It starts as a twinge right after you urinate. You are not alone: more than half of all women will experience the burning urgency of a urinary tract infection (UTI) in their lifetime. Although men also suffer from these infections, the occurrence is much less frequent due to anatomical differences. For both women and men, UTI symptoms are uncomfortable, and it can be frightening to experience cloudy, bloody, and painful urination.
Because bacteria are frequently the cause of UTIs, doctors almost always prescribe antibiotics to treat the infection. Although antibiotics will knock out the bacteria, they set a woman up for two potential complications. A rebound vaginal yeast infection is likely because antibiotics destroy all bacteria, even the beneficial microbes that protect intestinal and vaginal health. The link between urinary tract and yeast infections is so well established that many doctors simultaneously prescribe antibiotics and a vaginal antifungal cream. Eradicating helpful bacteria can even set the stage for a vicious cycle of urogenital infections, leaving a woman prone to recurring UTIs and yeast infections.
The second likely complication is interstitial cystitis (IC), or chronic inflammation of the bladder wall. IC occurs if antibiotics outlast the bacteria they target and their presence inflames the bladder lining. Appropriately prescribed courses for UTIs are as short as possible to avoid this problem.
There’s a better way. Instead of relying on antibiotics, you can take a more holistic approach that strengthens your bladder against invading bacteria. You can also help prevent UTIs by implementing a few simple lifestyle practices. Learn to recognize the symptoms of a pending infection, and you can take immediate action with natural remedies.
Feeling the need to urinate frequently and urgently, painful or burning urination, a sensation of pelvic pressure, and lower abdominal discomfort are common symptoms of a bladder infection. You may also notice your urine has a strong odor, and it may appear cloudy, pink, or brown.
Most urinary tract infections are caused by the bacterium E. coli, a normal inhabitant of the intestinal tract. Eliminated from the body through bowel movements, E. coli bacteria are found around the anus. It’s a short trip from the anus to the urethra, the urinary opening through which urine passes from the body. If these bacteria migrate up the urethra into the bladder, they can cause infection.
Because women have a much shorter urethra than men, they’re far more likely to experience UTIs.
Some birth control methods also make women more susceptible to infection (diaphragms put pressure on the urethra, and spermicides alter the pH of the vagina). Many women suffer frequent UTIs at menopause because hormonal changes cause tissues to become drier and thinner, thus increasing the risk of infection.
Your body has several defensive strategies against bacterial invasion. Urine has a natural pH level that discourages bacterial growth, and normal urination washes away bacteria that attempt to ascend through the urethra. The interior of the bladder has natural antimicrobial properties, and if bacteria do begin to multiply, your immune system starts cranking out increased numbers of infection-fighting white blood cells. You can support your body’s defenses by drinking plenty of fluids to increase urine flow and by using natural substances that bolster immune response and prevent bacteria from adhering to the lining of the bladder.
You’ve likely heard that cranberry juice helps prevent and treat UTIs. Scientists have found cranberries contain a compound called D-Mannose, which helps prevent certain bacteria (E. coli) from adhering to the walls of the bladder. This means bacteria can be flushed out during urination before they multiply and cause an infection. But there’s a problem with this simple remedy: To effectively prevent UTIs, you have to drink a glass of cranberry juice every day. Most cranberry juice is highly sweetened, and sugar wreaks havoc with blood sugar levels and impairs immune function. Unsweetened cranberry juice is an option, but many people dislike the intensely sour flavor.
A better alternative to cranberry juice is a concentrated extract of D-Mannose, which is 10-50 times more potent than cranberry juice. This safe, natural remedy effectively halts the vast majority of UTIs within a couple of days and can be used for prevention as well as treatment.
Other ways to keep your bladder and urinary tract healthy are to drink plenty of fluids, especially pure water. This keeps the bladder cleansed and prevents the overgrowth of harmful bacteria. A diet rich in naturally fermented foods such as sauerkraut and kefir nourishes a population of healthy flora and protects the urinary tract from invaders. To prevent the proliferation of opportunistic bacteria, it’s essential to avoid all sweeteners, including concentrated fruit juices. If you suffer from recurring UTIs, it’s worth the effort to investigate the possibility of food allergies. A food diary can help you identify problematic foods.
Most urinary tract infections may be safely treated without antibiotics. Learning to recognize the early warning signs of a bladder infection and taking immediate action will enable you to nip urinary tract infections in the bud-the natural way
For the greatest improvement with the fewest steps, do the following:
- Stop eating all sweeteners. Sugar impairs the body’s ability to fight infection. The worst sweets are likely to be those with high-fructose content such as soft drinks.
- D-Mannose Powder. Take 1 teaspoon (adults) and 1/2 to 1 teaspoon (children) three to four times daily. Continue for two to three days after symptoms have disappeared.
- Urinate fully to clean out the bladder. Urinate whenever you have the urge, or after any time you have pressure against the urethra, and be sure it’s a generous and well-diluted urination.
- Horopito liquid herb 1:1 with Aniseed liquid herb 1:1
- Broad range prebiotics and porbiotics
Savor Helpful Foods
- Fermented foods. Sauerkraut, lacto-fermented pickles, Kombucha (see recipe), and kefir made from raw milk are rich in friendly microorganisms that encourage a healthy urinary tract. Fermented drinks like Kombucha are superior to pure water, especially in their ability to relieve thirst during or after physical exertion. Eat or drink a small portion of fermented foods at the beginning of each meal.
- Fermented raw milk or raw milk that contains acidophilus is particularly helpful for combating UTIs. To make a homemade beverage rich in beneficial bacteria, combine kefir grains with raw milk and let it sit in a warm place overnight.
- Cranberry juice is helpful only if it is unsweetened 100-percent juice. D-Mannose, the active ingredient in cranberry juice, is more effective on its own.
Foods to Avoid
- Eliminate all forms of sugar. Avoid all sweeteners, including cane sugar, dextrose, glucose, and agave syrup. Even though they are natural, avoid honey and maple syrup. All forms of sugar decrease your body’s ability to fight UTIs or any other kind of infection. Avoid all processed foods containing high-fructose corn syrup.
- Foods you are allergic to. Allergic reactions can cause swelling and inflammation in the urethra and bladder, making it much more difficult to treat UTIs. The most reliable test for food allergies is self-testing, which can help identify allergens and end the frustration of recurrent UTIs. Start by avoiding the main food groups that cause allergic reactions: dairy, gluten/wheat, soy, corn, eggs, and citrus.
- For women, urinating before and after sexual contact as well as washing vaginal and labial tissues with water before and after sexual contact can be helpful. Also urinate after any activity that puts repeated pressure on the urinary opening (e.g., sexual activity, cycling or horseback riding).
- An extremely important caveat is that IF you urinate after sexual contact and actually pass very little urine, you have opened the door to the bladder without “flushing” it. If this happens, drink a large glass of water so your next urination is a full one.
- Many women suffer from chronic urinary tract infections caused by position during intercourse. Changing positions may alter the friction on your urethra. Experiment with positions to see if this helps reduce the occurrence of infection.
- Other sexually related factors that may contribute to UTIs include chemicals in intra-vaginal spermicides, unlubricated condoms, or pressure from a diaphragm on the urethra or urinary opening.
- Drink plenty of pure water
- Never hold your urine; go as soon as possible when you feel the urge. Holding urine causes bacteria to multiply.
- Avoid scented vaginal products such as tampons, douches and sprays. These products can cause UTIs and other infections.
- Wipe from front to back after bowel movements.
- Wear cotton underwear or underwear with a cotton crotch. Synthetics hold moisture and create a breeding ground for bad bacteria.
- Never sit in a bubble bath or use soap on delicate urethral or vaginal tissues. In general, take showers instead of baths and rinse your genital area with plain water, which is sufficient for cleansing. If you choose to take a bath, make sure there are no cleanser residues in the tub.
- Don’t smoke.