5 Phases to Support Urinary Tract Health
A urinary tract infection(UTIs) is most common in women occurring in only 1 male for every 8 females (23). It affects millions of children and adults annually and is the second leading cause of infection in the body (9).
Some individuals are susceptible to reoccurring infections which not only is frustrating but weakens total health and well-being. Fortunately, there are several measures you can take to decrease the likelihood of urinary tract problems and combat an infection naturally with these 5 safe support strategies.
Causes of Urinary Tract Infections
Any organ which urine passes through is susceptible to infection from pathogenic bacteria. E. coli related infections are commonly to blame accounting for 90% of infections in the bladder, urethra, ureters, and kidneys (9). Escherichia coli reside in the colon and near the anus but can generally take up route following the opening of the urethra where they migrate and populate within the urinary tract.
Bacterial infection causes acute symptoms such as the need to urinate frequently, painful urination, pressure in the pubic area, and fatigue. If left untreated it can lead to more serious complications like kidney infection.
Children are at a greater risk of developing UTIs and are more susceptible to kidney trauma because symptoms may go unnoticed (19). In pregnant women, UTIs pose a special concern because they are not only common but they increase the threat of preterm delivery.
Conventional Medicine Concerns
Antibiotics are prescribed for 33% of women to combat a UTI before the age of 24 but these synthetic antimicrobials are not without both short and long-term consequences (23). Urinary tract infections were once easily treated with antibiotics in the 1980s and remain the most excessively used medicines for UTI care today. However, emerging evidence reveals how antibiotics damages our health and is no longer the most effective approach.
Microbial Imbalance: Conventional medicine may have its place in the world but treating every case of urinary tract infections with antibiotics is not a proper solution. Antibiotics disturb the total microbial balance that resides in the human body. Rather than isolating the harmful bacteria causing infection, antibiotics kill beneficial bacteria which are critical components of an optimally functioning immune system.
Secondary Infections: Approximately 25% of individuals treated for a UTI will experience a reoccurrence 6 to 12 months later (15). Bacteria are not the only micro-organisms affected by antibiotics. When the balance of the microbiome is upset, Candida albicans and other fungi are less inhibited to grow and may lead to yeast infection.
Antibiotic Resistance: High rates of antibiotic use is contributing to the increasing numbers of resistant bacterial strains and loss of antibiotic efficacy. Greater than half the number of individuals who receive antibiotics for UTIs in other countries see no benefit as a consequence of antibiotic resistance (7).
The WHO (World Health Organization) released a report siting that the treatment of urinary tract infections with antibiotics is one of the top causes for an increase in antimicrobial resistance worldwide (7).
Concerns with Diuretics: Diuretic medication is often prescribed to increase urination and support the elimination of bacteria from the urinary tract. Unlike natural diuretics, prescription diuretics cause unwanted side effects ranging from nausea and dizziness, decreased blood circulation, electrolyte imbalance, glucose and insulin resistance. Some individuals may suffer more severe and life threatening consequences relating to diuretic use. (1)
5 Phases to Healing UTIs
Healing UTI’s is not as simple as taking a prescription or a supplement. There are 5 phases one must apply in order to truly support good urinary health and reduce the risk of infections. I explain all of this in detail below.
1) Flush Out Bacteria
Natural diuretics are one of nature’s best ways you can maintain the health of your urinary system. Cleanse and disinfect your urinary tract to prevent and treat UTIs in the following ways.
Cranberry: The traditional home remedy to treat UTIs with cranberry juice has withheld its popularity for good reason. Cranberry concentrate reduces the incidence of recurrent UTIs because it prevents pathogenic bacteria like E. coli from adhering to a surface along the urinary tract. The primary flavonoid responsible for this antibacterial effect is proanthocyanidin-A.
Proanthocyanidin-A assists in regulating urine pH, relieves discomfort associated with urination, and boosts the immune response by activating macrophages to improve wound healing and reduce inflammation (3). It also decreases the risk for asymptomatic bacteriuria which can cause the presence of bacteria to go unnoticed due to a lack of symptoms later wreaking havoc on the kidneys. (2)
Drink 1 oz of organic cranberry juice in 8 oz of water with 1 tbsp of apple cider vinegar every 2 waking hours until you knock out the infection.
Apple Cider Vinegar: Adding a splash of apple cider vinegar to your glass of water is a simple strategy that you can do to prevent and treat a UTI.
Apple cider vinegar contains the powerful antimicrobial compound acetic acid. Acetic acid is one of the best natural disinfecting compounds that kills resistant bacteria and creates a favorable environment for healthy bacteria to thrive (25). It also strengthens the immune system by boosting your body’s detoxification pathways (24).
D-Mannose: Researchers suggest that the use of D-mannose along with cranberry and probiotics are of the best treatment options to prevent and treat UTIs (16). In a clinical study consisting of 308 women with a history of recurring UTIs, researchers learned that the supplementation of D-mannose significantly prevented the reoccurrence of an infection (26).
Compared to those administered antibiotics, D-mannose patients also reported much fewer, and milder side effects if any. D-mannose works by adhering to E. coli so that the bacteria cannot cling to the bladder wall in a force similar to static cling (27). The harmful bacteria is then readily able to be excreted with urine.
We recommend UT Support – take 2 caps (1 gram) every 2-3 hours until you knock out the infection.
Optimal Hydration: Super hydrate your body with purified water to strengthen the health of your immune system and fight infection. Remaining well hydrated naturally supports the removal of bacteria from the urinary tract and enhances detoxification pathways in the body to aid in healing.
Although you may already feel the urge to urinate frequently from having UTIs, drinking fluids often will provide the pressure required for a forceful stream of urine to flush bacteria away.
Other Diuretics: If the taste of apple cider vinegar and cranberry juice isn’t to your liking, there are plenty of other natural ways you can flush bacteria out of your system. Choose a few strategies from the options below: (4, 16, 17)
- Juice parsley to increase urine flow.
- Prepare an herbal tea with dandelion leaf, burdock root and nettle leaf to reduce inflammation and cleanse the urinary system.
- Snack on raw celery for its antibacterial, anti-inflammatory and total antioxidant effects on the urinary tract.
- Add celery seed to pickled veggies, dips, dressings and more to increase urine output.
- Supplement with juniper berry concentrate to prevent the proliferation of bacteria and eliminate microbes in urine.
2) Strengthen Immunity
Zinc: Zinc is one of the top immune boosting micronutrients that many individuals are deficient in. It can become further depleted with use of medication and anti-inflammatory drugs. Without zinc, more than 200 enzymes that rely on this mineral cannot function causing immune dysfunction and metabolic disturbances (19).
Zinc is vital to immune support helping protect us from infection in numerous ways. Zinc boosts the surveillance of the immune system inhibiting bacterial infections by: (13)
- Increasing activity of antioxidant compounds like superoxide dismutase (SOD),
- Providing protection against oxidative damage; and
- Suppressing inflammation and pain.
In children diagnosed with a UTI, zinc supplementation was significantly shown to reduce frequency of urination and pain in clinical testing. Treatment of UTI with zinc was further shown to enhance the recovery process of damaged tissue and prevent kidney problems. (19) I recommend 10mg every 2 hours until you knock it out.
Vitamin C: Vitamin C is the nutrient that probably first comes to mind when you think about improving your immune system. Vitamin C fights infection by upregulating biological agents that seek to destroy pathogenic invaders, increases the absorption of bioflavonoids in our diet, and equips the body to handle tissue trauma and stress. (11, 12)
Add more vitamin C to your diet by eating red or yellow bell peppers, citrus fruits, cauliflower, broccoli, kale, spinach, leeks, chives and tomatoes. I also recommend supplementing with 2 grams of vitamin C every hour until you knock out the UTI.
Antimicrobials offer an affordable and safe alternative remedy to treat UTIs without the risk of increasing resistance to antibiotics. Use the following antibiotics that nature has already provided to find relief from symptoms and reduce the possibility of secondary infections.
Garlic: Garlic has long been known to contain antibacterial properties as attributed to its ability to suppress inflammation and provide immune support. It is an excellent source of the powerhouse antioxidant glutathione and is high in the sulfur compound allicin which enhances detoxification (14).
Treatment with garlic extract is associated with inhibiting the reoccurrence of a UTI within the general 6 to 12 month timeframe that they occur. Its use is also reported to decrease the urge and frequency to urinate as well as pain associated with the pubic region. (15)
Echinacea: Native Americans have used Echinacea as a natural antibiotic for over 400 years. Echinacea stimulates the immune system to overcome infection. Today the German government regulates the use of Echinacea as an approved treatment for urinary tract infections (18). It contains several plant compounds and can be taken in pill form or as an herbal extract in a tincture or tea.
Goldenseal (Berberine): Berberine is the responsible compound found in the plant bark of goldenseal acclaimed to effectively destroy E. coli. Supplementation of berberine is shown to stop diarrhea which contributes to the spread of bacteria, directly inhibits the growth of E. coli and Pseudomonas (P.) aeruginosa and act as an anti-adhesive agent along the urinary tract (16).
Its medicinal use as an antibacterial agent against resistant strains of E. coli coupled with its strong anti-fungal properties makes berberine an effective natural antibiotic.
Grapefruit Seed Extract: Grapefruit seed extract has been found to contain antibacterial properties that resemble synthetic antibacterial drugs. Its effects against a broad range of both gram-positive and gram-negative organisms are so potent that it decreased the growth of pathogenic organisms in urine like Staphylococcus aureus, P. aeruginosa, and Klebsiella species. The extract is shown to destroy pathogenic bacteria within 15 minutes of contact with a diluted solution. (5, 6)
We use GI Clear, which has therapeutic dosages of berberine and other key herbs within it. We recommend 2 caps – every 2 waking hours until the infection is eradicated.
4) Essential Oils
The use of essential oils in natural medicine to treat bacterial infections dates back to historical records from the Chinese, Romans, Greeks, and Egyptians. The Chinese historically used myrrh oil for a wealth of benefits including its ability to help reduce pain. Myrrh oil has since been shown to suppress inflammation and prevent infection using a variety of mechanisms to enhance the immune system (22).
A combination of oils from clove and cinnamon were shown to have a synergistic effect on inhibiting the growth of E. coli in study (8). Clove oil contains anti-inflammatory properties which support pain relief while cinnamon oil possesses anti-septic properties inhibiting bacteria overgrowth (20, 21)
Oil extracted from herbs like sage have been shown to produce significant inhibitory effects on the growth of UTI causing bacteria. In one study, sage oil had a 79% inhibition rate on the growth of bacteria. It killed E. coli with 96% effectiveness and destroyed 100% of the more severe bacterial strains of Klebsiella species and Enterobacter aerogenes. (10)
Oregano oil is so combative against inhibiting bacteria proliferation that you will want to avoid taking your daily probiotic at the same time. Oregano oil contains antibacterial properties which inhibits the growth of several bacteria strains including E. coli and P. aeruginosa (28). This plant extract also contains powerful anti-inflammatory properties and upregulates cytokines activity to fight infection (29).
5) Lifestyle Changes
Good Hygiene: Parents teach their girls during potty training that wiping from front to back is critical for female hygiene. The practice of good hygiene on lower body areas doesn’t end here.
Maintaining cleanliness in your lower body parts doesn’t mean scrubbing your genitals with soaps and spraying deodorants. In fact, feminine hygiene deodorants should be avoided entirely. Certain hygiene steps you should include into your daily regimen are:
- Gently clean your genitals before and after sexual intercourse avoiding alcoholic wipes and fragrances
- Avoid holding the urge to pee following intercourse as urination will help remove bacteria
- Wear cotton underwear that is fitted (not tight) to avoid friction, heat and moisture that can lead to UTIs
Healthy Sexual Life: Sustaining from frequent sexual activity when suffering from a UTI is key in the recovery of injured tissue lining the urinary tract. Frequent sexual intercourse contributes to a higher risk for introducing bacteria from the anus into the bladder and also causes drying and irritation of vaginal tissue.
Just as you shouldn’t avoid the urge to pee following sex, you should also empty your bladder before intercourse. If dryness is an issue during intercourse, vaginal lubrication using gels and creams can help with irritation and prevent increased inflammation.
Having a healthy sex life may also mean talking to your doctor to understand if the contraceptive pills you may be taking are weakening your immune system making you more susceptible to recurring UTIs.
Eat an Anti-Inflammatory Diet: Plant based foods are rich in antioxidants and should be added to every meal. Eating a variety of fruits and vegetables boosts the immune system so that it is equipped to handle the intrusion of pathogenic bacteria and prevent infection.
Limit carbohydrates and sugar intake. These foods blocks zinc absorption and contribute to weakened immunity, added inflammation and the increased likelihood of bacteria overgrowth.
Adding probiotic rich foods to your diet is also key to maintaining the health of the urinary tract. Drink beverages concentrated with beneficial bacteria like Kombucha and kefir. Eat probiotic and prebiotic foods like pickled vegetables, grass-fed yogurt, raw asparagus and leeks.
Making sure you are taking a high quality probiotic can also give your immune system the backup support it needs when fighting off any infection. Once your UTI is treated, continuing to take probiotics regularly can decrease the likelihood of its reoccurrence.