So often I hear people say they are following the IC diet, but cannot get out of a flare. There are times (many) that we flare for no apparent reason and it has nothing to do with what we are eating. And it can take a while for some flares to settle down despite our best efforts. The first thing I suggest if you are struggling with a flare, is to go over your food labels with a fine tooth comb. When your bladder is flaring and overly sensitive, food can be a huge aggravator, even if it was not the cause. Sometimes we think we’ve been following a strict IC diet, but upon closer look at the ingredients in some supposedly IC friendly foods, we find things that surprise us. This has happened to me many times in the past and still does. Just because popcorn, for example, may be IC friendly does not mean all popcorn is created equal. Same goes for the ever so popular cottage cheese, which can contain citric acid. Please take the time to investigate every single ingredient in the food you are eating. Especially, if you are stuck in a flare. Food may not have been the initial cause of your flare, but it sure won’t help your sensitive bladder get out of a flare if you are eating any hidden IC food triggers. Below I’ve composed a list of some of the most common hidden IC food triggers. I see these all of the time when I am shopping and pick up a food I assume will be IC friendly. Hopefully, this info will help you continue to navigate the IC diet a little better and open your eyes to the sneaky things manufactures (unfortunately) put in our food.
- MSG (a.k.a. Monosodium Glutamate) which masquerades under the following names: modified food starch, hydrolyzed vegetable or plant protein, sodium caseinate, yeast extract, textured protein, autolyzed yeast – while these items are not the exact composition of MSG, they contain similar irritants as MSG and many are used to make MSG. Obviously, it is a little more complex than that, so feel free to do some research on your own. But if you are stuck in a flare and see any of these ingredients in your food, you might want to cut them out and see what happens.
- Citric acid/Ascorbic acid – Typically used as a preservative, you will find citric and ascorbic acid in many things. When listed as a last ingredient these acids may not bother everyone, but if your bladder is super sensitive or in a flare you may want to cut these items out. I was most surprised to find acid in the cottage cheese I had been eating when I was first diagnosed. Since then I found Kraft makes a Simply Cottage Cheese that doesn’t contain citric acid that is a great option for IC bladders.
- BHT/TBHQ – Ah, two of the worst offenders! I would try to avoid these items even if I didn’t have IC. Used as preservatives, you will find BHT/TBHQ in nearly every pre-packaged food. Especially, cereal. Which is so disappointing since there are some decent, potentially, IC friendly cereals ruined by these items. Always, look out for these two!
- Cayenne/Paprika/Turmeric – Usually these seasonings are obvious and used only in spicy foods, but I have seen them in items that are not spicy. Things like chicken nuggets and other meat products. While the quantity of the spice can make a difference, if you are in a flare it is best to avoid these seasonings in any amount.
- Soy – Soy flour is used in many bread products, so if you are soy sensitive take caution. Also, soy lecithin is used in many foods, and while it typically does not bother most IC patients, there are some who are very sensitive to it. So this may be another item to avoid if you’re stuck in a flare.
- Nitrates – Often seen in processed/cured meats like lunch meat, hot dogs, and bacon, nitrates can be a contributor to IC symptoms. While turkey and roast beef lunch meat can be IC friendly, pay attention to what’s in them. Preservatives and nitrates are heavily used in lunch meats and others processed meats.
- Sulfites – I see sulfites used most commonly in coconut products. Unfortunately, Coconut, which is very IC friendly itself, can be an IC offender when preservatives like sulfites are used. Typically, I look for organic coconut products to ensure no sulfites are used.
While this is not an exhaustive list, I hope it gives you some guidance when selecting IC friendly foods during those bladder sensitive times. Not all IC friendly foods are created equal. While some of the above may not bother you all of the time, if your bladder is in a sensitive state or a flare, avoiding these things is a good idea. Especially, if you are struggling to come out of a flare. IC is like an injury to your bladder. So if you wouldn’t put it on an open wound, don’t ingest it into to your bladder.
Are there any hidden triggers I missed? Share them below so our IC brothers/sisters can be aware!