Urinary Tract Infections (Urethritis)

a bowl of cranberries

Urinary tract infections are the most commonly occurring bacterial infections in medicine today. About 20% of American women will experience a symptomatic UTI in their lifetime. A UTI can represent a variety of syndromes, including urethritis, cystitis (bladder infection), prostatitis and pyelonephritis (kidney involvement). They are usually caused by bacteria that enter the body through the urethra, the tube that connects the bladder to the exterior of the body. In adults, women are 50 times more likely than men to suffer UTIs, mainly because the female urethra is much longer than a man’s.

Most UTIs affect the bladder only, a condition known as cystitis. In acute uncomplicated cystitis 80 percent of women show an infection with Escherichia coli, and 5-15 percent show Staphyllococcus. The urethra (urethritis) may or may not be involved. UTIs can also be caused by Chlamydia trachomatis, Neisseria gonorrhoeae, the herpes simplex type 2 virus, vaginitis due to candida or trichomonas (yeast), or possibly parasites (worms and protozoa). In most of these cases drug (antibiotic) therapy is recommended.

In most cases the urinary tract is sterile and resistant to infection and colonization of bacteria. However, the large bowel is not sterile and bacteria from there can colonize in the bladder. The urinary tract maintains a low pH (slightly acidic environment) unlike the rest of the body. The acidic environment is caused by high concentrations of urea, which helps to kill or inhibit microorganisms.

Because it is may be the result of a more serious medical condition, it is important to seek prompt medical advice for proper diagnosis and treatment. Hygienic care should be taken, especially before and after sexual intercourse, that infection and/or re-infection does not occur.

If a UTI appears, urinate regularly and avoid holding urine for a long time. It is wise to wipe from the front to back after going to the bathroom to prevent bacteria around the rectum from entering the urethra. Cleanse the genital area before and after sex.

Diet

It has been reported that drinking 6-8 glasses of purified water daily that may help dilute the bacteria in the urine. If you are exercising or spending lots of time in the sun, 8-10 glasses is better. It is advisable to avoid caffeine, alcohol, sugar, and spicy foods that may irritate the bladder.

six glasses of water being filled

Incorporating more cranberries (cranberry juice) into your diet has proven effective as a deterrent and to decrease the recurrence of simple urinary tract infections. Blueberries contain the same beneficial components as cranberries (at lower levels) and may act similarly to prevent bacterial adhesions in the bladder. These fruits may also reduce the need for antibiotics and resulting side effects and health consequences. Try to eat more cultured yogurt to help control yeast, especially after taking sulfa drugs or antibiotics.

A Finnish study recently showed that a diet of yogurt, cheeses, and fresh berry juices can reduce a women’s risk of bladder infection (Am J Clin Nutr 70:600-604, 2003). The study found that women who drank at least 1 glass of fresh fruit juice (without artificial sweeteners) were 34% less likely to have UTIs than those who did not.

Supplement Protocol

UVA URSI (BEARBERRY) A berry that contains arbutin, giving it well-known antibacterial, antiseptic, diuretic, and astringent properties. Its antiseptic activity soothes the membranes of the urinary tract. Uva Ursi is approved in Germany for UTI treatment. Dosage: 100-200 mg daily. Caution: Do not take Uva Ursi for extended periods (no more than 3-4 weeks without seeing a qualified practitioner).

CRANBERRY Research has supported the use of cranberry fruit juice or the actual berry for simple UTIs. It appears that certain compounds in cranberry juice, as well as in blueberry juice, prevent bacteria from adhering to the bladder wall. Instead, they are washed out of the body with the urine. Dosage: Recommended dosing ranges from drinking 3-10 ounces of unsweetened, full-strength juice daily (or cranberry capsules as directed on the package) as a preventative. Acute bladder infections may require 12-32 ounces daily.

D-MANNOSE The natural supplement D-Mannose has the ability to bind to the E. coli lectins before they bind to the bladder wall. D-Mannose, therefore can keep E. coli in the urine and can be excreted, reducing the population of these infective bacteria in the bladder. It is said to be 80-90 percent effective for preventing E. coli from settling in the urinary tract within 2-3 days. D-Mannose is a naturally occurring sugar related to glucose, and is found in small quantities in pineapples and cranberries. Dosage: As directed on package.

VITAMIN C (ESTER FORM) It has been documented that higher doses of vitamin C can help slightly acidify the urine, which can be beneficial in the eradication of bacteria in the urinary tract. Vitamin C also bolsters the immune system, which aids in fighting off infection. Dosage: 1,000-3,000 mg daily as maintenance; in acute infections 500 mg of vitamin C every 1-2 hours can be taken until burning stops.

GRAPEFRUIT SEED EXTRACT Grapefruit seed has been reported to be a broad-spectrum anti-microbial that invades the bacteria in the urinary tract. Dosage: As directed on label.

BUTCHER’S BROOM An herb that contains saponins, which appear to have an anti-inflammatory and vasoconstrictor effect. Dosage: 100-150 mg 2-3 times a day.

PROBIOTICS Finnish researchers have found that migration of fecal bacteria into the urinary tract can be a source of UTIs. They suggest supplementing with probiotics, and eating more cultured yogurt. Dosage: 1-3 capsules daily for 204 weeks.

GOLDENSEAL, ECHINACEA, and JUNIPER are herbs which are an effective core element in the treatment of infections, chronic or acute, bacterial or viral. Juniper increases urine volume, which may help flush bacteria out of the bladder. Dosage: As directed by a qualified practitioner.

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Probiotics and Berry Juices May Protect Against Urinary Infection. Natural Pharmacy, October 2003. 7(5): P. 8.
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