What is a UTI (Urinary Tract infection)?
Although women suffer from UTIs, or urinary tract infections, almost twice as often as men, they can cause havoc on anyone’s health. A UTI is caused when bacteria from the colon, such as e. coli, comes into contact with the urethra and then travels up into the bladder, causing an infection. Often, the bacteria can travel from the bladder to the kidneys, causing a kidney infection as well. Left untreated, a UTI can cause all kinds of serious complications. Long-lasting UTIs can cause permanent damage to the kidneys, for example.
Women are more likely to get a UTI because their urethras are shorter in length, and more likely to come into contact with harmful bacteria.
Furthermore, as women get older, the tissues of the urethra and bladder become thinner and drier, as well as after menopause or a hysterectomy. This leads to a greater chance of infection.
Symptoms of a UTI
The symptoms of a UTI are hard to miss, but sometimes you can have a UTI without knowing it, because you are asymptomatic, and the infection is called sub-chronic, meaning that your body is constantly fighting a low-grade infection without you even realizing it. However, when this happens you will often feel depleted and tired for no reason, as your body’s immune system is taxed, thus seeping away energy you could be using for other things.
The most common symptoms of a UTI are:
- An urge to urinate more often than usual
- Trying to urinate, but nothing coming out, or very little urine escapes
- Cloudy, dark or bloody urine (this usually only happens when the infection is severe)
- Pain or pressure in the lower back or abdomen
- A burning sensation when you urinate
- Feeling tired or listless even after getting a good night’s rest
Causes of UTIs
There are many things which contribute to the incidence and frequency of UTIs:
- Frequent sex – during sex the urethra may contact bacteria from the genitals or anus. Especially when having sex with a new partner, UTIs can be more common. This is because everyone caries their own type of bacteria, and your body can take some time to get used to the bacteria of another person, eventually becoming immune to harmful bacteria that may be carried on the genitals.
- Birth control pills and other birth control methods – though a surprising cause to some, birth control pills have bene linked to a higher incidence of UTIs. Also, the vaginal ring, IUDs (like Copper T) and vaginal tablets can also contribute to this problem. These forms of contraception can cause vaginal dryness, which then upsets the healthy bacteria that live in our genitalia.
- Vaginal deodorants, douches and sexual lubricants – These products only impede the growth of healthy bacteria, and can even cause bad bacteria to flourish. The body will naturally be clean and odor free when good hygiene is practiced. If you must use a lubricant for sex, consider one that is natural, and does not contain harmful chemicals which contribute to UTIs.
- Wiping improperly – women are taught to wipe from the front to the back for a good reason. This keeps bacteria from the anus from coming into contact with the vagina, and urethra.
- Antibiotic resistance – Antibiotic resistance can cause a weakened immune system that then becomes prone to all forms of infection, including UTIs.
- Autoimmune disorders – For the same reason we need our immune systems to fight any disease, anyone with an autoimmune condition (weakened immunity) will be more prone to UTIs, and kidney infections.
- Poor kidney and bladder health – (from a Chinese Traditional Medicine perspective) to be discussed below.
- Changes to the hormonal system – When a woman goes through menopause or pregnancy, her hormones may cause a change in her immunity, thus making her more prone to a UTI.
Allopathic Medicine for UTIs
The most common way to treat a UTI by most medical doctors is to prescribe antibiotics. Unfortunately, this may not be the best way to treat the issue, even for immediate relief, and certainly for long-term health reasons.
When antibiotics are prescribed, they kill not only the harmful pathogens that are causing the infection, but also kill off the healthy bacteria that line the gut, vaginal walls, and even exist along the urinary tract. One way to limit this problem is by taking probiotics (and even inserting them into the vagina) however, this natural recourse is rarely mentioned by doctors practicing purely Western medicine.
Natural Cures for a UTI
There are many natural cures for a UTI, including even plant compounds and herbs that act as natural antibiotics, antibacterial, and antiviral agents to keep us from getting any infection.
Following are some of the most straight-forward ways to attack a UTI, without compromising immunity, or suffering from serious side effects that the over-prescribing of antibiotics can cause:
Drink More Water
Water is a natural detoxifying agent. It also helps to flush unwanted bacteria from the urinary tract, kidneys, and bladder. Try to drink at least 6-8 glasses of water daily to stay hydrated, and to help prevent UTIs.
Pee When You Need to Pee
“Holding it” isn’t advisable if you want to prevent a UTI. Though we’ve all been stuck on a long road trip, unable to find a rest stop or get so busy at work, we realize we haven’t gone to the bathroom until we really need to, it is best to empty the bladder as soon as it starts to feel full. This way bacteria and other toxins can be eliminated from the body quickly and don’t have a chance to fester.
Wear Loose-Fitting Clothing
The urethra, and entrance to it needs to be kept clean and dry. Even if you practice good bathroom hygiene and wipe correctly, tight clothing like tight jeans can cause the urethra to remain wet, and encourages the growth of unhealthy bacteria.
Drink Cranberry Juice, But Without Added sugar
There is evidence that cranberry juice inhibits the growth of harmful bacteria, but adding extra sugar to our diets, encourages the growth and proliferation of the very same unhealthy pathogens. When you feel a UTI coming on, it is great to drink cranberry juice, but make sure it doesn’t have added sugar, or consider taking a cranberry supplement in the form of a powder or pill.
Eat More Garlic
Garlic is an excellent cure for just about all bacterial and viral infections. When you feel like you are getting a UTI, you can chop a few cloves of fresh garlic, and swallow them down like pills, or even make a garlic tea by boiling the garlic in some water, and then adding a little fresh lemon juice.
Lemon is a natural diuretic, and will help flush bad bacteria out of the bladder. Garlic contains allicin, a natural, sulphur compound that helps to kill even drug-resistant microbials. Other alliums (onions, leeks, scallions, etc.) are also helpful for dealing with a UTI.
Try Uva Ursi
One of the fastest methods to cure a UTI is by taking an Uva Ursi supplement. This herb has long been used to treat bladder and kidney health issues. It is even considered an excellent way to break up kidney stones. Mineral deposits, germs, and toxins inflame and irritate the mucous membranes of the urinary tract and bladder.
Arbutin, an active plant compound in Uva Ursi, neutralizes pathogens and acts as a powerful agent for the soothing of mucous membranes. Uva Ursi also reduces inflammation which can cause infection. Additionally, Uva Ursi gets rid of uric acid build up and alkalizes the body, making infections of all kinds less likely to occur.
Stress contributes to a compromised immune system. It is damaging to both types of immune cells:
B cells which produce antibodies which are released into the fluid surrounding the body’s cells to destroy the invading viruses and bacteria, and T cells which the body uses if the invader gets inside a cell, these (T cells) lock on to the infected cell, multiply and destroy it.
If these cells can’t operate as they should, you are much more likely to develop an infection.
Consult a Traditional Chinese Medicine Practitioner
Traditional Chinese Medicine has many ways of curing a UTI. According to TCM, chronic UTIs are due to lowered kidney (yin) qi. The kidneys and bladder are also paired in Chinese Medicine. So any imbalance that affects one set of organs is likely going to affect the other.
TCM will use acupuncture to help restore the lacking kidney yin qi (energy and blood flow) as well as herbs to treat the immediate symptoms of urgency to urinate, or burning when urinating. It is also suggested that refined sugars and carbohydrates can make a kidney/bladder condition worse, so it is advised to limit or eliminate them.
A UTI is an uncomfortable, but serious health concern. It should never be ignored, so that the kidneys do not become impacted by the spreading of an infection. There are many natural ways to cure and prevent UTIs, so at the first sign of one, you can be proactive to stop the problem from becoming more serious.