If you have ever experienced a urinary tract infection you know how painful and distressing the condition can be. For some, the infection clears within a few days but for others it never completely resolves, seeming to improve only to return a short time later.
Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are a relatively common complaint, particularly for women, but in recent years their incidence has risen considerably. Last year over 172,000 patients visited hospital due to a UTI, a figure that has more than doubled since 2001. Persistent UTIs are also far more prevalent, tripling in number over the same period. Antibiotic resistance is thought to be one reason for the rising occurrence of the condition.
In their search for a treatment that works, some urologists have started treating recurrent UTIs with the use of long-term antibiotics, taken over a period of several months or even years. However, as our understanding of the bladder microbiome grows it seems clear that, like the gut, strengthening our own beneficial colony of microorganisms is likely to be a better way to end the cycle of infection.
The bladder has its own unique microbiome that, in women, is linked to the vaginal biome. Those who suffer from recurrent UTIs, urinary urgency and incontinence host significantly different species from those that don’t. Nurture your urinary biome back to health so that it is strengthened and can resist future infections.
Bad Bacteria Under Cover
Recent research suggests that recurrent UTIs are caused by bacteria that can colonise the bladder wall, producing protective biofilms that prevent their detection by the body’s immune system. These bacteria can lay dormant for periods of time before re-activating1.
Herbs for Urinary Health
Herbs have much to offer in both the treatment and prevention of UTIs, acting in many different ways to clear infection whilst strengthening and protecting the urinary system. Some herbs have a particular affinity to the urinary system – a good combination of these can work very quickly to relieve discomfort and clear up an infection before it becomes established.
- Antimicrobial herbs such as Filipendula ulmaria clear the bacterial infection.
- Demulcent herbs
such as Zea mays have a soothing and healing effect on the tissues that line the walls of the urinary system.
- Anti-inflammatory and antispasmodic herbs reduce pain and discomfort.
- Astringent herbs have a toning and tightening effect, helping to prevent the bacteria from attaching to the bladder walls.
- Diuretic herbs such as Equisetum arvense help to flush the urinary tract by causing the kidneys to excrete more urine2.
In addition to this, some herbs are particularly effective at disrupting the biofilm of the disease causing bacteria, which then become vulnerable to attack and elimination by the immune system.
In practice at The Herbal Clinic we find that recurrent UTIs often coincide with congestion in the small intestine. Stagnation in this area causes increased pressure and irritation on the bladder as well as altering the bacterial profile of the gut (indirectly affecting the kidneys and bladder). A bloated belly that is cool to the touch is an indication of this problem.
If you’re new to using herbs or would like support and advice to treat a urinary tract infection we offer half hour appointment slots for urine testing, consultation and prescription.
Prevention is Better that Cure
Preventing an infection is often as simple as introducing a few good habits. Once a UTI has a hold it takes far more effort to restore balance. If you’re prone to UTIs ensure you take these preventative measures:
Stay well hydrated – drink plenty of filtered water each day.
Urinate when you feel the need; don’t resist the urge to go.
Avoid using perfumed or synthetic sanitary towels, toilet paper or feminine hygiene products – these can irritate the urethra.
Cleanse the genital area prior to sexual intercourse and urinate after sex.
Ensure you have both probiotics and prebiotics in your diet.
Take pure cranberry juice if urine is alkaline (it should be slightly acidic). Avoid the commercially available juices which are high in sugar – this works against a healthy biome. ‘Biona’ produce a good juice.
Wipe from front to back to prevent bacteria from entering the urethra and vagina.
Caution: Kidney infection is very serious and should not be ignored. In addition to the classic UTI symptoms kidney infection can include fever, back, side or groin pain and abdominal pain.
The Herbal Clinic, 32 King Edward Road, Swansea SA1 4LL / 01792 474356
- Nicole J. De Nisco et al, (2019). Direct Detection of Tissue-Resident Bacteria and Chronic Inflammation in the Bladder Wall of Postmenopausal Women with Recurrent Urinary Tract Infection. Journal of Molecular Biology; DOI:10.1016/j.jmb.2019.04.008
- Carneiro DM, Freire RC, Honório TC, et al. Randomized, Double-Blind Clinical Trial to Assess the Acute Diuretic Effect of Equisetum arvense (Field Horsetail) in Healthy Volunteers. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2014;2014:760683. doi:10.1155/2014/760683