What Is a Urinary Tract Infection
Also known as cystitis or a bladder infection, a urinary tract infection (UTI) inflames the bladder or urethra (the tube that transports urine out of the bladder). The problem most frequently affects females; in fact, one in five women suffers from a UTI at least once a year. These infections are best treated promptly-and antibiotics may be necessary-because recurring UTIs can lead to potentially serious kidney infections.
What Causes Urinary Tract Infections
Essentially, all UTIs result from a bacterial infection. Normally, urine is sterile (germ free) when it is excreted by the kidneys and stored in the bladder; it washes out the small amount of bacteria in the urethra as it passes to the outside. But sometimes, bacteria in the urinary tract overwhelm the body’s immune defenses and multiply, causing an infection. Ignoring the urge to urinate may increase the likelihood of UTIs. In addition, improper hygiene may be a factor, as well as pregnancy (the bladder can be compressed by the fetus and is unable to empty completely).
How Supplements Can Help
|Vitamin C||Dosage: 500 mg every other hour, as tolerated.
Comments: Stop using if bowel movements become loose.
|Cranberry||Dosage: 400 mg twice a day.
Comments: Or drink 16 ounces of pure, unsweetened juice a day.
|Goldenseal||Dosage: 1 cup goldenseal tea several times a day.
Comments: Avoid if you’re pregnant. Goldenseal can also be blended with echinacea or nettle tea.
|Acidophilus||Dosage: 1 pill (1-2 billion live organisms) twice a day.
Comments: Take if your doctor has also prescribed antibiotics.
|Uva ursi||Dosage: 500 mg, or 1/2 tsp. tincture, 4 times a day for 1 week.
Comments: Buy extract standardized to contain 20% arbutin. Don’t take with vitamin C or cranberry. Avoid if pregnant.
|Echinacea||Dosage: 1 cup echinacea tea several times a day.
Comments: You can blend this herb with goldenseal or nettle.
|Nettle||Dosage: 1 cup nettle tea several times a day.
Comments: You can blend this herb with echinacea or goldenseal.
Take the recommended supplements at the first hint of burning during urination. Start with vitamin C and cranberry. Vitamin C helps acidify urine, making the bladder a less inviting environment for harmful bacteria to colonize; it strengthens the body’s immune defenses as well. Cranberry also acidifies the urine, but more important, it prevents infectious bacteria from adhering to the lining of the urinary tract. Less is known about how uva ursi works, though for some people this herb is a very effective alternative to vitamin C and cranberry (it should not be taken with those acidifying substances or for longer than a week). Any of these supplements can be used along with various anti-inflammatory and immune-boosting herbal teas made from goldenseal, echinacea, and nettle; in addition, the extra fluids help wash bacteria away.
Because some UTIs can progress to more serious kidney infections, it is important that these natural therapies be tried for only 24 to 36 hours before seeking professional advice. If an infection is confirmed, your doctor will likely prescribe antibiotics. Unfortunately, antibiotics kill harmful as well as healthy bacteria, which normally help to protect the digestive and urinary tracts. Acidophilus (which may be combined with another source of “friendly” bacteria, bifidus) is helpful specifically for those taking antibiotics because it reintroduces healthy bacteria. The other supplements can also be continued while taking antibiotics.
Other UTI Remedies
- Drink at least one 8-ounce glass of water every hour. Lots of water increases urine flow, improving the likelihood that harmful substances will be flushed from your system. If you have to urinate, don’t “hold it in.”
- Keep genital and anal areas clean and dry. Wash before and after intercourse. After eliminating, wipe from front to back; wear cotton (breathable) underwear; change into dry clothing quickly after exercising or swimming.