What to eat & what not to eat if you have IC/PBS

Depending on how long you’ve been suffering from interstitial cystitis or painful bladder syndrome, you may have already realised what a tremendous impact food has on your symptoms. Trigger food can easily cause a flare up and soon you’ll find yourself grinding your teeth due to sharp pain in your lower abdomen. On the other hand, some types of food can reduce the inflammation. Nutritious food can definitely help your body become stronger and more resilient.

That is why I thought it would be a good idea to create a handy guide through different food groups. First you will find a few tips and tricks that will help you adjust your nutrition to your body’s needs without losing your mind. The good news is – you CAN have your cake and eat it too! In other words, you can adopt some habits that allow you to eat food which is beneficial for your body AND indulge in delicious meals.

Shall we get right into it?

Tips & tricks

First of all, take a good look at your current eating habits – do you eat a lot of junk food? How often do you cook at home, and how often do you eat processed meals? Do you often drink alcohol?

Controlling your nutrition is the first step to controlling your symptoms

Try to adopt some good habits when it comes to nutrition – eat real food instead of its industrially processed counterparts. Buy fresh ingredients and cook as often as you can – or eat them raw! There are so many kinds of fruits and vegetables that are delicious raw. If you’re not the greatest cook, there are some useful YouTube shows (any fans of Gordon Ramsay’s Home Cooking show?). Get the ingredients and cook along – soon you’ll get skilled enough to start experimenting and adjusting your favourite recipes.


Avoid buying produce that contains a whole bunch of preservatives, artificial flavourings, colourings, etc. By eating a variety of fresh, delicious food, you will get all the nutrients you need without the additional useless additives.

Keep a food diary – this may sound silly or outright time consuming, but keeping track of what you eat and how it affects you can help you to narrow down the ingredients that may cause you discomfort.

Use this opportunity to let your creativity flow and create a fun, colourful notebook that you can carry around. Write down everything you eat during the day – you will notice if some types of food make you feel worse or better. After a while, you’ll learn which ingredients work for you and you won’t need to keep track of every bite. But in the beginning, food diary is a useful tool.


Try to avoid caffeine and alcohol. You can replace your morning coffee with a cup of green tea, and a glass of wine during dinner with… Well, I don’t have a suitable replacement for that one. But try to stay away from alcohol and coffee for a few weeks, and see if it’s worth it.

How to use this guide

For every category of foods or drinks, you will find three subcategories –

What you can eat – this category includes foods that are usually suitable for even the most sensitive bladders. Start with these and then, when your symptoms are under control, slowly start experimenting with the second category.

What you may be able to eat – these ingredients are usually well handled by IC/PBS patients, but they may irritate some of the more sensitive bladders. Experiment with small amounts of different kinds of food from this list and don’t forget to track these experiments in your food diary.

What you shouldn’t eat – these types of food often cause bladder discomfort, so my advice is to stay away until your bladder is not sensitive any more. In general, with or without bladder problems, you should avoid produce containing:

  • ascorbic acid (citrus fruit, juices, etc.),
  • monosodium glutamate or MSG (usually present in Season All types of seasonings and processed meal boxes),
  • aspartame or saccharin (replacing sugar in some sweets),
  • artificial flavourings and colours.


What you could eat

Apples, blueberries, coconut, pears, watermelon

What you may be able to eat

Apricots, peaches, bananas, raspberries, cherries, figs, plums, mango, honeydew melon, raisins

What you shouldn’t eat

Cranberries, citrus, grapes, kiwi, nectarines, papaya, pineapple, strawberries, sour apples like Granny Smith


What you could eat

Avocado, asparagus, beans, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, corn, cucumber, greens, mushrooms, lettuce, peas, potatoes, pumpkin, bell peppers, sweet potatoes, zucchini, egg plant

What you may be able to eat

Green olives, leeks, onions, tomatoes

What you shouldn’t eat

Chilies, raw onion, pickles, tomato juice



What you could eat

Chicken, turkey, beef, lamb, pork, veal, liver

What you may be able to eat

Ham, bacon, prosciutto, sausages

What you shouldn’t eat

Cured meats, hot dogs, sausages with additives

SalmonOther sources of protein

What you could eat

Eggs, fish, seafood

What you may be able to eat


What you shouldn’t eat

Soy products, smoked fish, canned crab


What you could eat

Certain types of bread (corn, pita, potato, whole wheat), oat cereal, different grains (grits, couscous, quinoa), buckwheat or wheat flour, pastaBread

What you may be able to eat

Rye bread, instant cereal, crackers

What you shouldn’t eat

Processed and fortified bread, processed cereal with sweeteners and flavourings, boxed meals containing pasta or rice

Milk and cookiesDairy

What you could eat

Milk, cream cheese, cottage cheese, mozzarella cheddar, feta, ice cream, whipped cream

What you may be able to eat

Blue cheese, parmesan, other stronger cheeses, sour cream, yoghurt

What you shouldn’t eat

Processed cheese, citrus or chocolate ice cream, soy milk, tofu


What you could drink

Bottled water, blueberry or pear juice, milk, almond milk, vanilla milkshake, chamomile or mint tea

What you may be able to drink

Orange juice (not too acidic), apple juice (again, only if not too acidic), decaf coffee, sports drinks

What you shouldn’t drink

Alcohol, fizzy water, soda, cranberry juice, acidic orange juice, chocolate milk, coffee, energy drinks

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