Doctors may recommend that people with interstitial cystitis avoid foods that can trigger symptoms. This includes foods and beverages that are acidic, spicy, or high in alcohol.

Interstitial cystitis is a chronic condition that causes pelvic pain and issues with bladder movement.

Experts do not know the exact cause of interstitial cystitis or how many people it affects. Factors that may play a role in its development include inflammation, autoimmune disorders, and scarring of the bladder. However, the exact cause may also vary depending on the individual, and multiple factors may contribute to the condition.

For this reason, no single diet will suit everyone with interstitial cystitis, but certain foods may trigger or worsen symptoms and flare-ups for some people.

Health experts recommend that people who experience worsening interstitial cystitis symptoms after eating a particular food eliminate it from their diet to help improve their symptoms. They also recommend keeping a food diary and for people to speak with a healthcare professional about their diet.

This article discusses a range of foods a person with interstitial cystitis may consider avoiding. It also explores foods that people with interstitial cystitis may be able to include in their diet.

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Research suggests that consuming some acidic fruits may alter the typical pH level of urine, increasing its acidity. Urine with a lower pH than usual may irritate the walls of the bladder. Lower pH levels indicate acidity.

The following fruits are acidic and may worsen interstitial cystitis symptoms:

Learn more about citric acid.

As with some fruits, a person may also need to limit or avoid consuming some vegetables if they affect symptoms of interstitial cystitis.

According to the Interstitial Cystitis Association (ICA), the following vegetables may aggravate a person’s symptoms:

Learn more about good and bad acidic foods.

If a person has a milk allergy or lactose intolerance, their interstitial cystitis symptoms may worsen when they drink milk and eat dairy products.

According to the Urology Care Foundation (UCF), people with interstitial cystitis may consider avoiding:

  • chocolate ice cream
  • processed cheeses
  • soy products
  • yogurt containing lime, lemon, orange, or chocolate

According to a 2020 study, the ingredients in certain beverages may irritate the bladder. They can excite the local nerve endings and sensitize the pain receptors in the bladder.

Certain fruit juices, such as pineapple, orange, and grape juice, are acidic and may worsen interstitial cystitis in the same way as acidic fruits.

People with interstitial cystitis may need to limit their consumption of:

Some spices and condiments in cooked foods may trigger interstitial cystitis symptoms after exciting the nerve endings in the bladder, possibly causing irritation.

Foods containing some spices and condiments may not be helpful for people with interstitial cystitis. Some examples include:

  • chili
  • vinegar
  • ketchup
  • soy sauce
  • horseradish
  • salad dressings
  • Worcester sauce

Foods containing artificial sweeteners, including added and refined sugar, may trigger or worsen interstitial cystitis symptoms.

Many products contain artificial sweeteners and additives such as monosodium glutamate. Examples include:

  • candies
  • cakes
  • ice cream
  • baked goods
  • protein powder
  • sweetened drinks
  • processed meats
  • fast food

Foods and drinks that trigger interstitial cystitis symptoms vary between individuals. People with interstitial cystitis should speak with a healthcare professional to assess their diet and identify what may be triggering their symptoms.

The ICA notes that people with comorbidities, such as irritable bowel syndrome and constipation, may need to consider additional dietary modifications. A doctor or dietitian can evaluate a person’s symptoms and support them with making beneficial nutritional choices.

According to the ICA and UCF, a person with interstitial cystitis may be able to include the following foods and beverages in their diet:

Interstitial cystitis is a chronic condition that can cause significant discomfort. Certain foods and beverages in a person’s diet may trigger or worsen their symptoms.

A healthcare professional can help a person identify and avoid foods and drinks that trigger interstitial cystitis symptoms so they may better enjoy their meals. People can also speak with a healthcare professional for further guidance about interstitial cystitis.