It’s not easy to forget a bad urinary tract infection (UTI). Experiencing one really is something that stays with you. When asking women about whether they have ever had one the ones that aren’t sure usually tells me they haven’t had the pleasure.
Although, it’s super common- Did you know that 25-50% of women will experience a urinary tract infection every year and 27% of them will have a relapse within 6 months of the first infection.
Classic symptoms include cloudy urine, burning pain on urination, increased frequency of urination, abdominal pain, back pain and in severe cases blood in the urine and sometimes changes in mood- mood swings, irritability, fits of rage and/or confusion.
If you ever see blood in your urine, you need to head to your GP as soon as you can. (Note: if you went to see a good Naturopath, that’s also where we would send you too.) Blood in the urine can indicate kidney damage which is irreversible, and you need antibiotics quick smart.
Before this point however, Naturopathy offers some very effective solutions for UTIs and some great interventions for prevention of relapse.
Herbal medicine has provided us with some great urinary antiseptic herbs which can kill off bladder infections very effectively. Lots of women I see have same-day relief of symptoms, which is all you could ever wish for when you have a UTI.
However, once that fire has been put out, so to speak, we need to go back and look at how we can prevent relapse.
The reason behind why women are so much more susceptible than men is mostly put down to anatomy- women have smaller urethras and therefore its more likely that bacteria like E. coli from the intestinal tract can be passed into the bladder causing infection.
In some women, UTI’s can be an indication of frequent sexual activity but in children and older populations, it’s usually due to personal hygiene.
Either way, we can see that person hygiene is a massive influencer and hygiene before and after sexual activity is really important- especially urinating straight after sex to clear bacteria from the urethra.
ALWAYS wipe front-to-back when you go to the toilet so that you aren’t wiping bacteria into your urethra- seems obvious when you think about it but it’s surprising how many women don’t do this.
Intestinal worms are another reason why some women (and young girls in particular) can never get rid of their UTIs. Pinworms are highly infectious and infect humans when the eggs, which can be deposited on any surface, are ingested and travel through the gastrointestinal tract where they hatch before moving to the colon and then exiting through the anus. If an infection is left untreated these pinworms can migrate to the urinary tract and the vagina causing infection wherever they go. Terrifying right?
Again, hygiene is important here, especially washing hands regularly, showering, cleaning under fingernails etc.
Signs of intestinal worms can include an itchy bottom (especially at night), a rash around the anus or the actual visible presence of pinworms around your vagina or in poo. If you think you may have worms, book in, there are some great herbs for killing worms too.
Most naturopathic strategies for prevention of UTIs are based around inhibiting the adhesion of bacteria to the lining of the urinary tract.
This is what cranberry does and why cranberry juice is usually the first thing people recommend- bad new: it’s not going to help if you already have an infection but if are someone that gets frequent UTIs maybe think about taking a practitioner-strength dose of cranberry.
Cranberry works by making the lining of the urinary tract super slippery so that bacteria can’t stick to the walls and create infection.
Aim for good quality, high strength, practitioner superscribed tablet rather than the juice as the juice is usually high in sugar and low in therapeutic constituents.
Something important to assess with every patient with frequent UTI’s is their general immunity- how susceptible are they to opportunistic infections?
I do this but asking someone how often they get sick, how run down are they, I ask about their diet, energy levels and stress. Diet and lifestyle practices are so influential that we can learn so much about the body but looking at what we do every day.
One example of this is chronic stress. Being in a state of constant stress- either emotional stress or just “being busy” constantly, which is a kind of stress causes a depletion in secretory IgA which is an important immune cell that lives in our mucosal membranes- the lining of our digestive systems, mouth, eyes, nose and urinary tract.
Depletion of this cell can cause a suppression of the immune system which means its less able to fight off opportunistic infections when they enter the body.
Probiotics can be great for supporting immune health via many different pathways and finding strains specific to the immune health of the mucous membranes and the urinary tract microflora can been very effective in preventing UTIs.
Overall, good hygiene is probably the biggest take home message and check in with your Naturopath or GP if you have any symptoms “down there.” Suffering in silence isn’t fun and doing round after round of antibiotics is not the best solution long term for UTIs.
To book an appointment with Jessica, phone 1300 1REMED or 1300 173 633 or book in online.