Interstitial Cystitis(IC) is a painful bladder condition with frequent urination due to inflammation and irritation of the bladder wall. In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), this can be due to a number of imbalances. Because Chinese medical theory is able to differentiate IC into several different patterns, it is effective in addressing the condition utilizing herbal therapy that directly impacts the condition depending on how it uniquely presents in an individual.
These are some of the most common patterns of imbalance according to TCM. An individual is likely to have several of these underlying causes contribute to the full manifestation of Interstitial Cystitis:
Spleen Qi Deficiency Causing Interstitial Cystitis
Internal Dampness due to Spleen Qi Deficiency is a common pattern seen with IC. Frequent urination with clear urination would be indicative of this pattern. However, other symptoms of Spleen Qi Deficiency such as a pale complexion, low energy levels, dizziness, and cold limbs may also be present. Spleen Qi Deficiency is marked with loose stools, indigestion, and teeth impressions on the side of the tongue.
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The Liver can become discontent when emotional strain constricts the free flow of Qi according to TCM. With this pattern, there would be frequent urination with the feeling that you have not fully voided. Additional symptoms of Liver Qi constraints would include a feeling of distention or pain in the area of the ribs and breast, menstrual disorders, irritability, or abdominal distention and pain.
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Damp-Heat and Interstitial Cystitis
If Spleen Qi Deficiency is left untreated, Internal Dampness will begin to accumulate. If Liver Qi Stagnation persists, it will result in Heat internally. The two can combine to produce Damp-Heat with symptoms of frequent urination feeling urgent and burning or painful. Constipation, or sticky bowel movements that are difficult to expel fully may also be present.
Stomach Heat and Interstitial Cystitis
The Spleen and Stomach are paired organs and their functions are interrelated. If Spleen imbalances go on unchecked, the Stomach will eventually fall out of balance. Additionally, Liver Heat will transform in to Stomach Heat exacerbating the condition. Heat in the Stomach causes the Stomach function to speed up and food is dispersed too quickly rather than having a chance to digest fully. Additionally, the Stomach has a down-bearing function on foods and fluids; when fluids are directed down too quickly to the Bladder. Extreme hunger, frequent urination of possibly dark yellow urine, and constipation are some of the common symptoms of this pattern of interstitial cystitis.
Kidney Yin Deficiency and Interstitial Cystitis
This is one of the more common root imbalances associated with IC. The Kidney and Bladder are paired organs of the Water Element according to Chinese medicine; therefore, treating the Kidney energetic organ system treats the Bladder according to TCM. Interstitial cystitis presenting with a feeling of fever, dark urine, thirst, night sweats, and dry stools indicates an element of Kidney Yin Deficiency. Stomach Heat and Liver Heat can also be rooted in Kidney Yin Deficiency since the Kidneys are the root of all Yin of the body according to Chinese medicine.
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Kidney Yang Deficiency Causing Interstitial Cystitis
This type of interstitial cystitis would be marked with frequent, long, clear urination with dribbling at the end, urinary incontinence, lower back and knee aches, impotence, severe fatigue, tinnitus, pale complexion, and a feeling of cold in the body. Yang Deficiency is rooted in Yin Deficiency and can be tricky to address; read the Yin Yang article to fully grasp this concept.
Blood Stagnation and Interstitial Cystitis
This pattern can be serious and requires local professional health support.
This pattern can mimic a urinary tract infection, or can be seen alongside a urinary tract infection. Clearing the infection would be the first step. The most effective herbal remedy for UTI’s is a maceration of uva ursi leaf. A maceration, or cold infusion of the leaves overnight, is made with ½ cup dried leaves to 2-3 cups of water and is drunk throughout the day for 10 days.
If there is no infection and there is painful cloudy urination, possibly with blood or clots, Blood Stagnation would be indicated.