If you’re reading this post, I’m guessing it’s safe to assume that it’s either a) because you have Interstitial cystitis or b) you know someone who has it. It could even be because you’re just curious about all things involving autoimmune diseases. Personally, when I was first diagnosed with this, I didn’t look much in to it because in the beginning, it wasn’t so bad. As time went on, though, and my symptoms slowly got worse, that’s when my eyes really opened and I realized that I needed HELP. Well, here I am years later and not only do I still need help, I want to share what I’ve already learned to help others.
IC Friendly Foods and Chocolate Isn’t One of Them
ATTENTION CHOCOLATE LOVERS: INTERSTITIAL CYSTITIS IS YOUR KRYPTONITE! Not joking either, and unfortunately I realized this the hard way. If you’re not too familiar with the specifics of this disease yet, I’m also going to say it’s safe to assume that one of the main reasons you are here is because you have a weak spot for chocolate just like I do. I mean, I love chocolate. Even after not having enjoyed its exquisiteness for so many years, I can still remember the taste in my mind. I never thought I’d be in a position like other people who had food restrictions. It’s a classic case of it’ll never happen to me. Insert exasperated sigh here. Listen, I get it. I’m literally in your shoes right now and I’m still fighting through it, but just trust me when I say that this will NOT be the death of you. As soul sucking as it feels, let me at least fill you in on the reasons why specifically chocolate is harming our bodies at the moment.
First, I feel compelled to preface this before explaining anything that when it comes to Interstitial cystitis, you need to always do your own research. This is because the information about this disease always has the potential to be updated with more accurate research. This disease is still being probed and analyzed and from my own observations, is relied upon a case by case basis. It’s never the same for each person, so take this and apply it however way you need to for yourself.
Now, if you’ve had the “pleasure” by now, you’re familiar with what flares are. If not, a flare is what happens to your bladder when something in particular induces pain or irritation. For a lot of IC sufferers, chocolate is widely known in the community as an irritant. This is due to a number of reasons: caffeine, sugar, and chemicals such as theophylline and theobromine. Science suggests that these chemicals affect your body’s renal (urinary) system, among other things. Caffeine in general is a BIG irritant to an irritated bladder, so although chocolate doesn’t necessarily have a lot of caffeine in it, it can still potentially cause you pain. Also, I haven’t seen a lot of information about sugar being considered an irritant, but I’ve personally noticed for myself that if I consume too much sugar, it irritates my bladder. Along with irritation, the distinct feeling of urgency increases, which makes you take a lot of trips to the restroom.
IC Friendly Foods – The Hunt for Substitutions
Every person with interstitial cystitis is aware of the IC diet checklist. With food, you often hit a wall and need to find substitutions for specific items. It’s a part of the new lifestyle and can be extremely hard to deal with emotionally. For starters, you have to get used to the fact that most of the foods you used to love will need to be avoided and replaced with something different. It can be hard to accept considering how much attachment we really have to certain foods. They provide us with comfort and satisfy our sense of taste. They make life enjoyable and are integral to the overall human experience for the simple fact that we literally need food as sustenance in order to survive.
I know what you’re thinking – I want to give up, how could this happen to me and my life is over. First, I need you to breathe. Do it with me now: take in a deep breath…slowly exhale. Do it again with me: another deep breath…let it fill your lungs…slowly exhale. Feel any better? Even if just a tiny bit, that will suffice. If not, stop playing games with me and do that as many times as it takes until you feel better. I mean it. It’s important because I forgot to mention to you that stress can cause you to flare too. I know, it’s a heavy burden on our shoulders, but mainly if you choose to see it that way. No over ever asks to put in situations like this but you know what, that is life. Let me rephrase that, this is your life. So tell me, what do you want out of your life? If you’re like me, you first and foremost want to be happy so to kick off the good vibes, I’m very happy to tell you that….wait for it…there’s a substitute for chocolate!!
Embrace Your Taste to a New “Chocolate”
Yes, my friend. It’s true! You’re not totally out of luck when it comes to your favorite sweet treat. Instead, for now, prepare your mind and heart to be open to something else: carob. Kinda sounds weird, right? Let me help you get familiar with it. Like you, at one time I was on the hunt for a substitute for chocolate. I couldn’t accept that there was nothing else out there and thank all that is good, there was! Until I had IC, I’d never heard of carob either and if I did, I didn’t care because pfft, why would I? It was irrelevant to me! I had chocolate! (This reminds me of the Spongebob Squarepants episode when Spongebob and Patrick were selling chocolate bars and when they got to a door, this man fish got a little overly excited. He then began to manically yell, “CHOCOLAAAATE! CHOCOLAAAATE!”) Whew, good times. Anyway, the point I was getting to was – my how things change.
Change can be bittersweet. In fact, that’s a description similar to how carob actually tastes. For me, it’s like a mashup of milk and dark chocolate. It’s truly not that bad in my humble opinion. Oh, and get this: carob is actually healthy for you too! It’s a great alternative because it has no caffeine, it’s low in fat and sugar, packed full of fiber, gluten free and contains antioxidants! How’s that for some good news! Also, this allows you to try something that you’ve likely never tried before. Trying new things can be exciting! There’s no difference with food substitutions. If you’re a cook, this is a bonus too because now you have a new ingredient to include in some of your dessert recipes. Last but not least, carob is less likely to cause you pain. It fills a void with a taste similar to what you’re used to, it’s healthy and its something that won’t hurt you in the process.
To assist in your IC chocolate recipe arsenal, I present to you a delightful chocolate candy recipe that my boyfriend created me! He has without a doubt been such a strong support system for me while willfully choosing to adjust with my nutritional needs. So much so that he often goes out of his way to find or create substitutional recipes for specific problem foods. Best of all, he does it without complaint and out of genuine love, which is so vital in a person’s journey towards healing. But enough of the mushy stuff, let’s get back to the star of the show: IC friendly chocolates! This recipe is great because it has three simple ingredients. Now, these are ingredients that I recommend but as long as you choose ingredients that are as clean and pure as possible, the better the results! Here are the ingredients that I use: unrefined coconut oil (I use this brand: Garden of Life Unrefined Coconut Oil), next is carob powder (I use this brand: Chatfields All Natural Premium Carob Powder) and last but not least, I use raw honey (I use this brand: Nature Nate’s Pure Raw Honey).
2 tbsp raw honey
3/4 cups carob powder
1 cup coconut oil
The process to making it is incredibly easy! All you have to do is melt the coconut oil, then pour the coconut oil in a bowl with honey and carob powder, whisk well until the mixture is completely smooth, pour it into your favorite mold, let it sit in your refrigerator for at least an hour and voila! Homemade IC friendly chocolates! (If you want to make it sweeter, add fresh blueberries or your fruit of choice)
The Resurrection of Brownies
You read that correctly so smile because things are looking up! As a fellow chocolate head, brownies and coffee hold special places in my heart. You can’t just eat any old brownie or drink anyone’s coffee either. It has to be special. So as you’re reading this right now, I’m telling you that you can have just as good quality carob versions of brownies. Coffee, on the other hand, I’m not even going to lie to you – it ain’t on the same level. However, because we’re keeping this positive, it’ll do. Don’t let that discourage you, though. This is going to be a rough process starting out but keep holding on!
Fortunately, carob can be available to buy as powder, chips, syrup, extract and dietary pills. I honestly didn’t even know about those last three until writing this post. See, we’re both learning! Anywho, the major key in this discovery is the fact that we have options! We have variety! We have things that we can gain to make up for the things that we have lost. Imagine if we didn’t have a substitute for chocolate. Imagine how hard that would be. On top of that, if your bladder can tolerate it, you may even still be able to have white chocolate. Long story short, white chocolate is less of a threat than regular chocolate. It still contains trace amounts of caffeine and theobromine, which can cause irritation, but if you’re a rare one, white chocolate might be your golden ticket.
There Is Hope After All
We have HOPE! I know it may seem like a dark cloud has been placed permanently above you. I know that despite all of the positive vibes and good news, it still doesn’t take away the literal pain you feel, the emotional pain, discomfort, sadness and frustration. Believe me, I’m right there with you. I still have my good days and my bad days. I’m still constantly at war with myself with the task of adjusting to whatever my body needs. It’s like it has a mind of its own. Now that I think about it, it’s like my child (Disclaimer: I have zero kiddies).
All in all, my body has become my toughest teacher and I’m trying my best to become a teachable student. I’ve learned some valuable life lessons from my body. I’m using it as a guide. For whatever reason, I’ve been given this gift and only now later in my life, I’m starting to see it’s true worth. These are some things I try to live by: no matter what this life throws at you, take it and make the best out of it. If you have to have a burning bladder, you might as well take it on the chin with a smile and figure out how to become better. You never know what you’re capable of until you put forth the effort. By the way, there may not be an FDA approved cure for interstitial cystitis, but guess what? Your body is able to heal itself. The only cure you need is YOU.
~ Jasmine Sanders