Cystitis Causes | What’s causing my cystitis? (2022)

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Cystitis Causes | What’s causing my cystitis? (1)
Emma Thornton
Qualified Nutritionist (BSc, MSc, RNutr)
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An introduction to interstitial cystitis

Interstitial cystitis is the chronic (long-term) inflammation of the bladder. Also known as ‘painful bladder syndrome’, it is a poorly understood condition, which presents many of the same symptoms as cystitis, UTIs and bladder infections.

(Video) Cystitis: Definition, Causes and Epidemiology – Infectious Diseases | Lecturio

However, with interstitial cystitis, there is usually no apparent infection and the exact cause is difficult to determine. This makes treating the condition very difficult. People who suffer from interstitial cystitis will experience these symptoms for long periods of time, or even their whole lives.

It affects mostly women, though about 10% of cases are men.

Symptoms of interstitial cystitis

Like regular cystitis, interstitial cystitis presents symptoms affecting the bladder, lower pelvic region and urination. These symptoms will be persistent and chronic, and can often make daily life difficult, with some sufferers needing to go to the bathroom up to 60 times a day!

Symptoms include:

  • Intense or severe pelvic pain, which can also affect the abdomen, vagina and urethra
  • A sudden urge to pee
  • A frequent need to pee, even if only a small amount comes out
  • Needing to get up throughout the night to pee – also known as nocturia.

These symptoms may get worse during the menstrual period or after eating certain ‘trigger foods’.

Possible causes

The exact cause of interstitial cystitis is not yet fully understood as it occurs without the presence of an infection.

There are several theories as to what could cause interstitial cystitis, including:

  • Damage, ulceration or scarring of bladder lining. This could be caused by previous infections, urine retention or inflammatory substances in the urine
  • A defect in bladder tissue which allows toxic substances to enter the bladder, causing irritation and inflammation
  • A problem with the nerves surrounding the bladder which causes them to send pain signals in response to normal bladder function, such as filling up or emptying
  • Weakened pelvic floor muscles
  • The immune system attacking the bladder
  • An allergic reaction to a substance in your urine.

In addition, there are a number of factors that are thought to be associated with or contribute to interstitial cystitis. These include:

  • Stress. Chronic stress can cause the body to overreact to minor situations, resulting in an extreme immune response, inflammation or an allergic reaction
  • Constipation. A full bowel can put pressure on the bladder, plus the bowel contains many toxins, so the longer it is left stagnant, the more toxins may leak into the bladder and the tissues surrounding it
  • Poor diet and an unhealthy lifestyle. These can contribute to constipation, but also to the consumption of a number of toxins and chemicals, and overall poor health
  • Thrush. It is unclear if this is a cause or a symptom, but the extra irritation and infection in the vagina and intimate area caused by thrush certainly won’t help inflammation further up the urinary tract.


Treatment for interstitial cystitis is very difficult, as the cause is not fully understood, so it is not clear exactly what to treat. Interstitial cystitis is not caused by infection, so antibiotics don’t help.

In some cases, conventional medicine may help if there are strong suggestions towards a cause. This could include prescription drugs such as anti-histamines to calm an allergic reaction, or medication that can help heal the bladder lining or relax the bladder muscles. Some surgeries are also possible, such as surgery to heal ulcers, remove inflamed or damaged parts of the bladder, or to insert an electrical implant to reduce pain and the urge to pee.

Unfortunately, these are not effective for everyone, as an exact cause can rarely be identified. In this case, lifestyle changes can help relieve symptoms. These include:

  • Keeping a food diary to try and identify if your symptoms worsen after certain foods. Common trigger foods are caffeine, alcohol, tomatoes or spicy food
  • Reducing stress. Try our stress management tips, or try a stress herb such as AvenaCalm or Stress Relief Daytime
  • Reduce the amount of toxins and chemicals you consume. This includes switching to organic foods, cutting out processed foods, alcohol and recreational drugs and quitting smoking. Did you know that, according to Cancer Research UK, when a cigarette burns it creates over 5,000 different chemicals, over 70 of which are known to cause cancer? Just imagine how irritating they must be to your bladder if they end up in your urine!
  • Adjusting your diet. Many of the dietary tips for cystitis may also help interstitial cystitis: reduce your intake of refined sugar, increase your intake of fresh fruit and vegetables and increase your intake of complex carbohydrates like brown rice, brown bread and quinoa
  • Increase your intake of water. This helps to keep the urine less concentrated and less irritating to the bladder – and this can actually stop you peeing so frequently, as sometimes the irritation caused by strong, acidic urine can trigger the urination response, even if your bladder isn’t full
  • Eat plenty of fibre-rich foods such as seeds and nuts to keep the bowel moving regularly – at LEAST once a day. Try Linoforce granules 12 years plus for short-term relief of occasional constipation.
  • You should consider bladder training, which helps the bladder re-learn how to function correctly. Speak to your doctor about this, as it has to be done safely to prevent urine retention or the development of infection
  • Prevent thrush by taking a probiotic such as Optibac, as well as a prebiotic such as Molkosan to create a healthy environment for good bacteria to thrive
  • Painkillers such as Paracetamol can help reduce pelvic pain, but I don't recommend using these for long-term treatment. Instead try acupunture or warm compresses, and save the paracetamol for sudden flare ups!

Are there any herbal remedies to help?

Unfortunately, as the causes of interstitial cystitis are not fully understood, it is difficult to recommend any herbal remedies for the condition itself.

However, I can suggest trying Uva-ursi, which some women have reported being helpful for this condition. It is unlikely to treat the condition itself but may provide relief from some of the symptoms.

(Video) Cystitis – Infectious Diseases | Lecturio

To support your urinary tract more generally I would recommend Golden Rod tea. This also contains Knotgrass, Birch, Horsetail and Wild Pansy, which are all great for urinary tract health. A couple of cups a day helps to detox the kidneys and urinary system, so may provide some help for interstitial cystitis.

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When to seek medical advice

If you begin to experience the symptoms of cystitis more regularly, or even permanently, and they don’t disappear with regular cystitis treatment, it is time to visit your GP. They can run a number of tests including ultrasounds and urine analysis to rule out any other causes.

(Video) What Causes Cystitis?

If you are male and experiencing these symptoms, you should also consult your GP as you are likely suffering from an enlarged prostate.

Where to buy Uva-ursi and Echinacea tincture locally

Looking for a solution to relieve symptoms of cystitis?

Look no further. Our Uva-ursi and Echinacea tincture is a licensed herbal remedy used to relieve symptoms of cystitis in women.

To find local independent stores in your area that sell Uva-ursi and Echinacea tincture, simply type your postcode below.

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Did you know?

Cystitis is sometimes known as ‘honeymoon cystitis’. Why? Well, during sex, bacteria can spread from the perineum to the urethral opening. The risk of developing cystitis is therefore increased depending on the frequency you have intercourse (sorry honeymooners!).

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Cystitis Causes | What’s causing my cystitis? ›

Cystitis is usually caused by bacteria from poo getting into the tube that carries urine out of your body (urethra). Women have a shorter urethra than men. This means bacteria are more likely to reach the bladder and cause an infection.

What is the main cause of cystitis? ›

Cystitis is inflammation of the bladder, usually caused by a bladder infection. It's a common type of urinary tract infection (UTI), particularly in women, and is usually more of a nuisance than a cause for serious concern.

What does it mean if you keep getting cystitis? ›

Cystitis is the term used for the inflammation of the bladder, and this inflammation is most commonly caused by a bladder infection. Some people are naturally just more prone to developing cystitis without any real cause.

What is the fastest way to get rid of cystitis? ›

Antibiotics have been shown to be fast and effective in treating uncomplicated cystitis. The pain and burning usually get better within one to three days and then go away completely a short time later. But sometimes antibiotics aren't needed at all.

What foods should you avoid if you have cystitis? ›

Coffee, soda, alcohol, tomatoes, hot and spicy foods, chocolate, caffeinated beverages, citrus juices and drinks, MSG, and high-acid foods can trigger IC symptoms or make them worse.

Why is my cystitis not going away? ›

See a GP if: you think you have cystitis and your symptoms have not gone away within 3 days. your symptoms have not gone away after treatment with antibiotics. you have severe cystitis symptoms, such as severe pain in your lower tummy.

How can I prevent cystitis recurrence? ›

  1. Drink plenty of liquids, especially water. ...
  2. Urinate frequently. ...
  3. Wipe from front to back after a bowel movement. ...
  4. Take showers rather than tub baths. ...
  5. Gently wash the skin around the vagina and anus. ...
  6. Empty your bladder as soon as possible after intercourse.
May 14, 2020

How can I prevent recurrent cystitis? ›

Peeing immediately after sex will flush any bacteria that may be knocking around out from the urethra, and help prevent cystitis.

What is the best thing to drink for cystitis? ›

Drink more fluids, such as water, to help flush out the infection. Put a warm hot water bottle on your lower tummy to help ease any discomfort. Try to rest as much as possible. Don't drink too much caffeine (e.g. in tea and coffee), alcohol or acidic drinks (e.g. fruit juices), as these may make your symptoms worse.

Can cystitis be caused by stress? ›

Stress can also cause symptoms of a chronic urinary condition called interstitial cystitis (IC) to flare up.

Do bananas help with cystitis? ›

Here are a few foods that are considered less bothersome, according to the Interstitial Cystitis Association of America (5): Fruits: bananas, apricots, blueberries, dates, melons, prunes, pears, raisins. Vegetables: avocados, asparagus, broccoli, beets, eggplant, peas, mushrooms, spinach.

What foods help heal cystitis? ›

  • Cranberry. Cranberry is very effective in preventing bacteria. from sticking to the bladder wall. ...
  • Calcium. High levels of calcium can increase the adherence of. bacteria to the urinary tract and lead to infection. ...
  • Lactobacillus or acidophilus yoghurt. Live yoghurt cultures.

Is yoghurt good for cystitis? ›

DO eat probiotics — plain Greek yogurt and fermented food such as sauerkraut and pickles. They contain “good” bacteria that can help keep the bad bacteria at bay. DON'T eat a lot of acidic fruit, such as oranges, lemons or limes during the infection. They can irritate your bladder.

Does cystitis show in urine test? ›

If you have symptoms of cystitis, talk to your doctor as soon as possible. In addition to discussing your signs and symptoms and your medical history, your doctor may recommend certain tests, such as: Urine analysis.

Can you get rid of cystitis without antibiotics? ›

Antibiotics are the only effective treatment for persisting bacterial cystitis, and you should start feeling better within a day or two of taking them. They need to be prescribed by a doctor, who will be able to work out the right course for you – a common one is nitrofurantoin.

What is the difference between a UTI and cystitis? ›

UTI may occur in the bladder, but also may occur in the kidneys or ureters. UTI is bacterial (usually Escherichia coli). Cystitis is bladder inflammation, which may be caused by a bacterial infection, but may also be caused by immune dysfunction or other root causes.

What is the prognosis for cystitis? ›

Approximately 50% of patients with acute uncomplicated cystitis will recover without treatment within a few days or weeks. If left untreated, some patients with cystitis may progress to develop recurrent infection, pyelonephritis, hematuria, and rarely renal failure. Prognosis is generally good.

Can chronic cystitis be cured? ›

Since there's no known cure for chronic cystitis, treatment plans work to relieve symptoms and improve the daily life of a person with cystitis. Lifestyle changes, medication, or physical therapy are among the recommended treatment options. Doctors also suggest keeping track of when your symptoms flare up.

Do probiotics help with cystitis? ›

Best Probiotics for Cystitis

Clinical trials have shown that a number of strains of Lactobacillus are particularly effective at helping to support vaginal health in those with female intimate health problems such as cystitis.

What will a urologist do for recurrent UTIs? ›

Bacteria are the cause of chronic, or recurrent, urinary tract infections. However, you can work with your urologist to develop a plan to avoid them. We will prescribe antibiotics and give lifestyle changes to prevent further urinary tract infections.

Can dehydration cause cystitis? ›

Bladder inflammation: Because dehydration concentrates the urine, resulting in a high level of minerals, it can irritate the lining of the bladder and cause painful bladder syndrome, or interstitial cystitis. Frequent, urgent urination and pelvic pain are common symptoms.

How do you fix cystitis? ›

Antibiotics are the first line of treatment for cystitis caused by bacteria. Which drugs are used and for how long depend on your overall health and the bacteria found in your urine. First-time infection. Symptoms often improve significantly within a day or so of antibiotic treatment.

Is cystitis an STI? ›

Cystitis isn't a sexually transmitted infection (STI), but the bacteria that cause it can get into your bladder when you have sex. Some sexually transmitted infections, such as chlamydia, can cause similar symptoms to cystitis.

Why won't my cystitis go away? ›

See a GP if: you think you have cystitis and your symptoms have not gone away within 3 days. your symptoms have not gone away after treatment with antibiotics. you have severe cystitis symptoms, such as severe pain in your lower tummy.

Can cystitis be caused by stress? ›

Stress can also cause symptoms of a chronic urinary condition called interstitial cystitis (IC) to flare up.

What is the best medicine for cystitis? ›

The first-choice treatment for cystitis is an antibiotic called Nitrofurantoin. This must be prescribed, and you can request this through our service. Mild symptoms of UTIs can clear up on their own within a few days. You should drink plenty of water and refrain from sexual intercourse during this time.


1. Bladder infection - Causes and treatment
(Healthchanneltv / cherishyourhealthtv)
2. Antibiotic Awareness: Urinary Tract Infection (UTI), Cystitis or Bladder Infection
(Washington State Department of Health)
3. Urinary Tract Infection - Overview (signs and symptoms, pathophysiology, causes and treatment)
(Armando Hasudungan)
4. What causes cystitis?
5. Urinary Tract Infection Nursing NCLEX | UTI Symptoms Treatment Cystitis, Pyelonephritis, Urethritis
6. Symptoms of Cystitis

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