Chances are, you’ve experienced the unpleasantness of a urinary tract infection: that urge to pee every 15 minutes, along with the associated awful burning sensations, and those razor sharp pains. Then, possibly, there’s the sheer terror of seeing blood appear in your urine. Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are absolutely no fun, and if left untreated, they can become extremely dangerous. Fortunately, there are a number of simple, easy-to-use, natural UTI home remedies that can ease your symptoms and speed your recovery.
BURNING TRUTH ABOUT URINARY TRACT INFECTIONS
Approximately 1 in 3 women will have at least one diagnosed UTI by age 24; and half of all women—50 to 60 percent—will experience at least one UTI in their lifetime.
In fact, UTIs are the second most common type of infection in the body. According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disease, Urinary tract infections account for about 8.1 million visits to health care providers each year in the United States. Direct cost of treatment is estimated at $1.6 billion annually. If left untreated, UTIs can result in septicemia, which can lead to death.
The bacterium Escherichia coli (E. coli), found in the bowels, is what causes the vast majority of UTIs.
“A three-fold increase has been reported in the prevalence of extended-spectrum beta-lactamase (ESBL) producing E. Coli in hospitalized patients with UTIs over approximately a decade from 2000 to 2009,” says Dr. Mamta M. Mamik, Assistant Professor of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Science at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York.
The bacteria Staphylococcus Saprophyticus causes 10-20 percent of urinary tract infections, and usually occurs within 24 hours of having sex, earning this infection the endearing nickname “honeymoon cystitis.” Saprophyticus has the capacity to selectively adhere to human urothelium.
Making matters worse, recurrences are common—after having one UTI, about 20 percent of young women will have another infection. Some women have three or more UTIs a year. That was me. Now, multiply that off and on over 16 years. Until I developed my own regimen.
The risk factors for UTIs include female anatomy, sexual intercourse and family history (my grandma’s UTIs were legendary). A female’s urethra is shorter, allowing bacteria quicker access into the bladder. There are other causes for UTIs, too, including food allergies, hygiene, medications and hormone levels. “If a hormone like estrogen is low for older women you may get more frequent UTIs,” writes Dr. Jennifer Burns of The Bienetre Center.
STOP THE ANTIBIOTIC MADNESS!
Because bacteria cause most UTIs, the go-to treatments are antibiotics or antimicrobials. The problem is, the accumulative misuse and abuse of antibiotics has created a worldwide epidemic of antibiotic resistant bacteria. Today, the world is experiencing a very real endemic, where drug-resistant superbugs could spell our end. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, roughly two million Americans develop antibiotic-resistant infections each year, resulting in at least 23,000 deaths.
“Far from being an apocalyptic fantasy,” an era of modern health care without antibiotics is instead “a very real possibility for the 21st century,” warns the World Health Organization. Humans can now become resistant to UTI treatments just from eating conventional chicken and egg products because of the overuse of antibiotics fed to the animals.
While antibiotics appear to save lives and quash sophisticated, dangerous bugs, the problem is that antibiotics are widely abused by the livestock industry, and they not only kill bad bacteria, but also the good bacteria that help keep us healthy. When we consume antibiotics, they can leave behind a clean petri dish in which harmful bacteria can evolve into new forms without resistance from the good bacteria that help keep our digestive systems balanced. When we take antibiotics, we slowly weaken our immune system, sometimes to the point of collapse. We provide the bad guys with ideal conditions to evolve into super monsters.
When it comes to a urinary tract infection, doctors often prescribe a broad range of antibiotics, targeting the bacteria most likely to be responsible, and then adjusting treatment only once the lab results come through. This means that some patients are mistreated or over-treated, which of course, contributes to the problem of antibiotic resistance. This ‘carpet-bombing’ approach represents poor antibiotic stewardship, and is sadly, becoming the norm.
And take heed; if you are a long time UTI sufferer, chances are your Western health care provider may prescribe an antibiotic daily for six months or longer, Or, they may suggest you take a single dose of an antibiotic after sexual intercourse. The result? Antibiotics won’t work in the long run and your own defenses will be destroyed.
That’s what my gynecologist wanted to do with me. She also suggested I take the antibiotic methenamine, which essentially turns your pee into formaldehyde so that nothing can live in it.
But we’re not helpless. In fact, there are a number of things we can do to not only treat UTIs once they happen, but also to keep a urinary tract infection at bay.
10 NATURAL UTI HOME REMEDIES
Researchers have found that the acidity of urine — as well as the presence of small molecules that come from what you eat — may influence whether bacteria can flourish in the urinary tract, according to a study published in The Journal of Biological Chemistry.
People with a high PH —one that’s more alkaline— have higher levels of certain metabolites formed by gut microbes, making it easier to stave off infections. So, eating alkaline-rich foods while also avoiding things like soda, coffee and alcohol (which are acidic), can assist you in wiping out infections naturally. High alkaline foods include leafy green vegetables, cucumbers, avocados and fruits such as apples and melons. (Note with fruit, too much can feed a bacterial infection, so be cautious.)
2. Uva ursi
Also known as bearberry or bear’s grape, this plant has reported diuretic, urinary antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties.
This lovely seasonal spice is also antimicrobial and can help with both treating a UTI infection, and as a preventative. You can buy cinnamon in capsule form at a health store.
The best way to cure urinary tract infections is to not provide an environment for the bacteria to thrive in the first place. Patients typically prone to UTIs usually have dysbiosis (imbalance in bacteria), in which potentially harmful bacteria start to outnumber beneficial bacteria. Building up your gut with a top-notch probiotic is an excellent preventative. You can also ingest fermented foods to boost the diversity of healthy bacteria in your microbiome. Yogurts, kombucha, kimchi and sauerkraut are all fermented foods naturally rich in friendly bacteria.
Drinking cranberry juice helps thwart the adherence of bacteria to the urinary tract wall. But keep in mind that once bacteria have latched on and infection sets in, there is not much more the juice can do, according to a recent report. Cranberry juice is well known for its ability to assist with UTIs, but also be aware that sugar, which is commonly added to cranberry juice, can negate any benefits of the cranberry, by feeding the bacteria.
This type of sugar prevents pathogenic bacteria from adhering to the bladder wall.
“Bacteria stick to the inside of your urinary track like Velcro. Clinically you can trick the bacteria to let go of this Velcro attachment and get flushed away with urination if you use D-mannose,” says Dr. Rouhani, Professor of Pathology and Clinician at Bastyr University California. “I’ve seen countless patients with chronic UTIs improve and stay symptom free by using a spoonful 2-3 times a day for 10 days.”
7. Vitamin C
This vitamin shifts the pH of urine toward acidity, which some experts think helps prevent or mitigate UTI and bladder infections, since the increased acidity lowers bacteria growth rates, says Shannon Kenner co-founder of Waxhead Sun Defense Foods.
This is one of the most highly revered cleansing herbs out there. It is known to help detoxify the entire body, specifically the reproductive and pelvic organs, along with the liver. Red cover blossom acts as an antiseptic herb, helping to eradicate the bacteria that lead to urinary tract infections. Colloidal silver has also worked well for me, personally, but its effectiveness and safety are still in question. Before taking any supplement, please check with your doctor.
Urinary flow is usually stronger and easier when women squat to urinate. The bladder is emptied more completely when squatting rather than sitting or “hovering.” Squatting can help reduce episodes of urinary tract infections in both frequency and intensity, says Dr Christiane Northrup, a noted gynecologist.
“When you squat to urinate as opposed to sitting up straight on the toilet, you automatically engage your butt muscles. And your pelvic floor naturally stretches and tones. Moreover, because your urethra is now pointed straight down all you have to do is relax for urine to flow out easily—as opposed to sitting up straight and having to strain to empty your bladder.”
By emptying your bladder more completely, you can prevent urinary tract infections that are caused from leftover urine in the bladder. A nifty invention called Squatty Potty can help you squat.
Meanwhile, if you are battling a UTI, take a 20–minute hot sitz bath once a day, and add Espom salts. I also do this preventatively after sex. A sitz bath is taken in the sitting position, with enough water to only cover the hips and buttocks. It also helps relieve the pain associated with UTI. (And is highly recommended too after childbirth to aid in vaginal healing.)
Also, never delay in emptying the bladder. Go to the bathroom as soon as you feel the urge, and do not “hold it.” You may also want to use unbleached toilet paper. Colored or bleached paper can be very irritating to the genital area, especially the urethra.
Dr. Hossein Aliabadi, a urologist in Minneapolis, says that there are plenty of lifestyle factors that can help lower your risk. “Always wipe from front to back to prevent bacteria from reaching the urethra, stay hydrated, and drink plenty of water,” he suggests. “Also wearing cotton underwear, and urinating before and after sex can help prevent UTIs.”
Cleaning is one of the most important parts, adds Christina Major, a MS holistic nutritionist, herbalist, nutrition and lifestyle coach. “Use soaps that do not have SLS or sodium laryth sulfates or any other chemical you don’t recognize. The foaming and bubbling increase the risk of damage to your genitals and disrupt the natural pH and bacteria balance that keeps UTIs at bay.”
This post originally appeared on Care2.com.