One of the really annoying things about having Interstitial Cystitis is that when you suddenly have an attack of pain, it can be very difficult to tell whether this is a flare up of the autoimmune disease or just a run-of-the-mill water infection on top of the usual discomfort. Happily, since adopting paleo and then adopting the stricter Autoimmune Protocol, both flares and infections are fewer and further between. But they do still happen. This last couple of days is a testament to that.
If you follow my blog closely (I’m not testing you – there’s no reason why you would), you’ll notice that I keep both a food diary and a pain diary at the bottom of each entry. This isn’t really for anybody’s reference but my own so that hopefully I’ll be able to look back and see patterns between foods and flares. If you’ve been reading really closely, you might have noticed my pain level has been higher over the last couple of days than has been normal since adopting AIP. In fact, just before this flare I had started to think I was seriously on the mend. Oh, body – you really are such a joker!
Anyway, at first I assumed the extra pain was a flare of the Interstitial Cystitis and attributed it to losing my wits last week and stuffing my face with Mars Celebrations – I had four of those tiny little sweets. One of them was a Twix so I know for definite I’ve consumed gluten in the last week and I had assumed it was that. And actually maybe it contributed, but I’ve come to the conclusion that this is in fact just a water infection, which although temporarily painful is imminently curable without a visit to the doctor as long as it’s an E. Coli infection.
Without having bacterial cultures done by your doctor there is really no way of knowing for definite which bacteria are responsible for your infection.
But this is how I make up my mind whether to go to the doctor or not (warning, this next section may get more personal than you’re comfortable with).
I start taking D-Mannose.
D-Mannose is an indigestable sugar extract found naturally in apples, blueberries and cranberries – I just realised the shop was out of blueberries this week as well so I wasn’t able to buy any. Hmmm… anyway, sidetrack.
What D-Mannose does as it travels through your bladder is essentially cling to the bacteria, which then gets flushed out when you pee. It’s very effective for me and I can usually see my ‘extra’ pain subside within a day. If the pain does go away, I conclude that it is in fact just a Urinary Tract Infection (UTI) and not a flare of the Interstitial Cystitis. What’s also good is that it’s safe to proactively treat the pain as an infection in this way as there are no side-effects. It can even be used as a prophylactic. I tend to take two tablets after sex and two tablets again in the morning as I’ve identified sex as being something that causes bladder infections in me. Very frustrating.
Here are some of my tips from personal experience on increasing the effectiveness of D-Mannose for Urinary Tract Infections:
- Try and increase the concentration of D-Mannose in your bladder.
I do this by taking 2 tablets as soon as I wake up but after I’ve urinated then taking another 2 about 60 minutes later.
- Try not to urinate after about an hour of taking D-Mannose as you want to give it time to cling to those E. Coli bacteria.
- Take 2 tablets with a warm drink directly after urinating throughout the day right up into the evening.
- Keep taking D-Mannose (but maybe with a lower dose) for at least a week (preferably two weeks) after the ‘extra’ pain has gone.
D-Mannose is quite expensive and can be bought at most local supplement and health food stores, although I was unable to find it in Holland & Barrett. Like with all supplements, you should remember to check the label to make sure it doesn’t contain any paleo-unfriendly ingredients. My favourite brand is Waterfall D-Mannose, which is 100% pure and you can buy in bulk if you wish and get them for cheaper. Extra bonus: if you use the cashback site, Quidco, you can also get 15% cashback.
Luckily for me, my ‘extra’ symptoms have started to subside now, so I’m fairly sure they were being caused by a UTI – either that or the gluten contamination has made its way out of my system. If you suffer from recurrent UTIs, you may find this article by paleo physician, Chris Kresser, an interesting read as it covers other types of bacterial infections than E. Coli.
Disclaimer: I am not a doctor and can not give medical advice. If you suspect you have a water infection, you shouldconsult your doctor before starting any new supplements or home treatments.
How do you know when your extra pain is an Interstitial Cystitis flare and when it’s a bladder infection? Please share your tips in the comments.
Breakfast: Gluten-free lamb and mint sausages on a bed of rocket and a portobello mushroom
Lunch: Leftover pork loin with rocket salad
Dinner: Salmon croquettes with baby spinach and rocket salad
Snacks: 2 bananas, 1 pear, 2 slices of melon and a persimmon.
Pain Level (out of 10)
Started at about 2 this morning, which went away at about 10am. Mild discomfort throughout the day, nearly disappearing at times. Just starting to creep back between 1 and 2 now (8.40pm) Will update later as to the pain as I start to get ready to lie down for bed. Feeling on the mend though.