Condition Spotlight: Combat UTIs Naturally

Four remedies to keep you UTI-free
By George L Redmon PhD, ND

Current data estimates that over 450,000 women in the United States suffer from urinary-tract infections (UTIs). In the US alone, over seven million doctor’s office visits are made per year as a result of UTIs. Despite the name of this disorder (urinary-tract infection), problems can occur anywhere within the urinary system.

The urinary system comprises the kidneys, ureters, bladder, and urethra. The majority of infections (known as cystitis) occur in the lower urinary tract, which houses the urethra and bladder, and can be extremely painful and disrupt normal lifestyle routines. A bacterium usually causes these infections, but it can be treated medically with antibiotics.

The signs and symptoms of UTIs can vary, but some common signs of the disorder are:

>> Intense burning and pain while urinating.

>> Continual need to urinate.

>> Bacteria present in the urine.

>> Bloody or cloudy urine with a heightened robust, pungent smell.

Other signs and symptoms can include:

>> Fever

>> Chills

>> Nausea

>> Vomiting

>> Pelvic pressure

How This Occurs

While the components of the urinary systems are designed to eliminate and reduce toxins, bacteria that enter the urinary system can multiply. When these miscreants multiply faster than they are eliminated, painful UTIs can occur. Despite the conventional use of antibiotics, there are a number of natural remedies that prove to be very effective in treating this disorder, as well as preventing reoccurrences.

Natural Remedies

Cranberries: Early studies attributed cranberry juice’s ability to neutralize bacteria that causes UTIs via its high content of benzoic acid. However, the general consensus today centers on cranberries’ ability to inhibit the adhesion of infecting bacteria to the urinary tract. Researchers now say that the presence of fructose and a variety of proanthocyanidins within cranberries inhibit the adherence of E. coli bacteria to the walls of the urinary tract. In fact, researchers at McGill University in Montreal reported that the most significant inhibition of bacterial adhesion in their studies was seen when bacteria surfaces were coated with proanthocyanidins. Researchers at Rutgers University Marucci Center of Blueberry and Cranberry Research reported similar findings.

Proanthocyanidina are powerful flavanoids that have the ability to act and re-cycle antioxidant activity of various nutrients. Antioxidants protect cellular structures and reduce what scientists refer to as oxidative damage.

Dandelion: This herb is known to have a mild laxative effect, stimulate the production of bile, improve liver function, and create a diuretic affect. This allows dandelion to increase urine flow and helps to rid the bladder of unwanted toxins. A dandelion also has anti-bacterial properties and is a rich source of the mineral potassium, which is lost during increased urination.

Potassium is essential to maintaining proper water balance and minimizes episodes of cramping and reduces urinary-tract inflammation.

Uva Ursi: Uva ursi has a long history of use as a diuretic and for the treatment of urinary-tract infections. Known to reduce elevated levels of uric acid, this herb also soothes irritated and inflamed tissues. Its benefits in reducing inflammatory conditions of the urinary tract are attributed to a substance found in the herb known as arbutin. When arbutin is introduced to urine, it is activated and forms an antibacterial agent called hydroquinone. This herbal remedy also reduces water retention and neutralizes the acidic pH of urine. In Germany, uva ursi is an approved treatment by the Commission E, an agency similar to the Food and Drug Administration here in the US, to treat inflammatory conditions associated with the urinary tract.

D-Mannose: E. coli bacteria that invade and adhere to the bladder wall and cause UTIs are disabled by the natural simple sugar D-mannose. D-mannose appears to be more effective than cranberries in dislodging the bacteria. By filling the tiny protrusions or finger-like projectors called lectins, D-mannose interferes with the bacteria’s ability to attach to these sites. This facilitates the removal of bacteria during urination. Studies suggest that D-mannose also prevents the entrance of invading bacteria into the urinary tract.

A Little Help From Some Friends

While the above supplements are some of the most well-known and widely used techniques to treat UTIs, supplements like golden seal, garlic, parsley, rose hips (vitamin C), blueberries, marshmallow, and manzanita (a close relative of uva ursi) all have varying anti-septic, anti-inflammatory, and diuretic urinary infection-fighting properties.

To reduce the pain and burning associated with UTIs, blend green vegetables such as cucumber, celery, and parsley to make a healthy juice. A simple juice such as this cools kidney tonics and acts as a strong detoxifier and diuretic.

During an episode, try avoiding foods high in protein as they are acidic. Focus on consuming more on alkaline fruits and vegetables that can reduce acidity. Also, drink at least two quarts of fresh, clean water daily and urinate as soon as you have the urge to do so. Additionally, avoid sugar and sweets as much as possible and make sure any juices you drink are sugar-free or unsweetened. Sugar will only serve as a breeding ground for bacteria to flourish.

Urinary-tract infections should be treated and not left unattended. If the infection reaches the kidneys and infects these organs, this can become very serious. At the first signs or symptoms of this disorder, you should consult with your healthcare provider. However, prevention of this disorder can possibly be improved by implementing the regimens above.

 

Who is at risk for a UTI?

Although everyone has some risk, some people are more prone to getting urinary tract infections (UTIs) than others.

• People with spinal cord injuries or other nerve damage around the bladder who have difficulty emptying their bladder completely. Urine that stays in the bladder can allow bacteria to grow and cause an infection.

• Anyone with an abnormality of the urinary tract that obstructs the flow of urine—a kidney stone or enlarged prostate, for example—is at risk for a UTI.

• People with diabetes or problems with the body’s natural defense system are more likely to get UTIs.

• Sexual activity can move microbes from the bowel or vaginal cavity to the urethral opening. If these microbes have special characteristics that allow them to live in the urinary tract, it is harder for the body to remove them quickly enough to prevent infection. Following sexual intercourse, most women have a significant number of bacteria in their urine, but the body normally clears them within 24 hours. However, some forms of birth control increase the risk of UTI. In some women, certain spermicides may irritate the skin, increasing the risk of bacteria invading surrounding tissues. Using a diaphragm may slow urinary flow and allow bacteria to multiply. Condom use is also associated with increased risk of UTIs, possibly because of the increased trauma that occurs to the vagina during sexual activity. Using spermicides with diaphragms and condoms can increase risk even further.

• Another common source of infection is catheters, or tubes, placed in the urethra and bladder. Catheters interfere with the body’s ability to clear microbes from the urinary tract. Bacteria travel through or around the catheter and establish a place where they can thrive within the bladder. A person who cannot urinate in the normal way or who is unconscious or critically ill often needs a catheter for more than a few days. The Infectious Diseases Society of America recommends using catheters for the shortest time possible to reduce the risk of a UTI.

Pregnant women seem no more prone to UTIs than other women. However, when a UTI does occur in a pregnant woman, it is more likely to travel to the kidneys. According to some reports, as many as 4 to 5 percent of pregnant women develop a UTI.

*This information was abstracted from information compiled by the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), National Institutes of Health (NIH). For additional information visit the website at kidney.niddk.nih.gov