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Monday, August 31, 2015

Melatonin for Interstitial Cystitis

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Update 10/2/17: I finally saw a urologist and was scoped. He doesn't think I have IC; he thinks it's overactive bladder (OAB). I'm not so sure, and anyway the triggers are so similar it hasn't really made a difference in how I eat - still very restricted, gluten free, non-acid. The first medication he had me try was Oxybutynin, 5mg, but I had some frightening side effects - weakness and a feeling of detachment - so I stopped taking that. He gave me samples of Vesicare and Myrbetriq, but after reading about the possible side effects of those, which sounded very similar to those for Oxybutynin, I have not dared take them. Instead I started using George's Aloe Vera Juice, about 2 ounces 2-3x/day (morning, evening, before bed) and I'm sleeping longer, about 6 hours without getting up, which is amazing. I still have lots of daytime frequency, but nights are better. It tastes like plain water to me, with no bitterness, and no acidic preservatives added. I had been taking Pharm-Aloe Freeze-Dried Aloe Vera Leaf Juice capsules, which helped, but the George's is currently doing more for me. (The Pharm-Aloe capsules came in real handy when I evacuated for Hurricane Irma and couldn't take it with me!!) Also, I started taking a NOW 500mg Melatonin capsule before bed, and that really helps with sleep as well as having some bladder calming effects. (My previous dose of 3mg wasn't working for me anymore.) After about a month of 500mg nightly, I stopped taking it most nights and still get to sleep pretty easily most nights. I did have one flare, but I'm pretty sure that was because I took a supplement with orange flavoring in it.

I've struggled increasingly over the past few years with interstitial cystitis (IC), which is also known as painful bladder syndrome. For the past year or so I have had extreme difficulty getting to sleep many nights, often experiencing 4-6 hours of bladder flare / urgency / pain in spite of taking baking soda at bedtime, sleeping with cold gel packs and/or a heating pad, using a homemade "magnesium oil" spray to calm any muscle spasms, and even sometimes when I've taken Hyophen, a prescription medication. I can do all of these things the same night and still have hours of extreme discomfort and urgency, voiding every few minutes in an attempt to get some sleep. Usually by the time I'm washing my hands my bladder is already screaming at me again.

The result of this has been sleep deprivation, lowered quality of life, increased stress, and not getting to sleep until after the sun comes up. This is a frustrating waste of time, with increased back pain from lying down too many consecutive hours, and if I don't get enough sleep I drag myself through a wasted day of low quality work hours (at home, thank goodness for self-employment and the internet!)

In an attempt to get myself back on a more normal sleep schedule, I started taking melatonin. It's great for jet lag and time adjustments (daylight savings time going on and off), so I thought it might help. It did. More than I could have imagined.

I got to sleep right away the first night, after taking a 3mg Melatonin tablet that also has 10 mg B6. (Note: B6 can be problematic for some people with IC, so if you want to try this remedy you may need to find one without it.) I usually don't take that much, but that's what the store I was in had when I remembered to buy some. I took another full tablet the next night, and after that broke it in half the next couple nights, then in quarters. If I take it too long I usually feel a bit depressed. Actually, I did feel a bit depressed the first couple days - it may have tapered off as I lowered the dose or as I adjusted to taking it. Nothing major, but I'm glad that didn't continue. (In this article on the Mayo Clinic's website, it says depression is a short-term problem. They also only recommend taking it for a couple months, however WebMD reports that it "has been used safely for up to 2 years in some people." They also list possible side effects.

After a couple days, I noticed not only was my bladder less painful at night, I was not having flares, and I seem to be having less urgency and frequency in the daytime. I have been taking the melatonin for about a week now. So far so great! I've had a minor bit of pain and somewhat increased urgency since last night, with no change in diet or stress level to explain it, so I'll go back to a half tablet tonight. See if I can find the perfect amount for me - perhaps alternating between half and a quarter tablet each night.

So anyway, when I first noticed that not only was I sleeping better but also that my bladder felt better, I googled melatonin and IC. I've read about lots of remedies over the years, and tried - and still take - many. I did not recall reading about melatonin as being helpful for IC, but actually, it has been shown to be helpful in animal studies (1)(2), not only in alleviating symptoms, but also in helping protect bladder from injury in certain circumstances. (I say I don't remember reading about it before, however, I may well have and discounted the remedy because of previous experiences with melatonin and depression.)

If you have IC, and no contraindications, you might want to give this a try. Discuss it with your health care provider - it is a hormone, and there may be reasons you shouldn't take it that you might not be aware of.

Melatonin is readily available at pharmacies, grocery stores, and ye olde WalMart. And of course at a gazillion places online, a few of which are below, in case you want a specific brand, or dose, or want to have or not have other ingredients included. You can use the search below to find more - just type in melatonin. You can also add words to indicate strength, brand, or form.

Read about more research on IC.