What is a Urinary Tract Infection?
A urinary tract infection is an infection of the bladder or kidneys by a microorganism, most commonly bacteria. Kidney infections are much more serious than bladder infections, and you want to treat a bladder infection before it can even have the chance to progress to a kidney infection. Common symptoms of a bladder infection include frequency of urination, pain or bringing on urination, foul smelling or cloudy urine, and pain above the pubic bone. If you have a kidney infection you're likely to experience fever and/or back pain as well.
Why do women get more urinary tract infections than men?
This one has mostly a simple anatomical answer. Women's urethras (the tube that allows urine to pass from the bladder outside the body) are shorter than men's typically, allowing bacteria to climb up to the bladder and take up residence there.
What's Causing that Feeling I Hate?
E. Coli, the main culprit for urinary tract infections, climb up to the bladder through the urethra and attach to the walls of the bladder. When they grow they irritate the lining of the bladder and urethra, causing pain and burning when urinating and that feeling of needing to pee often.
Natural Treatments to Try for a Bladder Infection:
Cut out the sugar. Yep, hard I know, but this means cutting out everything with sugar, not just that teaspoon of white stuff you put on your cereal or in your coffee… and while I'm mentioning it…cutting out coffee for a while would be a good idea too. Limit the natural sugar (fruits) but don't worry about that as much as sugary treats.
Drink water! The kidneys and bladder process the fluid in our bodies, so it's especially important to up your water intake when you have a bladder or kidney infection to flush out those bacteria.
Herbal supplements: check out below for a quick description of how to use some great herbals for UTIs (check with your doc to see if any meds interfere with these).
- Bearberry (Uva Ursi)
Cranberry Juice for UTIs:
Juice is great because it it liquid and is processed by the kidneys so goes directly to the spot it needs to. HOWEVER, if you can't get pure 100% cranberry juice, studies have really shown its not worth it. Those 25% cranberryjuices have a lot more sugar or other stuff than anything else. I do think cranberry pills will work if you drink lots of water, but it wouldn't be my first choice.
History of Cranberry Use for UTIs:
Cranberry has been used for centuries to treat urinary tract infections. North American cranberry, Vaccinium macrocarpon, was historically used by North American Indians in the treatment of UTIs.
What's in Cranberries?
Cranberries are composed of water, organic acids (including salicylate), fructose, vitamin C, flavonoids, catechins, terpenoids and proanthocyanadins.
Sciency stuff…How does it work?
Affect on many types of fimbriae, but most documented is that of E. Coli strains, p-fimbriae and type I fimbriae. Cranberry seems to reduce p-fimbriae length and fructose inhibiting type 1 fimbriae. Adherence to urothelium (the lining of the urogenital tract) is needed for E. Coli to cause an infection.
- If you're sexually active, avoid sex until your infection is gone…the likelihood is that if it's bad, you may not want to go there anyways
- Don't hold your urine and void your bladder fully when you go to the bathroom! Bacteria grow in the bladder when they have urine as a medium to grow on, so voiding your bladder may be helpful
Dr. Jen Riegle is a Naturopathic Doctor (ND) who practices in Santa Rosa, CA. Dr. Jen specializes in women's health, infertility, and oncofertility. If you live in the Bay Area and would like to make an appointment, you may schedule on our website or by calling (707)-243-8998.