Urinary Tract Infections
No one wants one, but most women and some men have experienced a urinary tract infection (UTI) at one time or another ranging from mildly annoying to incredibly painful. People who get frequent UTIs know how much this can impact your life, and even the occasional UTI can put a dent in your ability to function. There are many natural ways to help reduce the frequency and severity of UTIs.
What are the Symptoms of UTIs?
Urinary tract infections usually develop over a short time-frame, and if you have any of the following symptoms, you should see your doctor as soon as you can:
- Pain with urination
- Cloudy urine
- Blood in the urine
- Burning with urination
- Urge to urinate without actually producing much urine
If you have lower back pain or a fever in addition to the above symptoms, it’s possible the infection has spread to your kidneys and you should go to the emergency room immediately.
What Causes Urinary Tract Infections?
UTIs are caused by bacteria that don’t normally live in the urinary tract. It was long thought that the urinary tract was sterile, but recent advances in genetic sequencing technology have proven that this is not the case. Like many parts of your body, the health of the urinary tract is dependent on the balance of good and bad bacteria in the area.
How Does Bad Bacteria Get Into the Urinary Tract?
In both men and women, the urethra opens to the outside of the body and is fairly close to the anus, where the digestive tract exits the body. Bacteria that are normally a part of the digestive tract, like E. coli, can sometimes make their way into the urethra and cause UTIs. Women have naturally shorter urethra’s than men, which translates into a higher risk of developing UTIs; the shorter length of the urethra allows for easier migration of bacteria into the urinary tract.
There are a few steps that women can take to help minimize their risk,
like always wiping from front to back (to minimize spread of bacteria after using the bathroom), peeing after sexual intercourse (to help flush out any bacteria that may have made their way into the area), and by not using pantiliners or sanitary pads for extended periods of time.
Proper emptying of the bladder is an important part of flushing out any bacteria that doesn’t belong in the urinary tract. If you compare the urinary tract to a body of water, it’s better to have a flowing river than a stagnant pool. This means going to the washroom frequently and making sure the bladder is completely empty. This can be a challenge for people with spinal cord injuries, and extra steps may need to be taken to help the bladder empty all the way.
The normal treatment for UTIs is either to watch and wait (most either clear up on their own or worsen rapidly) or to prescribe a short course of antibiotics. For people who experience frequent or recurring UTIs, maintenance antibiotic therapy is prescribed as prevention.
How Can Naturopathic Medicine Help?
Naturopathic doctors are trained in several modalities that can help with urinary tract infections. For bladder infections that aren’t bad enough to require antibiotics, herbal medicines and supplements can kill bacteria and decrease pain. For a lot of people, antibiotics don’t finish the job, and adding in naturopathic treatments can help the antibiotics work better while teaching your body how to heal itself.
Cranberry juice is a well-known natural remedy for UTIs, but only works for infections caused by E. coli. It’s important to seek medical advice if your symptoms aren’t improving with self-treatment. Sometimes adding D-mannose is enough to do the trick. Herbs like uva ursi can help with infections, and cornsilk, marshmallow, and couch grass can help soothe the bladder and urethral lining. Acupuncture is also beneficial as it helps balance out the body, reduce pain, and soothe irritated tissues.
Let us help you clean up that tract! Book an appointment today!