Most of the time, a urinary tract infection (UTI) is just inflammation of the bladder, normally referred to as cystitis. Symptoms include the frequent urge to urinate, a burning sensation when urinating, cloudy, strong-smelling urine and a persistent heaviness in the lower abdomen.
Nine times out of ten, it’s the result of infection by Escherichia coli, bacteria which are normally confined to the gut. Cystitis mainly affects women for reasons of anatomy: the female urethra (the tube that carries urine from the bladder out of the body) is shorter than it is in men, which makes it easier for bacteria to travel to the urinary tract. It’s worth noting that pregnancy, using a diaphragm for contraception, and tampons for sanitary protection, can all promote cystitis (1-2).
A UTI is a broad term for inflammation that affects various elements of the urinary tract. Urethritis, common in men, refers specifically to inflammation of the urethra. Pyelonephritis, a more serious problem, affects the renal pelvis and kidneys, and is one of the fortunately rare complications of cystitis. A high temperature, lower back pain and vomiting are all symptoms that require urgent medical investigation.
While medical advice should be sought in all cases, there are natural measures that can contain or prevent these incapacitating and sometimes recurring infections.
At the first sign of cystitis, get drinking! The aim is to prevent bacteria from stagnating in the bladder. Staying well-hydrated makes it harder for bacteria to stick to the bladder lining and easier for them to be eliminated via the urinary tract (3). Drink at least 1.5 litres of fluid a day in whichever form you prefer – juice, clear soups, teas …
What’s the connection between intestinal transit and UTIs? Given that cystitis is often caused by gut bacteria, it’s important that these germs do not linger too long in the anal canal, which is very close to the urinary meatus (external urethral orifice). Avoiding becoming constipated is thus an excellent way of preventing UTIs (4).
For this, you need to increase your intake of dietary fibre by eating more fruit, vegetables, pulses and wholegrains. It’s also important to be more active.
For the same reasons, always wipe from front to back after a bowel movement to prevent bacteria travelling from the rectum to the urethra.
How about trying a traditional remedy to obtain some relief? Our grandmothers used to swear by a soothing leek poultice for relieving the pain of lower urinary tract infections.
How do you make one? Cook the leeks in a large pan of salted, boiling water and allow to cool to a lukewarm temperature. Then layer the cooked leeks onto the painful area and leave for at least 15 minutes or until cold. Repeat 3 times day depending on the pain intensity.
Fed up with plain water? Introduce some variety with diuretic infusions! As well as adding subtle flavour to your drinks, they can also relieve troublesome micturition.
High on the list are teas made from artichoke, heather, cherry stem or green tea leaves (5-6). Combine with a soothing honey and thyme hot toddy for its restorative qualities.
Known rather lyrically as ‘mountain tears’, shilajit (or Asphaltum) is an organic exudate and mineral emanating from India’s high mountain rocks. Used for centuries in many traditional systems of medicine, it helps maintain good urinary function (7). So taking a good quality shilajit supplement makes perfect sense (try Super Shilajit, a purified shilajit formulation standardised to 60% fulvic acids).
Cranberries have been traditionally used by Native Americans, and by doctors since the 19th century, to support urinary health (8-9). These small, tart berries thus feature as the sole ingredient in certain supplements (like Cran Max, a cranberry extract standardised to 7.2% proanthocyanidins) or in synergistic formulations (such as U Tract Forte, an innovative supplement combining cranberry, D-mannose, bromelain, dandelion and hibiscus).
Combatting pathogens means boosting your immune defences. Some supplements thus combine zinc, which supports normal immune system function, with various plant extracts (such as Complete Uricare, containing, amongst others, extracts of angelica and pumpkin seed) (10).
Though predominantly a female problem, urinary issues can also affect men, most commonly as a result of prostate problems which impede the process of micturition. In such cases, it is a good idea to try:
These three plant extracts are cleverly combined for optimal effect in certain innovative supplements (such as ProstaNatural Formula, a cutting-edge formulation that also contains zinc and beta-sitosterols).
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