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Vitamin C & Interstitial Cystitis

By Tracey Roizman, D.C.

Interstitial cystitis is a complex urological condition characterized by urinary urgency and pain in the lower abdominal, pelvic or pubic areas. Interstitial cystitis patients may urinate dozens of times per day, though infection is generally not a feature of the disease. Diagnosis usually occurs around age 40, and 90 percent of those diagnosed with interstitial cystitis are women, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. Vitamin C, in various forms, may increase interstitial cystitis symptoms.

Common Triggers

Citrus foods, which are high in vitamin C, may irritate your interstitial cystitis symptoms, according to Carbonated soft drinks can often increase symptoms for patients with interstitial cystitis, as can foods and drinks that contain caffeine, including coffee, tea and chocolate.

Buffered Vitamin C

Vitamin C supplements can be problematic for those with interstitial cystitis. However, you may be able to tolerate a form of vitamin C called calcium ascorbate, which is buffered with calcium carbonate, according to Larrian Gillespie, M.D., author of the book "You Don't Have to Live with Cystitis." This form of vitamin C is more absorbable than ascorbic acid and helps replace the vitamin C you lose through urine. Calcium ascorbate also promotes storage of potassium ascorbate, another form of vitamin C, in your cells. Calcium ascorbate may ease some interstitial cystitis symptoms by reducing levels of histamine, an inflammatory molecule, Gillespie says.

Dietary Sources

Even buffered vitamin C supplements can be a source of irritation for some people with interstitial cystitis, according to R. Paul St. Armand, M.D., author of the book "What Your Doctor May Not Tell You About Fibromyalgia: the Revolutionary Treatment That Can Reverse the Disease." However, some dietary sources of vitamin C are well-tolerated and choices are plentiful. Bell peppers are packed with vitamin C, providing 95 mg in 1/2 cup. Papaya, strawberries and guava are also good choices, as are green vegetables such as spinach, kale and broccoli.


If you have interstitial cystitis, your chances of having or developing fibromyalgia are increased, according to Claudia Craig Marek, author of the book "The First Year--Fibromyalgia: An Essential Guide for the Newly Diagnosed." The overlap of conditions seems to favor women with fair, sensitive skin who are prone to allergies and asthma, Marek says. To manage interstitial cystitis associated with fibromyalgia, continue experimenting with your diet after eliminating common food triggers. To find more food triggers, eliminate one food at a time and gauge your symptoms. Reintroduce the food and monitor your symptoms again. Adapt and individualize your diet accordingly.

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