Spicy foods worsen chronic bladder condition

October 9th, 2008 - 4:47 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, Oct 9 (IANS) Enjoying a piece of pepperoni pizza has painful consequences for a million women in the US, whose chronic bladder condition causes pelvic pain. During such a flare-up, the pelvic pain is so intense some women administer a local anaesthetic like lidocaine directly into their bladders via a urinary catheter to get relief.

Patients typically also feel an urgent need to urinate up to 50 times a day and are afraid to leave their homes in case they can’t find a bathroom.

Researchers from Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine believe these symptoms are actually being provoked by spicy foods that irritate the large bowel, as an animal study has shown.

Spicy foodstuffs and caffeine, tomatoes and alcohol can cause a flare-up in their symptoms and intensify the pain. It was thought that digesting foods produced chemicals in the urine that irritated the bladder and produced these symptoms.

The idea opens up new treatment possibilities for “painful bladder syndrome”, or interstitial cystitis, a condition that primarily affects women (only 10 percent of sufferers are men), according to a Northwestern University press release.

The paper was published in the September issue of Nature Clinical Practice Urology.

“This disease has a devastating effect on people’s lives,” said David Klumpp, principal investigator and assistant professor of urology at the Feinberg School. “It affects people’s relationships with family and friends.”

Klumpp said some women who suffer from this become so depressed, they attempt suicide. He worked on the study with Charles Rudick, a postdoctoral fellow at the Feinberg School.

Northwestern researchers believe the colon’s central role in the pain is caused by the wiring of pelvic organ nerves. Nerves from this region — the bladder, colon and prostate — are bunched together like telephone wires and plug into the same region of the spinal cord near the tailbone.

People with interstitial cystitis have bladder nerves that are constantly transmitting pain signals to the spinal cord: a steady beep, beep, beep.

But when the colon is irritated by pepperoni pizza or another type of food, colon nerves also send a pain signal to the same area on the spinal chord. This new signal is the tipping point. It ratchets up the pain message.

“It was known that there was cross talk between organs, but until now no one had applied the idea of how pain signals affect this real world disease, how the convergence of these two information streams could make these bladder symptoms worse,” said Klumpp.

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