Urinary tract infections (UTI’s)More women than men experience UTI’s due to the anatomical position of the urethra. A woman’s urethra is relatively short and straight, and very close to the vagina and anus, where high levels of bacteria exist. Bacteria can travel easily to the urethra and bladder where they begin to proliferate, creating inflammation and the painful, burning urinary symptoms (like passing ‘razor blades’) often accompanied by pain in the lower abdomen, fever and fatigue. Other urinary symptoms may include increased urgency and frequency, cloudy or strong smelling urine or blood in the urine. Men with enlarged prostate conditions have a higher risk of developing UTI’s, particularly where there is incomplete bladder emptying. Recurrent UTI’s, three or more UTI’s in a 12 month period, are common in babies, during pregnancy and in young and menopausal women. More than 15% of menopausal women will experience frequent UTI’s as declining oestrogen levels increase alkalinity of urine and reduce elasticity of the bladder. Poorly managed UTIs may lead to impaired renal function, scarring and kidney damage over time.
Treating UTI’s assertivelyTo treat UTI’s assertively, you need to reduce the level of bacteria, pain and inflammation, boost immune function and restore healthy digestive and vaginal flora. Changes to diet and lifestyle with the addition of selected herbs and nutrients can prevent and reduce recurrent UTI’s. If the UTI is severe and lasts for more than 24-48 hours, seek medical advice.
- Diet – reduce highly acidic foods, caffeine, refined sugars and alcohol. Increase water intake, fruit and vegetables to help alkalise urine.
- Lifestyle – empty bladder completely after sexual activity, urinate often to completely empty bladder, wipe from front to back, wear natural fibre clothing, don’t use vaginal cleansing products.
- Cranberry – prevents bacteria from adhering to the bladder wall so flushes them out and helps mask urinary odours associated with incontinence. Cranberries are rich in vitamin C which helps to maintain healthy immune function. Cranberry has been shown to help prevent recurrent UTI’s and although antibiotic therapy may be slightly more effective, there is the increased risk of developing significant antibiotic resistance to several major antibiotics used to prevent and treat UTIs.
- Bearberry – urinary antiseptic with powerful antibacterial, anti-inflammatory and astringent activity that has a special affinity for the urinary tract.
- Probiotics– help maintain balanced, healthy intestinal bacteria by inhibiting the growth of unwanted intestinal bacteria to re-establish friendly intestinal bacteria. Maintaining a healthy balance of digestive and vaginal flora is essential to prevent UTI’s. Lactobacillus strains have been found to improve vaginal flora by reducing the dominance of E. coli and Saccharomyces boulardii (SB) helps to ‘crowd out’ candida overgrowth also implicated in UTI’s.