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As many as 50% of women will experience the unpleasantness of a urinary tract infection (UTI) in their lifetime, and 20-50% will have a UTI more than once.[1,2] If you contribute to this significant statistic, it may be in your interest that there is a range of natural remedies demonstrating the ability to keep UTIs at bay.

Why do you get UTIs?

As females, our anatomy makes us more likely to acquire a urinary tract infection. Why? Compared to the male urethra, the female urethra (the tube that connects the bladder to the genitals) is shorter in length, making it easier for undesirable bacteria to enter the bladder. This can be encouraged by sexual intercourse and poor toilet hygiene, such as wiping from back to front.

Between 70-95% of UTIs are due to the presence of E. coli.[3] Although this bacteria is naturally present in our bowel, in the instance of a UTI, it colonises the urethra and the areas surrounding it, before entering the bladder, where infection takes place. [3,4]

How do you know you have a UTI?

A UTI can present with a range of symptoms [5]:

  • Pain and/or a burning sensation when you urinate
  • Frequent urination
  • Incontinence (involuntary urination)
  • Blood in the urine
  • Pain above pubic bone
  • Unpleasant smelling and cloudy urine
  • New discharge, or changes to discharge
  • Irritation such as itching and burning in the vagina

 UTI diagnosis and conventional treatment

A mid-stream urine test determines whether pathogenic bacteria is present. If anconv infection is detected, antibiotic treatment is provided, and may be administered as a preventative measure in women who experience the inconvenience and discomfort of frequent UTIs.

Herbal remedies that may assist in alleviating UTIs:

Cranberry may make your lips pucker, but scientific research shows that this fruit can be helpful for UTIs due to its high content of ‘proanthocyanidins’ (PACs). [6] These compounds have demonstrated the ability to inhibit E. coli from adhering to the urinary tract lining. [6,7] If you want to give a cranberry supplement a try, check that it has a minimum dose of 36 mg of PACs; according to a gold standard research review, this amount in divided doses provides optimum benefits, allowing the PACs to continuously prevent E. coli from adhering to the urinary tract wall over a 24 hour period. [8]

Vitamin D extends far beyond bone health; this complex vitamin might also decrease your UTI risk due to its role in immunity. [9] Vitamin D is responsible for activating the formation of ‘cathelicidin’, an antimicrobial agent secreted by cells in the bladder lining upon exposure to E. coli. [13]

Pomegranate has a powerful antioxidant and antimicrobial role in UTIs thanks to its ‘ellagic acid’ content.[10] This compound has demonstrated the ability to prevent E. coli growth and proliferation by inhibiting replication of its DNA, as well as its adherence to the lining of the urinary tract. [11]

Probiotics can help assist against UTIs. The vagina contains around 50 different bacterium, influenced by several factors, such as age, hormonal changes and vaginal pH.[2] An imbalance of ‘desirable’ and ‘undesirable’ vaginal bacteria may contribute to the development of a UTI [2]; This is where probiotics come in…The Lactobacillus probiotic species have demonstrated the ability to regulate vaginal flora[2] and produce lactic acid, which prevents nasty bacteria from colonising in the urogenital tract. [12]

One of the Lactobacillus species to look out for when choosing a probiotic is L. plantarum, which is antibiotic-resistant[13]; This is significant when considering that antibiotics are the first line of treatment for UTIs, and that antibiotics can kill both ‘good’ and ‘bad’ gut and urogenital bacteria.

The undesirable symptoms of a UTI are experienced by far too many women, far too often. On a positive note, the research emerging on complementary remedies for preventing and reducing UTIs seems promising, and hopefully may help give this uncomfortable condition a nip in the bud.

Author: Stephanie Berglin, Herbalist, Nutritionist, DBM, DipNut.
Speak to your healthcare practitioner for more information about urinary health.
Always speak to your healthcare practitioner when considering supplementation. When taking supplements, make sure to always read the label and use only as directed. If symptoms persist, see your healthcare practitioner and remember that vitamin supplements should not replace a balanced diet.
For more health articles, go to www.bioceuticals.com.au/education/articles
REFERENCES:
[1] Wang CH, Fang CC, Chen NC, et al. Cranberry-containing products for prevention of urinary tract infections in susceptible populations: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Arch Intern Med 2012;172(13):988-996.
[2] Waigankar SS, Patel V. Role of probiotics in urogenital healthcare. J Midlife Health 2011;2(1):5-10.
[3] Kucheria R, Dasgupta P, Sacks SH, et al. Urinary tract infections: new insights into a common problem. Postgrad Med J 2005 Feb;81(952):83-86.
[4] Moshin R, Siddiqu KM. Recurrent urinary tract infections in females. J Pak Med Assoc  2010 Jan;60(1):55-59.
[5] Schmiemann G, Kniehl E, Gebhardt K, et al. The diagnosis of urinary tract infection: a systematic review. Dtsch Arztebl Int 2010 May;107(21):361-367.
[6] Braun L, Cohen M. Herbs & natural supplements: an evidence-based guide, 3rd ed. Sydney: Churchill Livingstone, 2010.
[7] Guay DR. Cranberry and urinary tract infections. Drugs 2009;69(7):775-807.
[8] Jepson RG, Williams G, Craig JC. Cranberries for preventing urinary tract infections. Cochrane Database for System Reviews 2012, issue 10.
[9] Jurenka JS. Therapeutic applications of pomegranate (Punica granatum L.): a review. Altern Med Rev 2008;13(2):128-144.
[10] Hancock V, Dahl M, Vejborg RM, et al. Dietary plant components ellagic acid and tannic acid inhibit Escherichia coli biofilm formation. J Med Microbiol 2010;59(4):496-498.
[11] Gross G, Snel J, Boekhorst J, et al. Biodiversity of mannose-specific adhesion in Lactobacillus plantarum revisited: strain-specific domain composition of the mannose-adhesin. Benef Microbes 2010;1(1):61-66.
[12] Rönnqvist D, Ström H, Forsgren-Brusk U, et al. Selection and characterization of a Lactobacillus plantarum strain promising as a urogenital probiotic. Microbial Ecology in Health and Disease 2005;17(2):75-82.
[13] Hertting O, Holm Å, Lüthje P, et al. Vitamin D induction of the human antimicrobial Peptide cathelicidin in the urinary bladder. PLoS One 2010 Dec 14;5(12):e15580.
  • I have heard that cranberries are really got to help avoid UTI’s

    Reply

  • Lots of valuable information here, thankyou for the article.

    Reply

  • This is really good advice, didn’t know about the vitamin d, thanks

    Reply

  • Nasty things these. Not all seemed to be explainable but definitely worth treating immediately and aim at preventing them as it can led to permanent scarring so my cousin found out.

    Reply

  • I will be trying cranberrie juice many thanks for the article very informative

    Reply

  • Some good advice.

    Reply

  • thanks for sharing this info :)

    Reply

  • I’ve had UTI once and it was horrible! Wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy!

    Reply

  • Thanks for the article – would definitely stick cranberry into my diet.

    Reply

  • I would not have thought that cranberries were so beneficial

    Reply

  • I try to have cranberry with my breakfast cereal and it keeps this in check

    Reply

  • Good article , thanks for sharing

    Reply

  • thank you for sharing this

    Reply

  • Thank you for sharing! :)

    Reply

  • thanks for sharing good to know what to look at for

    Reply

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