Food Sensitivities in a Diverse Nationwide Cohort of Veterans With Interstitial Cystitis/Bladder Pain Syndrome

J Urol. 2023 Jan;209(1):216-224. doi: 10.1097/JU.0000000000002938. Epub 2022 Aug 24.


Purpose: Prior studies suggest that certain foods exacerbate interstitial cystitis/bladder pain syndrome symptoms. However, these studies were limited in size and demographics. We assessed the presence of diet sensitivities among patients with interstitial cystitis/bladder pain syndrome and compared them with patients with other pelvic pain conditions and healthy controls.

Materials and methods: We identified Veterans Affairs patients nationwide by querying ICD-9/10 codes for interstitial cystitis/bladder pain syndrome. Patients were assigned to interstitial cystitis, other pelvic pain, or healthy control cohorts after chart review. We mailed all patients the Shorter-Moldwin Food Sensitivity Questionnaire to evaluate the self-perceived effects of specific foods/beverages on urinary symptoms and/or bladder pain.

Results: In the interstitial cystitis/bladder pain syndrome cohort, 70% had ≥1 food sensitivity vs 37% of the other pelvic pain cohort and 32% of healthy controls (P < .001). The average number of sensitivities were similar between other pelvic pain conditions and healthy control cohorts, which were significantly less than in interstitial cystitis/bladder pain syndrome patients. Interstitial cystitis/bladder pain syndrome patients were more sensitive to acidic, spicy foods, and certain beverages vs other cohorts (all P < .001). Within the interstitial cystitis/bladder pain syndrome cohort, Black patients had significantly higher sensitivity to alcoholic and noncaffeinated beverages than Whites. Black patients did report significantly worsened urinary urgency than Whites (P < .05).

Conclusions: In a diverse population of veterans, interstitial cystitis/bladder pain syndrome patients had significantly more food sensitivities than those without interstitial cystitis/bladder pain syndrome. This suggests that food sensitivities could be suggestive of interstitial cystitis/bladder pain syndrome, which could make the Shorter-Moldwin Food Sensitivity Questionnaire a helpful diagnostic tool and aid in distinguishing interstitial cystitis/bladder pain syndrome from conditions often confused with interstitial cystitis/bladder pain syndrome.

Keywords: cystitis; interstitial.

MeSH terms

  • Cystitis, Interstitial* / diagnosis
  • Cystitis, Interstitial* / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Pelvic Pain