More than 50 percent of women experience at least one urinary tract infection (UTI) in their lifetimes, and despite the drugs doled out by Big Pharma, as many as 50 percent of those women experience a recurrence within one year, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. The cause of urinary tract infection in nearly 95 percent of women are bacteria like E. coli, mycoplasma and chlamydia that multiply at the opening of their urethras and then make their way to the bladder. Initial infections and recurrences can be prevented naturally with herbal support and simple lifestyle modifications.
A urinary tract infection in women may cause pain or burning during urination, lower abdominal cramps or pain, nausea, blood or pus in urine, frequent urination and pain during sexual intercourse. Antibiotics are the conventional treatment for UTIs. However, conventional treatments only suppress the bacteria that causes most UTIs. Women can develop a new UTI from the same bacteria, typically within six to 12 months. They are also vulnerable to infection from a different bacteria.
Cranberry can help prevent urinary tract infection in women, but contrary to popular belief, cranberries do not demonstrate an ability to treat existing infections. A study published in the British Medical Journal in June 2001 found that only 16 percent of women who drank cranberry juice daily suffered a recurrence of UTI within six months, only half that of women in the control group.
Cranberries contain a substance called proanthocyanidins that prevents E. coli from attaching to the bladder’s inner walls, according to the University of New Mexico. Blueberries may provide the same benefits.
Goldenseal and barberry
Goldenseal may also stop bacteria from sticking to the walls of the bladder. According to the University of New Mexico, goldenseal contains an alkaloid called bererine that behaves similarly to proanthocyanidins. Goldenseal also contains the chemical berberine that can fight UTIs and bladder infectionsby killingE. coli and other bacteria. The supplement barberry is also a source of berberine.
Berberine kills bacteria that cause yeast infections and diarrhea, according to the UMMC. It may also activate white blood cells so they can better combat infections, resulting in a stronger immune system. Berberine may be used internally and externally; some people use it as a perineal wash after intercourse to prevent UTIs.
Lifestyle modifications can be beneficial for prevention despite the varying causes of urinary tract infection; these may be particularly important for women who get infections frequently. Cleaning the genital area and urinating before sexual intercourse can lower the chances of a UTI. Urinating after intercourse and whenever needed may prevent infections as well. Showers are better than baths for preventing infection. A diaphragm that fits well can help prevent UTIs. Avoid using scented douches and hygiene sprays. The University of Maryland Medical Center advises drinking at least six to eights glasses of filtered water every day and exercising for 30 minutes five days per week. The University of New Mexico recommends avoiding smoking, alcohol, coffee and spicy foods.
Sources for this article include:
British Medical Journal: Randomised Trial of Cranberry-lingonberry Juice and Lactobacillus GG Drink for the Prevention of Urinary Tract Infections in Women
New Mexico State University – Medicinal Plants of the Southwest: Urinary Tract Infections
University of Maryland Medical Center: Urinary Tract Infection in Women
University of Maryland Medical Center: Urinary Tract Infection — Introduction
University of Maryland Medical Center: Cranberry
University of Maryland Medical Center: Goldenseal