BY DR. LYDIA THURTON
Painful burning, running back and forth to the toilet, bad smelling pee, urinary tract infections (UTI) can be brutal. While some people may only have one in a lifetime, for some patients, usually women, UTIs can be recurrent. And more than 50% of women will experience a UTI in their lifetime. Typical treatment includes rounds of antibiotics like cipro or amoxicillin. Minimizing use of antibiotics via natural therapies prevents bacterial resistance that is becoming a huge problem from antibiotic overuse. Urinary tract infections are helped by wearing cotton underwear, wiping front to back and urinating after sexual contact. For some these lifestyle changes are not enough.
I always start by ensuring my patient has healthy bacteria in their system. Healthy bugs crowd out pathogenic bacteria preventing their survival. Populating with good bacteria starts in the digestive tract. Those friendly bacteria eventually migrate and populate the genital area. Supplement companies also make vaginal probiotic suppositories. Placing good bacteria directly in the vaginal canal ensures a strong population of healthy bugs in the entire region. UTIs take place when the bad bacteria on the surface of your genitals crawls up the urethra and gets into the bladder. A healthy balance of beneficial bacteria is really your first line of defense.
Cranberry juice has long been promoted as a method of preventing urinary tract infections. Pure, unsweetened, very sour cranberry juice is rich in antioxidants and a compound called D-mannose. D-mannose is a type of sugar that prevents bacteria, especially E. Coli, from adhering to the lining of the urinary tract. D-mannose has been shown in some research studies to prevent the reoccurrence of UTIs. This is a semi-sweet powder that is available at health food stores. Typical doses are around two grams per day. D-mannose does not increase your blood sugar, however diabetics should always check with their physician or naturopath before beginning a new supplement.
I definitely have patients who try their best to be “all natural” and avoid pharmaceutical medications at all costs. While I’m happy to support patients in their quest to avoid synthetic medications there are times when antibiotics are needed. Severe infections, where there is blood in the urine or systemic symptoms like fever and back pain need to be treated promptly with medication. If you are going to use a natural remedy you need to check in with your naturopath within a week of starting it to determine if the infection has actually gone away or not. They will do a urine dipstick. Do not leave it up to your subjective feeling or you could end up with a kidney infection. My final tip, if you have an elderly person in your life and they present with confusion that is out of the ordinary for them, they should be screened for an underlying UTI.