Why is diet important?
Cystitis is the inflammation of the bladder, and this inflammation is more often than not caused by an infection in the bladder. For many people this infection can be recurring and difficult to shift – and for some, cystitis can occur without any infection at all!
Many people suffering from recurring cystitis or interstitial cystitis look for natural methods or lifestyle adjustments that can help reduce their chances of developing cystitis and ease symptoms – and diet is one of the most important factors to consider. You are what you eat!
Our diets are too often full of things which can irritate the bladder, cause inflammation or reduce our immune system and allow infection to take hold. Maintaining a generally healthy and balanced diet will help keep your body strong and more efficient at protecting itself from infection.
To help you out, I’ve got some tips of more specific things to focus on.
Diet tips for cystitis
Avoid acidic foods and inflammatory foods. These include tea, coffee, alcohol, processed meat, and spicy food. These will irritate the bladder and exacerbate inflammation.
Reduce your intake of simple carbohydrates. This includes refined sugar, sugary foods and foods containing white flour, such as white bread or white rice. Nasty bacteria love sugar and simple carbohydrates, so stop feeding them and they will struggle to survive!
Increase your intake of complex carbohydrates. This includes brown bread, brown rice, wholemeal flour, quinoa, beans, and starchy, root vegetables such as potatoes, sweet potatoes and parsnips.
Getting more fibre will help prevent and relieve constipation. Many complex carbohydrates are rich in fibre, so increasing these will help. In addition, try to add in some seeds and nuts: I recommend picking up a packet of milled flaxseed/linseed from your local health food store, as these can really easily be added to smoothies, cereal, yogurt and (healthy) home baking. Linwoods have a really great, varied range, with added seeds, nuts or fruit for extra nutrients.
Drink more cranberry juice. This is a slightly tricky one, as cranberry juice is slightly acidic, so can sometimes irritate the bladder, and often contains added sugar; but researchers also think that it prevents bacteria from sticking to the walls of the bladder, which makes it difficult for an infection to grow there. If you want to try cranberry juice, make sure to buy fresh, not-from-concentrate juice such as Biotta's Mountain Cranberry Juice. Why not read our blog for more on what the research says when it comes to Cranberry Juice for cystitis.
Alternatively, try our Cranberry Complex, a daily supplement which contains extracts of fresh cranberries, alongside other bladder-friendly herbs.
Increase your intake of fresh, green, leafy vegetables, such as spinach, kale and broccoli. These are good for your whole body, are packed with vital nutrients and support the immune system – and obviously the immune system is vital when it comes to dealing with unfriendly bacteria.
Eat more fresh fruit. Fruit is packed with vital vitamins, minerals and other nutrients that support your whole body and improve your immune function. Make sure to get in your 5 portions a day – and try to buy fresh fruit, not tinned, and organic if you can!
Eat more natural yogurt. This is packed full of good bacteria to help keep your bad bacteria in check, which should help reduce the chances of an infection starting in your bladder.
Alternatively, try probiotic supplements. I recommend Optibac’s For Women, which contains bacteria that are clinically proven to reach your intimate area alive, which is great for preventing infection caused by bacteria coming up the urethra.
I also often recommend pairing this with For Every Day, a daily probiotic which helps keep your gut bacteria happy, which supports the immune system and helps you to get the maximum nutrients you can from your food. Both For Women and For Every Day are suitable for vegans, making them a great alternative to live yogurt.
Additionally, take Molkosan alongside these. Molkosan contains L+ lactic acid which helps to create an environment in which friendly bacteria thrive. Combine this with your fruit and veg intake in a delicious smoothie: try the Molkosan Fruit Smoothie, it’s delicious! Please note that Molkosan is not suitable for vegans.
Drink more water. This is one of the most important tips, so if you can’t do anything else, at least do this! Drinking more water helps dilute urine, meaning it is less concentrated and acidic, and therefore less likely to irritate the bladder. Nasty bacteria love stagnant urine, so drinking more water means that you empty you bladder more frequently, which means that bacteria don’t have time to multiply in the bladder.
Keeping hydrated also keeps the body in generally better condition, by helping the metabolism of energy from food, and the transport of nutrients around the body.
You might want to consider taking a vitamin and mineral supplement alongside a healthy diet. This acts as a backup to make sure you get all the vitamins and minerals you need from your diet – in particular, nutrients which are harder to come across in foods, such as zinc and vitamin D. This helps keep your body in tip-top condition and ready to fight off infections before you even notice any symptoms.
You can also try Uva-ursi, a fantastic herb which activates when it reaches the bladder to help cleanse it and prevent bacteria from growing. Our complex also contains Echinacea, which is great for the immune system.