Would You Be Kinder to Your Bladder and Bowels if You Could See Them?
What would you do differently if you could see the inside of your bladder or bowels? How would it alter your attitude to their healing process? I frequently hear from IC sufferers who are experiencing only limited relief from symptoms with Aloe Vera Capsules, Waterfall D-Mannose, or other herbal and nutritional supplements. They are usually aware that what they eat and drink can impact on their wellbeing, but all too often they tell me they ‘mostly follow the IC diet’ (which I don’t recommend – see this blog post), or ‘try to avoid gluten’, but on closer questioning what they mean is they still eat/drink things that they know exacerbate their symptoms at least a couple of times a week, even though for some days of the week they comply with what they believe to be appropriate protocols.
All too often I read on forums comments from people who have been taking D-Mannose or aloe capsules for a few days and are disappointed that they’re not seeing results yet. I also see people who have made dietary changes asking only a couple of days in when they will feel better, already impatient to go back to their old ways. Most common is the lament that after a few weeks of mostly doing the right things, symptoms are still present ‘even with supplements’. It strikes me again and again that because people cannot SEE their bladder and bowels, they place unreasonable expectations on their resilience and healing process – expectations that they would not dream of placing on their skin.
Suppose you sustained a nasty blister as a result of walking for too long in a pair of unsuitable shoes. Skin rubbed away, the area bleeding, weeping and painful. You might decide to apply some antiseptic cream to keep the wound infection free and expedite the healing process, and you might also decide to apply a plaster to protect the area from additional damage. However, you would not expect the site to have completely healed in two days’ time especially if you had to do lots more walking during that time. You would understand that although the antiseptic cream and plaster could help, you still have a duty of care to stop aggravating the area and to be patient while it heals. Once healed, you would almost certainly relegate the offending shoes to short-term wear and opt for more sensible walking attire in future. If you chose to keep putting your blistered foot into the same shoe that had caused the injury in the first place, you would not dream of telling everyone that antiseptic cream doesn’t work and plasters don’t help. You would KNOW that they can only do their jobs if they receive appropriate conditions and that they are not miracle cures. You’d also not be at all surprised to find that wearing the unsuitable shoes again before you had properly healed would cause problems a lot more quickly than it did the first time – for example, if it took three hours to rub the blister the first time, a week later it may only take half an hour to aggravate the still-sensitive area.
Somehow, when dealing with bowel and bladder problems, this logic seems to fly out of the window. Our digestive and urinary systems never get a proper rest – even if we implemented a fasting period, we’d still need to take in fluids – so once damaged they are like a blistered foot being made to keep walking. This means we need to afford them more care and patience than we would with a skin wound – the equivalent of applying more cream and thicker plasters for much longer. We must allow them a suitable period of time without any aggravation from trigger foods/drinks; we must understand that premature reintroduction of trigger foods/drinks may cause irritation to tissue cells that will set our progress back; and we must be careful not to reduce our dosage of any healing influences too soon.
I know from personal experience how difficult this is. It is initially hard to avoid the foods and drinks that made up part of our daily routine. It’s hard to stay off them completely for a couple of months, as opposed to ‘treating ourselves’ a couple of times a week right from the get go. It’s hard when we start reintroducing potential triggers to accept that no matter how good we are most of the time, there are things we may never be able to eat/drink without experiencing flare ups again. It’s hard to continue to take expensive supplements once the symptoms start to improve – not least because as symptoms fade away, we forget they exist, so we forget to medicate, so they can return if we’ve tailed off too prematurely! I talk about this extensively in Part 1 and Part 2 of this post.
However, if our bowel and bladder are inflamed and causing chronic problems, we owe it to them and to ourselves to be kind. If you’re an IC sufferer, you’ll know that the bladder wall can actually become ulcerated and so many cystitis and irritable bowel symptoms come about because the tissues of the bladder and bowel wall are damaged and inflamed – just like the skin cells of our hypothetical blister. We may not be able to see our bladder or digestive tract, but they do their very best to keep working effectively for us under conditions that are all too often hostile thanks to the stresses and strains we have knowingly and unknowingly put them under. There is no supplement or medicine in the world that can or should compensate for our decisions to continue to aggravate an already damaged area. You wouldn’t do it to your blister, so why do it to your unseen organs?
If you’re impatient or frustrated with your healing process, or if you’re quick to blame supplements or medicines for being ineffective, really try to visualise your insides and remember that they never get to rest. Think how much differently you would handle them if they were on the outside where you could see them, touch them and actually apply soothing things to them. How differently you’d feel about them. We rarely blame the foot for the blister – we blame the shoe. We don’t blame our finger for the cut – we blame the knife or ourselves for being careless. To get angry with the bladder or bowel when it sustains injury or disease is very unfair when you consider how little care or thought you ever gave it before it went wrong. Try to think of the supplements or medicines you take as being the soothing ointments you apply; of the dietary changes you make as being the nearest you can give your urinary and digestive tracts to a break. The longer you allow them to be free from irritants, the longer you continue to ‘apply the ointments’ for and the more you give them the opportunity to become resilient again. We can’t always change our circumstances, but we can change our attitude towards them and seeing our painful insides as injured outsides that need our care might well make the recovery journey easier and happier. The more you look after your insides the more they will look after you, so try to enjoy taking care of them and once they are better, try not to make them walk too far in unsuitable shoes again!
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