14 September 2016

Let's Talk About Bladders!

Hey, ladies! I realize this might be an awkward post, but I want to share what recently happened to me in the event that it might help someone else. Remember (as if there were any doubt!) that I'm not a doctor, nor do I play one on TV, and this is not intended to be medical advice. I'm just sharing my experience with you!

Everyone knows that your bladder can be affected by things you DRINK, but did you know that it can also be sensitive to things you EAT? I certainly had never considered that fact...at least not until recently. Here's what happened to me, and maybe it's happened to you, too!
Last fall I was suddenly hit with what I thought to be a bladder infection. If you've ever had one, you will never forget those uncomfortable symptoms! It hit so hard that I sent Spouse to the grocery store late at night on a cranberry juice run. I knew from past experience that with enough cranberry juice, I might be able to stop this bladder infection in its tracks.

Long story short: The cranberry juice didn't work. By the time I went to the doctor a few days later, I was a miserable mess. 

When being tested for a bladder infection, the doctor's office will require you to provide a urine sample. I was 100% confident that as soon as the test results came back, I'd get my antibiotic and be on my way to recovery. 

But there was no sign of infection. My urine, they said, was perfect! On a different day, I might have been excited to hear that news but at that moment, I WANTED MY ANTIBIOTICS! I was sent home with nothing. No answers, no medication.

Even longer story short: This story repeated itself over the next few months. I went back to the doctor's office two more times with what I KNEW to be a bladder infection, each time testing negative. In between visits, the symptoms would improve, then get worse again, at which point I would drink more and more cranberry juice.

In spite of the negative test results, I still believed I had some kind of Secret Undetectable Bladder Infection. Since I couldn't get antibiotics to fix it, I was sure that if I could just drink enough cranberry juice, that would eventually solve the problem. 

Remember the Blueberry Girl from Willy Wonka? I was headed in this direction...turning myself into a CRANBERRY!

Then I discovered cranberry supplements. I decided I'd add these to my cranberry juice regimen. (NOT THE BRIGHTEST IDEA I'VE EVER HAD)
You may not be surprised to learn that after a few weeks on my Extreme Cranberry Program, I developed shooting pains in my bladder. I went back to the doctor who recommended that I go to a urologist to rule out REALLY BAD STUFF.

As the doctor talked me down from my panic attack, she mentioned a condition called interstitial cystitis. So before making an appointment with the urologist who I knew would tell me I was dying, I thought I'd look it up. 

BINGO. Every symptom matched. This condition mimics bladder infection...without the infection. And it can be managed in most cases by avoiding acidic foods and drinks.

Here's the gist: In women of a certain age, fluctuating hormones produce changes in the lining of the bladder, making it thinner and more "irritable". Foods and beverages that didn't irritate the bladder before can suddenly begin to do so. Anything acidic -- coffee, grapefruit, CRANBERRY JUICE, tomatoes, yogurt -- can cause the bladder to feel irritated and painful. Even bananas can cause irritation, not because they're acidic but because of the potassium they contain.

 The list of food culprits includes just about everything I was eating! On a daily basis, I was consuming coffee, yogurt, at least two bananas, many glasses of cranberry juice, cranberry supplements, and a variety of other acidic goodies. Cranberry juice really DOES work for bladder infections, but it's one of the worst things you can drink if you're suffering from an irritated bladder.
No wonder I was in such a mess! My poor bladder was obviously in a state of high irritation.

I decided to modify my diet to see if that would help. After eliminating or reducing these foods and increasing my water intake, the shooting pain subsided and my symptoms improved substantially. After several weeks of modifying my diet, they completely disappeared. Of course, too much coffee can still cause a bit of discomfort, but I've found that drinking plenty of water will generally help.

Do I think I actually have interstitial cystitis? I don't know, and only a urologist could tell me that. But reducing my acidic food and beverage intake solved the problem, and that's really all I cared about! I reported this happy outcome to the doctor on my next visit.

I'm willing to bet that I'm not the only woman "of a certain age" who has experienced this. If you've had the symptoms of bladder infection without the infection, try reducing your intake of acidic foods and beverages. It worked for me!

As for the cranberry juice, I only use a splash of it now and then to make a cosmopolitan! :)



Jill Morgenstern said...

Oh dear! Glad you're feeling better and figured out how to get rid of it!

Janet said...

Thanks, Jill! We're all good now! To think I did all this to myself...LOL