Dealing with bladder control problems

Good to Go

It’s a condition that most people would rather not discuss. But if you’re one of the 13 million Americans who suffer from urinary incontinence, any discomfort in talking about the problem is probably a minor issue compared to your need to find a safe and effective treatment.

Which brings us to this recent question I received from an HSI member named Donald: “Can you advise me on the treatment for interstitial cystitis?”

There are many different causes of bladder control problems, including prostate enlargement, bladder stones, urinary cancer, and neurological disorders like multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s disease. Another cause is interstitial cystitis (IC), defined as chronic inflammation of the bladder, resulting in difficult and/or painful urination, increased urgency, and increased frequency of urination. By some estimates, as many as one million people (about 90 percent of them women) suffer from this problem.

To answer Donald’s question about IC I’ll borrow some helpful information from a July 2003 HSI Members Alert article written by Jennifer Arnold.

Coffee and cabbage

In the introduction to her article Jennifer noted that, according to conventional medicine, the cause of IC is unknown. And with no known cause, conventional medicine also offers no cure. But there might be a nutritional solution.

Jennifer writes: “For years, there’s been a growing body of anecdotal evidence to suggest that something very basic may be behind many of these unexplainable and incurable bladder problems. Something we all take into our bodies every day: our food and drink.

“Many people report that certain foods and beverages exacerbate their bladder control problems – particularly people with diagnosed IC. And the foods that seem to cause the most problems are those that are highly acidic: tomato-based foods, cabbage, coffee, tea, soda, fruits, fruit juices, beer and wine.

“At first glance, it seems like such a simple solution to such a troublesome problem. But when you think about the reality of eliminating many of your favorite foods from your life forever, you can’t help but want a better way.”

Proactive relief

In the Members Alert article, Jennifer looked at a product called Prelief, which has been clinically proven to reduce painful symptoms in people diagnosed with IC. The active ingredient in Prelief is calcium glycerophosphate, a dietary mineral that combines calcium and phosphorus in a 1:1 ratio. When it’s added to acidic foods, the mineral helps neutralize the pH level of the foods.

Jennifer added these details about research: “According to studies conducted by the manufacturer, calcium glycerophosphate significantly reduced the acid level of common foods and beverages. With one tablet, the acid in an eight-ounce glass of iced tea was reduced 99 percent; a six-ounce cup of coffee was reduced 95 percent; and an eight-ounce cola was reduced 98 percent. Three tablets reduced the acid in a four-ounce glass of chardonnay by 80 percent and the acid in a 1/2 cup of bottled pasta sauce by 60 percent.

“Urologists at Graduate Hospital in Philadelphia, PA, studied the effects of the mineral-based supplement on more than 200 IC patients. When using it, 61 percent of the participants reported a reduction in urinary urgency, and 70 percent experienced less pain and discomfort when eating acidic foods. Another study presented to the Quebec Urological Association in 1998 tracked the results of the supplement on 200 IC patients. Using visual analog scales to assess pain severity and urge intensity, participants reported significant relief in both areas after using the formula for four weeks.”

Prelief users say that the product doesn’t change the taste of most foods; if anything, you may detect a slight mellowing of the food’s “bite” due to acid reduction.

Works on the food

In the two studies detailed above, no adverse side effects were reported. But in the Members Alert article, Jennifer noted this concern raised by HSI Medical Advisor, Marty Milner, N.D.: “Dr. Milner explained to me that there’s still a possibility that this compound may reduce the level of hydrochloric acid in your stomach and your ability to digest protein and dietary forms of calcium.”

According to representatives for AkPharma (the manufacturer of Prelief), their product “works on the food, not on the person.” Nevertheless, Dr. Milner advises anyone trying this product to do so with discretion, on an “as needed” basis.

You can find more information about Prelief at And HSI members can read Jennifer’s complete article by searching the Members Alert archives on our web site at

“Learn what may be causing your bladder control problems – and what you can do about it” Jennifer Arnold, HSI Members Alert, July 2003,