It seems like the last four months at my office have been nothing but infections, and by infections, I’m referring to the urinary tract. Am I right, ladies?!
**Men, if you’re reading this and this doesn’t apply to you, it might be worth a forward to a lady in your life who is has been dealing with the dreaded UTI**
Acute UTI Identification and Treatment Steps
- Identify that you have an infection (by screaming in pain with urination, seeing blood in your urine, experiencing lower back pain, experiencing an ache in the front of the abdomen, dribbling after urination, extreme discomfort with holding of urine, increased and very frequent need to urinate)
- Get a urinalysis (this is the dipstick test) where the doctor screens for red blood cells (sign of irritation, damage of the bladder wall, infection), white blood cells (sign of infection), changes in pH (overly basic), glucose, protein, or nitrites
- Potentially have your urine cultured (to find out what kind of organism you are dealing with)
- Be administered antibiotics, typically Macrobid (here in Ontario) for the infection
- Drink lots of cranberry juice, fluids, etc.
- Infection goes away
When the infections become chronic…
One month later… repeat.
One month later… repeat.
Here begins chronic urinary tract infections…and the infection that won’t quit.
Why do urinary infections recur?
UTIs become chronic under the following conditions:
- The bacteria were able to hide in the urinary bladder walls and as a result, an antibiotic treatment did not kill of them adequately. As bacteria replicate so quickly, the next generation can be more resilient.
- The treatment wasn’t right. As so many infections are not cultured, treatment with a general antibiotic may only be helpful if that antibiotic is specific for that type of infection.
- The immune system in general has been struggling and is not strong enough on its own to support the elimination of the bacteria.
- There is a huge amount of inflammation present due to the infection that is contributing to the immune system’s inability to getting rid of the bacteria. It’s essentially creating more strain on the body.
- General hygiene. Improper wiping of the vaginal tissues after urination and defecation, as well as sexual intercourse, can lead to further infections.
- Stress. Mental or emotional.
How can we interrupt chronic UTI cycles?
If an infection becomes chronic, it almost always has several things interfering with healing. As a result, we need to do multiple things at once:
- Address bladder inflammation
Yes, you have an infection. Treat the inflammation of the bladder wall. My favourite go-to’s here are corn silk tea and nettle (in tincture and tea) as they both promote urination and reduce inflammation of the urinary tract.
- Reduce your dietary sugars
Fruit, juices, wine (alcohol), sweets, candies are all source of sugar, and sugar promotes inflammation. Cut your consumption to 1-2 servings daily while dealing with more acute portions of your treatment, and chronically no more than 3 servings daily.
- Support infection management
While cranberry juice can be supportive, it’s generally only useful for E.coli infections, and even then, the amount that would be required would be quite hard on the stomach. Cranberry just isn’t working as much as we thought for infection prevention. There are however some great things that are:
- D-mannose: A sugar that lines the bladder and urinary tract, this prevents little bacterial sticky ‘feet’ from clinging to the walls, and as a result, they can be flushed out!
- Uva-ursi: A super herb that has antimicrobial properties and is known for its ability to support the urinary tract. Herbal formulas with uva-ursi provide natural antibiotic-like action (note they are not as powerful as an antibiotic) on the urinary tract. As as preventative measure, this is an important tool.
- Goldenseal: Another anti-adhesive and infection-fighting herb (despite that it tastes a little like socks!) that is known to have activity against E.coli, Klebsiella and other urine microbes
- Echinacea: A commonly-known immune-boosting herb to get the immune system dancing and fighting back on its own terms!
- Probiotics:We need to put back in bacteria that may have been stripped from the body in fighting the infection. Acidophilus and Bifidobacterium combined formulas are good replenishing microorganisms.
Many ladies who experience UTIs become afraid to drink more water, as they are afraid of going to the bathroom. What the bladder and urinary tract need however is good circulation, and that requires water to flush out. Trying not to wait too long to eliminate the bladder is important too; no more than 2 hours to use the washroom should be the rule for infection prevention!
Chronic UTIs are really frustrating. Trust me, I know from personal experience. Once the body has the above things in place, it really can prevent the cycle from continuing. Even if you get a newer infection despite doing all of the above, make note of how long it was since the last infection, were your symptoms lessened, and how your lifestyle changes have been going. Rome wasn’t built in a day, but it will improve!