Urinary Tract Infections: Prevention & Treatment With Natural Remedies

Monday, December 18, 2006 - 11:00am

By Wendy Hodsdon, ND

Most women will experience at least one bladder infection in their lifetime. Approximately 10-20% of women experience them once per year or more. A urinary tract infection (UTI) is any infection affecting the kidneys, bladder, or the tubes urine travels in. Bladder infections are most common; 90% of the time they are caused by E.coli, a bacterium commonly found on the skin and in the digestive tract.

What is a Urinary Tract Infection (UTI)?

Symptoms of a UTI include burning pain with urination; frequent urination; cloudy, dark or strong smelling urine; and pain or pressure in the lower abdomen. A doctor can confirm the diagnosis by doing a urine dipstick to look for white blood cells and nitrites in the urine, which indicate the presence of bacteria. A urine culture can identify the type of bacteria causing the infection. Conventional medical doctors usually treat UTIs with antibiotics. While this is usually effective in the short run, it can cause an imbalance in the normal, good bacteria in the urethra and vagina that protect against frequent infections. Natural therapies are a good alternative to antibiotics and can prevent recurrences.

Causes Of Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs)

Urine is generally sterile until it travels from the bladder through the urethra and out of the body. The acidity of urine and the coating of the bladder usually prevent bacteria from growing there. However, occasionally the bacteria that grow in the urethra can ascend into the bladder where they cause an infection. Urine flow also helps to wash bacteria out of the urethra. When an infection starts, the body makes white blood cells to fight the infection very quickly.

UTIs are usually caused by pregnancy, sexual intercourse, mechanical trauma or irritation, or some kind of structural abnormality that blocks the free flow of urine. To reduce the chance of a UTI, urinate after sexual intercourse to flush the bacteria out of the urethra. Wearing tight synthetic clothing also can irritate the urethra. Loose-fitting clothing or skirts and cotton underwear help to reduce irritation.

Dietary recommendations for UTIs

  • Drink water. To prevent UTIs, drink lots of pure water. This will increase the flow of urine and flush bacteria out of the urethra and bladder. Another suggestion is to drink herbal teas and diluted vegetable juices.

  • Avoid sugar. During an acute or chronic infection, avoid consuming sugar and refined foods to help your immune system work optimally. Bacteria use sugar in the blood as food. This is one reason that diabetics and pregnant women have more frequent urinary tract infections.
  • Drink cranberry juice/eat cranberries. Cranberries and cranberry juice are particularly beneficial in treating UTIs because they prevent bacteria from sticking to the bladder’s walls. Drink unsweetened cranberry juice, use Stevia to sweeten the juice, or take cranberry capsules to have the best effect.
  • Identify and avoid food allergies. One of the symptoms of food allergies is frequent urinary tract infections. Identifying and avoiding your food allergies can help your immune system work more efficiently and can decrease the inflammation in your body.

Natural therapies to treat UTIs

In addition to these dietary suggestions, high doses of vitamin C can change the pH of urine and stimulate the immune system. Bioflavonoids and zinc are both nutrients that assist the immune system to function more effectively. Herbs such as Uva ursi and Oregon grape root both work as natural anti-microbials to slow bacterial growth. Pregnant women should consult a naturopathic doctor before taking any herbs.

Conclusion: natural remedies can help the body to prevent UTIs

The goal of natural therapies is to improve the body’s natural defenses against infections. This includes enhancing the flow of urine and inhibiting the growth of bacteria in the bladder through changing the urinary pH and keeping the bacteria from attaching to the bladder wall. As always, speak with your doctor if your symptoms get worse, if back pain develops, or if you see blood in your urine. Antibiotics may be indicated in these cases and can prevent a more serious kidney infection. In the case of chronic infections, your doctor can help identify the underlying cause to prevent frequent recurrences.