A urinary tract infection can be quite annoying, especially when it repeatedly returns, as they are often prone to do. While UTIs seldom become a serious condition in themselves, they indicate that something is not right in the body. For instance, they can point to immune system dysfunction, especially if they are an ongoing issue. Sometimes treating a UTI with antibiotics can create a whole new set of health concerns, as you will learn while reading Best Tips for Preventing and Treating UTI Naturally. The good news is that most urinary tract infections can be prevented and treated by some simple lifestyle changes that are actually easy to implement.
What is Urinary Tract Infection?
The urinary tract is composed of the kidneys, bladder, ureters, and urethra. A Urinary Tract Infection, commonly referred to as a UTI, can affect any or all of these areas. They are typically bacterial infections that begin in the lower urinary tract, composed of the urethra, ureters, and bladder. UTI is more serious when it spreads to the kidneys, part of the upper urinary tract. In most cases, they are much more common in women, for reasons we will discuss below. However, they are also found in males, most often in infant boys and older men.
In daily clinical practice, urinary tract infection (UTI) is seen very frequently. They account for 10–20% of all infections treated in primary care units and 30–40% of those treated in hospitals [R]. The risk of UTI in the female population is considered to be 14 times higher than in the male population [R]. UTIs are quite a common disorder, especially in adult women. Approximately 50% of all women will have at least one UTI in their lifetime, and about 90% of them will experience recurrent infections. Adult women have the highest incidence of UTIs, outnumbering infections in adult men by a ratio of 50 to 1. The main reason for this is anatomical, with females having a much shorter urethra than males, thus making it much easier for bacteria to make the trip into the bladder and begin to multiply into a full-blown infection. In addition, hygiene plays a role, as the female urethra is also closer to the anus and can potentially be exposed to bacteria from fecal matter.
In infants, many boys will develop a UTI (four times as many as girls), mainly due to congenital disabilities in their urinary tract. Older males who develop prostate disorders are also at increased risk for UTIs.
What Are the Signs and Symptoms of UTI?
The signs and symptoms of a UTI vary depending on the location and severity of the UTI, but general signs that indicate you may have a UTI include:
- A burning sensation upon urination
- Butty urine
- Foul-smelling urine
- Persistent urge to urinate
- Frequent urination that produces small amounts of urine
- Blood in the urine (hematuria)
Different types of UTIs will result in unique symptoms:
- Urethritis (inflammation of the urethra): Usually the least severe form of UTI, urethritis is associated with a burning sensation when urinating. This is often the first hint that you may have a UTI. Men can also experience a discharge from the penis in some cases.
- Cystitis (inflammation of the bladder): Common signs of cystitis include painful urination, foul-smelling urine, and lower abdominal pain or a feeling of pressure in the pelvic region.
- Pyelonephritis (kidney infection): This more serious type of UTI often forms when an existing UTI spreads from the bladder into the kidneys. It can result in a high fever, chills, nausea, vomiting, and pain in the upper back and/or flanks (side of the torso above the hip).
Some research suggests that up to 42% of mild and uncomplicated UTIs can be resolved without the use of antibiotics.
What are the Causes of Urinary Tract Infection?
A brief primer on the urinary tract structure will help us better understand the causes of UTI. The lower part of the urinary tract, where most infections are found, is composed of the bladder, where urine is stored until it can leave the body through the urethra. The upper tract includes the ureters and kidneys. The kidneys, one of the main filters of the body, cleanse the blood of impurities and create urine which travels through tubes called ureters that lead to the bladder.
Most UTIs that occur, especially in females, are called “ascending” infections because bacteria in the urethra ascend or move up into the bladder. The most common type of bacteria that causes UTIs in both men and women is e.coli, commonly found in the intestinal tract and fecal matter. Various forms of staph cause about 20% of UTIs in females. Keeping in line with the amazing design of our bodies, the urinary tract has built-in defenses that work to protect this sensitive area from infection. Still, certain factors make it more likely for infections to occur.
UTI Risk Factors In Women
- Low levels of an enzyme found in vaginal secretions called fucosyltransferase. This enzyme helps to inhibit the growth of certain vaginal bacteria. Some women naturally have lower amounts of this enzyme than others and are therefore more susceptible to bacteria in the vagina. It can then easily spread to the urethra.
- Sexual activity with multiple partners increases the chances of introducing bacteria into the genital area. It can also irritate the urethra and make it more likely to harbor bacteria.
- Birth control methods such as using a diaphragm or spermicidal agents can also increase the risk for UTI.
- Compromised immune system: An immune system that is not operating up to par opens the body up to all kinds of infections, including UTIs. Certain illnesses associated with a weak immune system can result in more UTIs, including diabetes, HIV/AIDS, and lupus.
- Poor personal hygiene can introduce bacterial infections into the urinary tract.
- History of previous infections: Once you get a UTI, it is quite common for them to recur. An estimated 80% of women who have had a UTI will experience one or more additional ones within 2 years.
UTI Risk Factors In Men
Most UTIs in males, except for infant boys, is caused by factors that impede urine flow. This is often the result of kidney stones, prostatitis (inflammation of the prostate), or other conditions that can irritate the urinary tract. Additional risk factors include:
- Not being circumcised: Poor hygiene under the foreskin can lead to the accumulation of bacteria that can infect the urethra.
- Catheterization: A catheter inserted into a man’s urethra, especially for an extended period of time, significantly increases his risk for a UTI.
The Emotional Aspect of UTI
Preventative medicine means that we should always keep our emotional health in check. Unhealthy emotions can be very detrimental to the body’s innate healing abilities. Some healthcare practitioners believe that bladder pain and infection may denote the trapped expression of anger and/or frustration in one’s life.
Many women are embarrassed to speak about urinary tract infections with their doctor because they believe there are no helpful options. Women who are in the season of perimenopause or the season of menopause, as well as breastfeeding moms, may present with low estrogen levels, which, in turn, can cause vaginal tissues to be vulnerable and more fragile. Because of these reasons, many women choose to avoid asking for help due to concerns about hormone replacement therapy (HRT) or surgery.
The truth is hormonal imbalances and fluctuations, structural issues, and muscle control can play a big role in UTIs. Fortunately, there are good options to help stop or correct these concerns; however, healing also begins with being willing to value your needs, get comfortable with your emotions, and gathering the courage to ask for help without being embarrassed.
Are There Any Possible Complications From UTI?
Yes, complications can occur if UTI infections are left untreated. Kidney infections can become chronic and have the potential to damage the kidneys permanently. UTI during pregnancy has been linked to premature births and low birth weight in some cases. UTIs can be very damaging if they are overlooked or mistaken for another disorder. This happens most often in small children and the elderly, who often are unable to communicate the symptoms properly or promptly.
Easiest and Best Tips for Preventing and Treating UTI Naturally
The easiest and best tips for preventing and treating UTI naturally is always prevention. Let’s explore this further.
The most common form of treatment for UTI is with antibiotics. In fact, the use of antibiotics to treat UTI and other bacterial infections has created a whole new set of concerns. These germs are becoming so used to these drugs that they have developed a resistance to them in many cases. Another concern with antibiotic use is that once they enter the body, they fail to differentiate between the “bad” bacteria causing the infection and the “good” bacteria that are useful to the body, especially in the intestinal tract. Thus, the balance of bacteria in the gut becomes skewed, and digestive issues can occur. Many useful bacteria are also eliminated in the vaginal tract, leading to recurring yeast infections. There are many beneficial strains of bacteria destroyed by the antibiotic and the infectious agents.
A recent development in modern medicine involves the prescription of “daily” antibiotics for those who experience recurring UTIs to prevent infections, even if one is not present at the time. This has become especially popular for children, usually girls, who have ongoing concerns with UTI. A recent study has concluded that this type of treatment does absolutely no good to prevent UTIs. Thinking like this only drives the overuse of antibiotics and the health issues that overuse brings with it.
There may be times when using an antibiotic is appropriate, but most UTIs can be treated and, most importantly, prevented by using more natural means. Below are some natural tips for preventing and treating UTI naturally.
- Never “hold” urine. Always urinate as soon as possible when you get the urge. This can be a big problem for young children, who often are reluctant to use the bathroom when away from home, such as in school. Holding urine only increases the chances of bacteria migrating into the urinary tract.
- Take Vitamin C. Some studies indicate that Vitamin C enhances the release of nitric oxide in the urine. This effect has antimicrobial activity against three of the most common urinary bacteria that cause a UTI. The most recommended dose for UTI prevention is 500 mg twice daily. At the first sign of infection, take 1000 mg three times daily.
- Hydration Is Important. Downing ample amounts of purified water every day is one of the greatest habits you can develop for your overall health, and it is probably one of the best ways to prevent UTI as well. Water flushes your urinary tract and makes it more difficult for bacteria to get a foothold.
- Drink cranberry juice. Cranberry juice (unsweetened) helps the urine to remain acidic, which is its natural state, and it also provides a substance called hippuric acid that naturally fights off harmful bacteria. In fact, Rutgers University is dedicated to blueberry and cranberry research. Fruits in the blueberry family — including blueberries, cranberries, bearberries (Arctostaphylos uva ursi), and the lingonberries so popular in Scandinavia — have a long history that shows their natural ability to prevent bacteria growth and reproduction. Modern research is currently quantifying the medicinal effects of the phytochemicals in these particular berries.
- D Mannose. D-mannose is said to be 10-50 times stronger than cranberry juice. D-mannose can help to treat most UTIs within 1 to 2 days successfully. While in the urinary tract, it can attach to the E. coli bacteria that may be there. After consuming foods or supplements containing D-mannose, your body eventually eliminates the bacteria through the kidneys and into the urinary tract. As a result, the bacteria can no longer attach to cells and cause infection [R]. The great thing about D-mannose is that it does not kill good bacteria along with bad bacteria, which is a huge concern with antibiotics. A 2013 study evaluated D-mannose in 308 women who had frequent UTIs. D-mannose worked about as well as the antibiotic nitrofurantoin for preventing UTI over a 6-month period. In a 2014 study, D-mannose was compared to the antibiotic trimethoprim/sulfamethoxazole for treatment and prevention of frequent UTI in 60 women. D-mannose reduced UTI symptoms in women with an active infection. It was also more effective than the antibiotic for preventing additional infections. A 2016 study tested the effects of D-mannose in 43 women with an active UTI. At the end of the study, most women had improved symptoms.
- Limit sugar and reduce yeast. Sugars of all kinds only tend to encourage bacterial infections. They also weaken the immune system. White sugar is the worst, but also look out for honey and sweet fruit juices. If there is a possibility of yeast is playing a role in your UTI, it’s a good idea to eliminate yeast-rich foods, refined sugars as well as foods that are aged or fermented. All of these foods encourage systemic Candida overgrowth. Candida is a fungal infection caused by yeast overgrowth. I would suggest getting on the Kauffman Diet, which will help with yeast overgrowth and fungus.
- Don’t Forget Herbs. Finding a qualified Herbalist or Naturopath to help you know which herbs work well in preventing and early intervention of UTI is an excellent idea. The herb uva ursi (bearberry) was often recommended before the invention of penicillin and other antibiotics. To this day, it remains a good option. Wild Mediterranean Oregano Oil is called “nature’s antibiotic.” A 2012 study concluded that oregano oil could slow down or stop E. coli growth and other bacteria. The strains of bacteria used in the study withstood other treatments, meaning that oregano oil may also kill antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Oregano oil’s anti-inflammatory benefits are also a plus when fighting UTI.
- Avoid foods that irritate the bladder. These include coffee, alcohol, and chocolate.
- Urinate after sex. It is important for both men and women to urinate as soon as possible after sexual relations. This can cleanse the urethra of any potential bacterial agents.
- Proper hygiene. Women should always wipe from front to back after urinating or defecating. This helps to prevent the spread of germs from the anal area.
- Gut and Vaginal Flora Matter. Consume a very healthy diet high in fiber from leafy green vegetables and low in refined sugar — better yet, eliminate sugar.
- Probiotics Matter. If you must use antibiotics, be sure to take a quality probiotic and prebiotic supplement that will help to replenish the beneficial bacteria in your body. Research indicates that taking a well-balanced probiotic can help women prone to UTI with a couple of essential health benefits. Probiotics have a system-wide immune-boosting effect, which aids your body in being better prepared to respond to any possible infection. Also, the friendly organisms that probiotics contain make their way into the body and remove pathogenic strains in the gut and the vagina, colon, and urethra, forming a physical and biochemical barrier against them.
To Sum It Up
There is no reason for anyone to go around suffering from UTI. For the most part, you can prevent a UTI by using common sense and quality lifestyle choices. The good news is that these Best Tips for Preventing and Treating UTI Naturally are not only effective against UTI but will boost your overall health as well. That’s a win-win situation. The truth is, when you pursue wellness and take care of your body, you will eliminate many disorders, including UTIs before they ever become a concern.