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Dietary Products for Bladder Health

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Our environment contains a wide variety of toxic chemicals that we eat, drink, and breathe. Some of these can be metabolized by the liver, but our kidneys and urinary system get the main job of filtering them out and excreting them. The bladder may be exposed to concentrated irritants over periods of years or decades. Interstitial cystitis is an inflammatory condition of unknown etiology which may be the result of long-term environmental irritants. The main symptom is bladder pain. It mimics urinary tract infection, but does not improve with antibiotics.

A 1999 medical article proposed glycosaminoglycan deficiency as a primary cause of interstitial cystitis, as well as other inflammatory conditions including ulcerative colitis, Crohn's disease, and Reiter's syndrome. Glycosaminoglycans include chondroitin and hyaluronate. Glucosamine is one of the building blocks. These biomolecules are abumdant in both cartilage and protective layers lining the bladder and intestines. When toxic chemicals penetrate the glucosaminoglycan defensive barrier, they can cause an inflammatory response in the underlying tissue.

A 2008 study by the Tufts University Medical Center reported that CystoProtek, a dietary supplement containing glycosaminoglycans and antioxidants, improved symptoms of interstitial cystitis/painful bladder syndrome in a study of 252 patients (227 women and 25 men). The participants took 4 CystoProtek capsules per day for treatment periods ranging from less than 6 months to more than 12 months. Symptoms were evaluated using a visual analog scale with a range of 1 (mildest) to 10 (most severe). The average symptom score for both men and women decreased by approximately 50%.

The ingredients in CystoProtek are:
1. Chondroitin sulfate
2. Sodium hyaluronate
3. Quercetin
4. Rutin
5. Glucosamine sulfate
6. Olive kernel extract

Glucosamine and chondroitin are dietary supplements widely used for joint health. Hyaluronate is marketed primarily as an aid for healthy skin. Quercetin and rutin are both flavonoids used for cardiovascular health. Olive kernel extract is another antioxidant. All these ingredients are classified as dietary products by the FDA, so no prescription is necessary.

Cysto-Protek is available from Alaven Consumer Healthcare of Marietta, Georgia, at http://www.cysto-protek.com/ingredients.html. Most of the ingredients are available at local drug stores, in a variety of formulations.

by Linda Fugate, Ph.D.


Russel AL, “Glycoaminoglycan (GAG) deficiency in protective barrier as an underlying, primary cause of ulcerative colitis, Crohn's disease, interstitial cystitis, and possibly Reiter's syndrome”, Med Hypotheses. 1999 Apr;52(4):297-301.

Theoharides TC et al, “Treatment of refractory interstitial cystitis/painful bladder syndrome with CystoProtek – an oral multi-agent natural supplement”, Can J Urol. 2008 Dec.;15(6):4410-4.

Linda Fugate is a scientist and writer in Austin, Texas. She has a Ph.D. in Physics and an M.S. in Macromolecular Science and Engineering. Her background includes academic and industrial research in materials science. She currently writes song lyrics and health articles.

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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