Urinary Tract Infections
Frequent and recurrent infections of the urinary tract are a common problem in women of all ages. It is not ideal to be continually taking antibiotic drugs to treat and/or prevent urinary tract infections, as these drugs can have side effects and, over time, weaken your immune system by disturbing the balance of bacteria in your intestines.
What causes these urinary tract infections?
- Sexual activity increases the risk of bacteria being introduced into the bladder, so good hygiene after sex is important.
- The loss of sex hormones during the peri-menopausal years and after menopause makes the tissues of the vulva, urethra and bladder thinner and more fragile, so they are more easily invaded by bacteria. This can be overcome by using an estrogen cream on the vulva on a regular basis.
- The wrong balance of bacteria in your intestines caused by a diet high in sugar and processed foods. Change your diet and increase fresh fruits and vegetables, make some raw vegetable juices and eat some fermented foods such as sauerkraut, kim chi, kombucha tea and plain unflavored yogurt. You can obtain much higher levels of beneficial bacteria by taking a good quality probiotic such as FloraTone capsules. Avoid sugar in the diet as this feeds the bad bacteria and fungi which live in the intestines. These bad bacteria can easily travel from your rectum, vagina and perineal area up the urethra into the bladder – boom you have another infection!
- The most common nasty bacteria to cause urinary tract infections is Escherichia coli (E Coli). E Coli can hide inside cells in the urinary tract and also commonly resides in the lower bowel.
- Problems in emptying the bladder completely during urination. This means that after you urinate, you still have too much urine left in the bladder (this is called post-void residual urine PVR). It has been shown that a PVR of 30 ml or more can lead to recurrent urinary tract infections. This inability to completely empty the bladder may be due to prolapsed or weakened pelvic floor muscles caused by childbirth, lack of fitness or being overweight. Damage to the nerves which control the muscles of the bladder can be caused by lower back problems or diabetes, and this causes problems emptying the bladder. Getting diabetes under control is vital and it is imperative to avoid sugar in the diet. An inversion table can help to relieve lower back problems such as disc prolapse and nerve root compression. Weakness of the pelvic floor and bladder muscles is more common in women who are unfit. Start a regular exercise program and incorporate pelvic floor exercises and some core strengthening exercises such as yoga or Pilates. Exercise and fitness can make a huge difference and enable you to be able to empty your bladder completely. It is worth seeing a physiotherapist who can teach you how to do pelvic floor exercises correctly. This will also improve your love life!
A specialist urologist or gynecologist can perform tests such as uroflowmetry or voiding cystometry to determine if you have difficulty with bladder and urethral muscle and nerve control. Some women have an enlarged uterus pressing on the bladder, or a severe physical prolapse of the bladder and/or pelvic floor and will benefit greatly from corrective surgery. If you have recurrent urinary tract infections, it is important to have an ultrasound scan of your whole urinary tract (kidneys, ureters, bladder and urethra) to exclude physical problems such as tumors or stones in the urinary tract, as well as kidney damage which may show up as shrunken kidneys.
Have a regular test of your urine (microscopy, culture and sensitivity) to see what types of bacteria are present in your urine. By using the strategies below you can keep these nasty bugs away or at least in low numbers, so that they do not damage your urinary tract.
Strategies to prevent bladder infections
- Keep your urine acidic by taking 1000 mg of vitamin C twice daily.
- Take a good probiotic.
- Drink at least 8 glasses of water daily.
- Do a raw juice with kale, carrot, orange, lime, lemon (or grapefruit), celery, mint and parsley. Add a small amount of fresh thyme and oregano to the juice.
- Prevent vaginal dryness by applying an estrogen cream such as estradiol or estriol to the vulva.
- Avoid eating sugar or processed foods high in carbohydrates.
- Take a supplement called D-Mannose and Cranberry Capsules, one capsule twice daily. This works by attaching to bacteria in the bladder and carrying them out of the bladder when you urinate.
- Keep your immune system strong, so that your white blood cells can destroy bad bacteria which may be hiding in your urinary tract. The supplement called Selenomune supports a strong and active immune system.
The above statements have not been evaluated by the FDA and are not intended to diagnose, treat or cure any disease.