS: I will leave you with this lovely review, submitted to the Desert Harvest Customer Service team and reproduced here with their kind permission. I have pasted the text exactly as I received it. While I would caution you that not everybody experiences results so quickly, I hope reading this lady’s story might help those of you who are suffering right now to feel more optimistic about your own future. That’s what Tiny’s Blog is for!
Dear Customer Service,
Your products have changed my life virtually overnight and I wanted to share my story with you.
A little over 3 years ago I thought I had a urinary tract infection. Long story short, I ended up being diagnosed with Interstitial Cystitis and I was just 37. It has been a rough 3 years for me. I love spicy foods and I really love coffee and I pretty much had to give it all up. I spent lots of time researching products that could maybe help me. Eventually, I found Desert Harvest. I first ordered the Aloe Vera a few months ago but I didn't realize there was a regimen for people with IC. So, I did one in the morning and one at night and it didn't really help. (Here comes the really exciting part
I was cleaning my desk area a little over a week ago and I found your catalog and was flipping through it. That's when I saw your recommended dosing for IC. I quickly ordered a new bottle so I could give it another try. Before it arrived, I took an over the counter UTI test. It showed me being dark purple which indicates white blood cells/inflammation, but negative for bacterial (that’s generally how it works for IC). I immediately started the Aloe Vera Capsules 3 in the morning and 3 in the evening. I could definitely tell a huge difference. Then, I received THE EMAIL from you about bladder awareness month and an IC Starter Kit. I was like, "what is that – there’s more?" I read about the Quercetin and it said something about how people with IC have twice as much histamine in their bladders. That’s when everything came full circle for me. When I was 18, I was diagnosed with chronic hives and took Claritin (an anti-histamine) until about 3 years ago. My hives had stopped and I thought why am I taking this? I think stopping the Claritin must have really impacted my bladder. I received the Quercetin last Saturday and took one dose that afternoon. I could not believe the results. I mean it was like I had my bladder back. In fact, I took another UTI test that night and can you believe that the Leukocytes came back negative?! Totally clear! I had only been taking the Aloe Vera Capsules for a few days and only 1 dosage of the Quercetin.
It has now been a week and my bladder feels completely back to normal. I can’t even tell you how incredibly thankful I am for your company and your products! What you are doing is life changing for people like me. I wish I could hug all of you!
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