Bladder Infection (Cystitis)
The uncomfortable and irritating symptoms of a bladder infection send American women to their doctors 6 to 9 million times every year. Most of these women will be treated with a course of antibiotics, a strategy that kills the current infection but that leaves the bladder vulnerable to a future bacterial invasion. As a result, most of the women who see a doctor about a bladder infection will return; 10 to 20 percent of all women experience a bladder infection at least once over a twelve-month period.
When the bladder is infected, usually by bacteria, its interior walls become inflamed. This inflammation, medically known as cystitis, leads to a frequent and urgent need to urinate, although the urine produced may be scanty, and the bladder may not feel completely empty. There is usually pain or burning upon urination, and there may be cramping in the abdomen or the lower back, and fever.
Women suffer from bladder infections far more frequently than men do, mainly because of the female anatomy. In women, the urethra-the tube that conducts urine away from the bladder and out of the body is very short, and its opening is in close proximity to both the anus and the vagina. It's relatively easy for vaginal or intestinal bacteria to travel to the opening of the urethra, make their way up the tube, and infect the bladder. Although bacteria are the cause of most infections, several other conditions put women at risk for this disorder. Frequent use of antibiotics is one of the most prevalent since these medications destroy the "good" bacteria needed to fight infections. Anything else that weakens the immune system, such as stress or a poor diet, increases the likelihood of an infection. Pregnancy, sexual intercourse, and injury to the area are associated with a higher risk. Hormone imbalances can also contribute to increased susceptibility. Menopause is a time when many women first start to experience bladder infections.
Most bladder infections respond well to home care that treats the symptoms while strengthening the immune system. You should still consult a doctor, however, as there is a possibility that the infection can spread to the kidneys. Your physician should monitor your progress and make sure the infection isn't traveling upward. And if you have recurring infections, your doctor should examine you for a structural abnormality in the urethra or the bladder that prevents urine from flowing properly. Should your doctor want to prescribe antibiotics, explain to him or her your desire from more conservative treatment and ask whether antibiotics are really necessary? (In some cases, they're needed to prevent a kidney infection.) If you are a man with a bladder infection, you may have a more serious condition.
** All of these prescriptions below have been proven effective; the level of effectiveness depends on the individual. Please consult your doctor when taking any and all supplements.
The top 7 vitamins and supplements have shown to help Bladder
Prescription for Natural
Cures by James F. Balch, M.D. and Mark Stengler, N.M.D.
Super Prescription # 1 Uva ursi
Take a standardized capsule containing 250 mg of arbutin or 5 ml of the tincture form four times daily. Arbutin is a constituent in uva ursi that is converted in the body to a chemical called hydroquinone, which destroys bacteria.
Super Prescription # 2 D-Mannose
Take 500 mg four times daily. This substance prevents bacteria from being able to attach to the urinary tract and the bladder wall.
Super Prescription # 3 Echinacea and Goldenseal - LifeSource Products - See All of our Echinacea/Goldenseal Products. Take 500 mg of the capsule form or 4 ml of the tincture four times daily. These herbs enhance immune function to combat infection.
Super Prescription # 4 Cranberry (Vaccinium macrocarpon) extract - LifeSource Product Take 400 to 500 mg twice daily of cranberry extract capsules. Cranberry prevents bacteria from adhering to the bladder wall. This herb is best used for the prevention of urinary tract infections but can also be used as part of a comprehensive protocol for acute infection.
Super Prescription # 5 Horsetail (Equisetum arvense)
Take 500 mg of the capsule or 2 ml of the tincture four times daily. This herb has a long history of use for urinary tract infections.
Super Prescription # 6 Vitamin C - LifeSource Products - See All of our Vitamin C Products. Take 1,000 mg four to five times daily. Vitamin C enhances immune function, inhibits the growth of E. coli, and makes the urine more acidic so that bacteria cannot grow as easily.
- Pain or burning upon urination
- Frequent need to urinate
- Scanty flow or dribbling
- Cramps in the abdomen or lower back
- Nausea or vomiting
- Vaginal or intestinal bacteria, usually E. coli
- Frequent use of antibiotics
- Poor diet and food allergies
- Sexual intercourse
- Use of a diaphragm for contraception
- Structural abnormality
- Hormonal imbalance
Make sure that you're getting all the nutrients you need. Plan well-rounded, wholesome meals, made with basic foods that you prepare yourself.
One of the best strategies for fighting a bladder infection is to increase your urine output. Drink as much clean water as you can stand. Try for one 6- to 8-ounce glass every waking hour.
Cranberry juice has long been a folk remedy for bladder infections, and now science helps us understand why: it appears that cranberry juice keeps bacteria from clinging to the linings of the bladder and the urethra. You can find unsweetened cranberry juice at most health food stores and many supermarkets. Drink several glasses of it a day.
Natural diuretics will help flush out the infection. Eat plenty of watermelon, celery, or parsley, or use them to make fresh juices.
Add some garlic to clear soups or other meals. It's a potent infection-fighter.
If you must take antibiotics, eat a cup of unsweetened live yogurt or another cultured product every day. These foods help return "good" bacteria to your body.
Foods to Avoid
Sugar depresses the immune system and encourages the growth of bacteria. Avoid all refined sugars (including those in alcohol) while you're battling the infection, and restrict them once you've recovered.
During the course of the infection, stay away from salty, spicy, processed, or refined foods, as well as caffeine. All of these substances will further aggravate the problem.
Food allergies can cause recurring bladder infections. Determine whether a food is at the heart of your problem.
Many women who are frequent consumers of sodas (both sugary and diet) experience recurring bladder infections. Sodas, whether made from natural or artificial sweeteners, are never a good idea; if you are troubled by bladder infections, you now have another compelling reason to avoid sodas.
A three-day juice fast is a strong weapon against recurring infections. Concentrate on vegetable juices, rather than on fruit juices, at this time, since you want to avoid too much sugar. When you drink fruit juice, dilute it with clean water.
- Always empty your bladder when you feel the need. Delaying urination sets the stage for an infection.
- Empty your bladder prior to and, if possible, after sexual intercourse to reduce the likelihood of infection. It's a good idea for women to drink a big glass of water before and after intercourse.
- After swimming, immediately change out of your wet bathing suit and into dry clothes. Damp conditions are a breeding ground for bacteria.
- If you're prone to bladder infections, wear cotton underwear that lets the genital area breathe.
- After going to the toilet, always wipe from front to back. This reduces the chances that intestinal bacteria will travel to the urethra.
- Avoid products that may irritate the urethra or the vagina. Do not use powders, sanitary napkins, or tampons that are scented.
- A hot compress is very soothing to an irritated urinary tract. Lie down somewhere comfortable, and place the compress on your lower abdomen.
- For bladder infections that occur around menses or that began with menopausal changes, hormone balancing is likely the issue.