Bladder infections, also known as cystitis, are very common, particularly among women, whose urinary anatomy makes them much more susceptible than men to these problems. Learn how to treat and prevent them naturally.
Normally, the bladder is free of bacteria and other organisms that can cause infections. When an organism invades the bladder, it enters through the lower end of the urinary tract or via the bloodstream. Untreated bladder infections can lead to more serious infections of the kidney that can be permanently damaging. This is particularly true among young children and seniors, because their symptoms may be mistaken for other disorders. Women who develop bladder infections during pregnancy may be at increased risk of delivering premature or low birth weight babies.
The infections are marked by:
- Burning with urination
- Frequent urges to urinate
- Feeling the urge to urinate but not being able to
- Lower abdominal pain or aching
- Blood in the urine
- Smelly urine
- Cloudy urine
More than 90 percent of UTIs are caused by the E. coli bacterium, which is normally found in your small intestine. Problems only arise when this ordinary bacterium is present in high numbers in places where it should not be — like your urinary tract. However, there are other reasons for bladder infections:
- Frequent or traumatic sexual intercourse
- Pregnancy – Up to 10 percent of pregnant women tend to have bacteria in their urine, which increases their risk for bladder infections
- Antibiotic use, which can eliminate the good bacteria and cause an overgrowth of E. Coli in the vagina
- Drinking large amounts of coffee, soda and other caffeinated beverages
- Alcohol abuse irritates the urinary tract
- Dehydration prevents acids and bacteria from being cleared from the body
Bladder infections are more common in women. This is due in part to anatomy. In women, the urethra, or tube leading from the bladder to the surface, is quite short. It is easy for bacteria to move from the skin up into the bladder. In men, the urethra is longer, so there is less chance for bacteria to find their way into the bladder.
After menopause, women are at increased risk for bladder infections. This may be due to a decrease in estrogen, which may result in a reduction of the number of beneficial bacteria in the vagina that help keep harmful bacteria in check. The bladder also tends to become less elastic with age and may not empty completely.
As we age, our metabolic rates and energy levels tend to decrease. People with slow metabolisms have lower energy levels. Energy is the common denominator of health because energy is needed to resist infection. When the energy level is low, one is more prone to all kinds of illness and infections.
Bladder infections will often cease if you can increase your energy and metabolic rate. Optimizing your thyroid function normalizes metabolism, as the thyroid sets the body’s energy level. Optimum mineral levels are also needed to normalize your metabolic rate. You can best optimize your mineral levels with Myers Detox Protocol with Hair Mineral Analysis. This program normalizes your metabolic rate, thyroid levels, mineral levels, thus increasing your energy and reducing infection.
Toxic metals, especially mercury and cadmium, are infection indicators on a hair mineral analysis. Cadmium interferes with zinc metabolism. Zinc is required for immune system activity and for the integrity of the body tissues. Mercury toxicity can impair the immune system. My Myers Detox Protocol Program urges you to participate in detox methods like infrared saunas, which are required to detox from these irritating heavy metals and remedy mineral imbalances.
You can, of course, go to your physician for a urine test if you suspect you have a bladder infection. However, most women can’t miss them! They’re very uncomfortable! When you know you have a bladder infection, begin as many of the natural treatments I’ve described below. Definitely, go to your physician if you’re in a lot of pain, have a fever, or your back or abdominal areas are hurting. This could be a sign of serious kidney infection. You’ll need antibiotics.
You can diagnose a bladder infection with a home kit. Brands include HomeMedica, AZO, VH Essentials, and many other brands. The dipstick test kit contains specially treated plastic dipsticks that you hold in your urine stream or dip into a sample of your urine. The strips test for a substance called nitrite produced by most urinary tract infections, while some test for white blood cells. An area on the end of the strip changes color if you have an infection.
There is one over the counter treatment to ease the uncomfortable symptoms of bladder infection. However, it’s not a cure. Phenazopyridine (generic name) reliably eases pain and frequency of urination. Brand names like Pyridium, AZO and Uristat formulas can all be used to help with the symptoms of a bladder infection, but can stain clothing and make your urine a dark orange color. Oh, Phenazopyridine hydrochloride is reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen based on sufficient evidence of carcinogenicity in experimental animals. It caused liver, intestinal, and anal cancers in animals. Probably best to stick to natural cures.
Most physicians will always treat bladder infections with antibiotics. The antibiotic drug you’ll be prescribed depends on the type of bacteria found in your cultured urine. You’re most likely to get amoxicillin, nitrofurantoin, trimethoprim or a combination of trimethoprim and sulfamethoxazole. Be sure to take the entire course of antibiotics to prevent the more resistant bacteria not killed from continuing to colonize your bladder and cause a recurrent infection. A mild bladder infection may require only a three-day course of antibiotics, while recurrent infections may need a longer course.
Antibiotics (Should Be Your LAST Choice)
Antibiotics are overkill when we have so many natural treatments at our disposal. Antibiotics are actually a leading cause of recurrent urinary tract infections. Because antibiotics kill off so many bacteria in the body, both good and bad, they inhibit the body’s natural means of staving off infection. To learn more about how vitally important good bacteria are for your health and preventing a whole range of diseases, read by blog post Probiotics—The Foundation of Health.
You want to avoid the use of antibiotics whenever possible:
- Antibiotics are highly overused in humans and pets, as well as in livestock. This careless overuse has created antibiotic-resistant superbugs like MRSA, antibiotic-resistant tuberculosis, and so many other bugs that pose a significant risk to human health.
- Antibiotics kill the good bacteria, along with the bad, as described earlier, setting you up for fungal infections, diarrhea, and other digestive trouble.
- Antibiotics can cause dangerous allergic reactions.
- Antibiotic treatment does not successfully kill all the bacteria participating in the infection and may, in fact, encourage many of the bacteria to persist to cause recurrent infections.
- Physicians often prescribe newer, very expensive antibiotics for UTIs instead of “old gold standards,” which is a strain on your pocketbook. The new ones are not always better, just different.
- There are no new antibiotics in the pharmaceutical pipeline. We have to make due with what we have. This entails using antibiotics only when absolutely necessary to prevent further resistance.
- It’s important to note that antibiotics have their place in the treatment of bladder infections. If your infection has become advanced, has progressed into the kidneys or is extremely painful, antibiotics are your best course of action.
How to Recognize a Kidney Infection
Urinary tract infections can affect any part of your urinary tract, but the lower urinary tract is far more common — specifically, your bladder (cystitis) and urethra (urethritis). Once in a while, a UTI can progress up to the kidneys (nephritis or pyelonephritis), which is a more serious infection and warrants a trip to your health care provider. Kidney infections can cause permanent kidney damage and kidney failure if not promptly resolved, or can spread to your bloodstream. Do not mess around if you’re in pain!
In addition to the classic UTI symptoms listed above, symptoms of kidney infection can include:
- Back, side (flank) or groin pain
- Abdominal pain
If you do use an antibiotic, it is important to take a high quality, high potency probiotic to replace the beneficial bacteria killed by the antibiotic. It is advisable to take the probiotic as far from the antibiotic dose as possible. For example, if you take your antibiotic at 8am and 8pm, take your probiotic at 2pm to minimize the effects on it from the antibiotic. For more information on probiotics and recommended brands, read by blog Probiotics—The Foundation of Health.
Wendy’s Natural Treatment Recommendations
Antibiotic treatment may be necessary if your infection is advance or has progressed into the kidneys. Otherwise, the following natural measures can help prevent and treat bladder infections:
- Catch it early. The earlier you detect symptoms and begin taking treatment measures, the easier the bladder infection will be to treat. It will also prevent you from having to resort to antibiotics.
- Avoid wearing tight-fitting clothing. This includes pants, underwear or pantyhose.
- Wear cotton-crotch underwear. Cotton breathes while synthetic fabric will increase the proliferation of bacteria growth.
- Use natural mild detergents when washing undergarments. Most commercial laundry detergents contain irritating and carcinogenic ingredients not listed on the label. My favorite is Charlie’s Soap.
- Take showers instead of tub baths; avoid hot tubs or Jacuzzis. Tubs can have bacteria is not cleaned properly. Hot tubs are notorious for harboring bacteria. However, warm sitz baths can alleviate the pain of bladder infections.
- Don’t hold your urine. Be sure to urinate frequently and when you have the urge.
- Wipe from front to back to prevent bacteria from entering your urethra.
- Use unscented toilet paper to avoid toxic and irritating dyes and fragrances. Better yet, use a bidet.
- Good hygiene before and after sex. Keep the genital and anal areas clean, and urinate before and after intercourse to cleanse the urethra of bacteria.
- Avoid feminine hygiene sprays, powders or douches. These can irritate the urethra, the tube through which urine leaves the body. Commercial preparations almost always contain toxic ingredients like fragrance (carcinogenic) and parabens (hormone-disrupting preservatives) and should always be avoided.
- D-Mannose. My first choice for bladder infections, pure D-mannose, is amazingly 10-50 times stronger than cranberry. It’s non-toxic and completely safe, with NO adverse effects. D-mannose can help cure more than 90 percent of all UTIs within 1 to 2 days! It doesn’t kill any bacteria — it just renders them unable to stay in your urinary tract. Therefore, it does not kill probiotics along with the bad bacteria, which is the problem with antibiotics. I like Pure Encapsulations Cranberry/D-Mannose.
- Probiotics. Probiotics are incredibly important in helping your body fight pathogenic bacteria. I stock the best probiotics on the market in the Myers Detox Store. If you are prone to bladder infections, you must take probiotics daily to correct gut flora. If you take antibiotics for a bladder infection, your probiotics will be wiped out, making you more prone to recurrent infections. Antibiotics use is why you keep getting infections! Read more about the importance of probiotics and recommended brands on my article, Probiotics – The Foundation of Health.
- Cranberry. The effect of cranberry’s active ingredient, proanthocyanidins (PACs), is dependent on the dose. A new study supports the theory that at least 36 milligrams of proanthocyanidins (PAC) are needed to reduce the adhesion of E. coli bacteria to urinary tract walls. A lower dose proved to be less effective. This is why simply drinking cranberry juice may not be potent enough to cure your bladder infection. Additionally, most ‘cranberry’ juices (if they even are pure cranberry juice) are full of sugar, which will promote bacterial growth. I like Pure Encapsulations Cranberry/D-Mannose.
- Zinc. Zinc deficiency often indicates a tendency for impaired healing and infection. A fantastic chelated form of zinc can be found in the Myers Detox Store.
- Bilberry. Also known as European blueberry, bilberry is a close relative to cranberries and American blueberries. Bilberry harbors potent antioxidant properties, which makes it a powerful free radical scavenger. In addition, bilberry is known to have an astringent effect, which is why it was and still is used today for urinary tract infections. It is commonly included in bladder infection complex supplements along with cranberry extract.
- Uva Ursi. Arctostaphylos uva ursi is an evergreen shrub that has long been popular for fighting urinary tract infections. It is a potent kidney and bladder detoxifier. A great supplement containing Uva Ursi called Renamide. I take it every day for kidney and urinary tract support. It is imperative for my clients that have recurrent bladder infections.
- Echinacea. Echinacea is a major immune system booster that also harbors powerful antiseptic action.
- Goldenseal. Goldenseal has antiseptic, anti-inflammatory, and astringent benefits. It too has been used to treat urinary tract infections and is said to be a good bladder infection herb if the infection involves bleeding. Goldenseal is not recommended for pregnant or breast-feeding women. Goldenseal should only be used under a doctor’s supervision if you have diabetes, glaucoma, cardiovascular disease, or kidney disease.
- Vitamin A. Vitamin A is very helpful to maintain the integrity of the mucous membranes. These are the delicate tissues that line the urethra and the bladder. Vegetable source vitamin A in the form of beta-carotene, like that found in orange and yellow vegetables, must be converted to vitamin A to be utilized. People with a slowed metabolism have lowered thyroid activity. It has been shown that lowered thyroid activity is associated with impaired conversion of beta-carotene to vitamin A. This is one reason why your vitamin A intake should be animal-based. No conversion necessary. My favorite method of obtaining animal-based vitamin A is with Green Pastures Fermented Cod Liver Oil. Their Cod liver/Butter Oil Blend takes things one step further providing even more vitamins. This is my very favorite supplement!
- Vitamin C. Vitamin C acidifies urine and inhibits the growth of bacteria in much the same way as cranberry. vitamin C can also enhance immune function to help fight off an existing infection. Your body uses up a lot of vitamin C when fighting infection. Take 1,000 mg four to five times daily of vitamin C to treat a bladder infection. Also, eat vitamin C rich citrus fruits and greens. My very favorite Vitamin C that I take every day is Innate Response Vitamin C. It contains C and all the co factors needed to absorb it. It’s completely food-based and organic, too.
- Baking Soda can neutralize acidic urine and help ease the burning sensation associated with bladder infections. Mix ½ teaspoon baking soda into a glass of water and drink.
- Treat the Host. A healthy Paleo diet like my Modern Paleo Diet strengthens your body and immunity by providing maximum nutrition. It is also low in sugar, preventing bacteria from causing infections. This method involves treating you, the host, so that your body’s environment is not hospitable to bacteria and infections. Recurrent bladder infections signal conditions are ripe in your body for more serious health conditions down the road.
- Water. Drink 3 liters of water per day. The more water you drink, the more you’ll have to pee, and the faster your body can flush the bladder infection out of your system. To learn why water is so important to prevent disease, including bladder infections, read my blog post, Dehydration Causes Pain and Disease. Confused about what kind of water to drink? Read my article, What Kind of Water Should I Drink? My favorite water filter can be found in the article The Best Water Filter on the Market.
- Drink Unsweetened Cranberry Juice. This works for a lot of women, but it makes more sense to take a supplement that has a far higher concentration of the tannins, aka PACs, that help prevent bacteria from sticking to the bladder walls. I mean, how much cranberry juice can you drink in one day! Ugh!
- Probiotic Foods. Research shows that frequent consumption of products containing probiotic bacteria can promote good urinary tract health. Fermented foods such as kefir, sauerkraut and other fermented vegetables are great for your overall health — including your urinary system. For a complete list of probiotic foods, see my blog post, Probiotics–The Foundation of Health.
- Garlic has strong antibacterial and antiviral properties that make it beneficial when fighting an infection. Garlic can be eaten raw, cooked or aged (fermented). Eat one clove daily, or more if you have an active infection.
- Eat Animal Protein or Acidic Foods. People with a slow metabolism often have alkaline urine. This is due to their slower rate of metabolism, which generates less acidic end products of metabolism such as lactic acid. It is also often due to their diet which are higher in fruits and vegetables and lower in the acid-forming protein. Being too alkaline poses it’s problems, too! Be sure to increase animal protein, which will create an acidic environment more favorable to killing bacteria.
- Avoid Sugar. Sugar feeds bacteria. This is the last thing you want to be eating when you’re fighting an infection. It will strengthen the infection, prolonging treatment or causing you to have to take more drastic treatment measures like a round of antibiotics.
- Avoid Alcohol. Alcohol promotes dehydration, as it’s a diuretic, in addition to weakening your immune system and irritating the urethra. At the very least, try to reduce or abstain while fighting a bladder infection.
- Avoid Caffeine. Caffeine is a diuretic, meaning it causes you to urinate more liquid than you took in. This will exacerbate a bladder infection and prolong the healing process.
- Avoid Soda. Soda pop seems to cause irritation that may lead to an increased incidence of bladder infections. The chemicals in these drinks irritate the delicate tissues of the bladder and urethra.
- Avoid Citrus. When you have a bladder infection, avoid citrus like orange, lemon, lime, and grapefruit, which irritate the bladder.
Your doctor will almost always prescribe antibiotics to treat bladder infections. I believe antibiotics should be reserved as a last resort after you’ve tried natural methods. Bladder infections can also be prevented by making your body inhospitable to the pathogenic bacteria that cause them. It takes time for your body chemistry to change, but over a few months you can create a healthier environment in your body and build a probiotic army to prevent bladder infections.
Click here for References+
1. Analytical Research Labs. Bladder Infections. 1991.
2. Duelli, Nancy, CCH, RSHom(NA). Homeopathic Rescue for Bladder Infections.
3. Melgren, Susan. Home Remedies for Bladder Infections. August, 19, 2011.
4. Mercola, Joseph, DO. Destroy Urinary Tract Infections Without Antibiotics or Cranberry Juice. April 20, 2011.
5. Nutritional supplement Education Centre. Natural Treatment of Antibiotics.
6. Sahelian, Ray, MD. Urinary Tract Infections.
7. Web MD. Home Test for Urinary Tract Infections.
8. Weil, Andrew, MD. Bladder Infections.
This material is for educational purposes only. The preceding statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.