Treating UTIs Naturally

Burning, stinging, pain, urgency – most of us are all too familiar with the beginning sensations of a dreaded UTI.  Urinary tract infections (UTIs) relate to infections of both the bladder and kidney. Kidney infections are typically more serious, often requiring antibiotic usage. For the sake of this article, we will mainly be referring to UTIs of the bladder.  UTIs can be a very distressing and life-interrupting issue, especially for those who experience chronic, recurring UTIs. 

What are some symptoms of UTIs? 

  • Frequent urination 
  • Painful urination 
  • Voiding small amounts of urine 
  • Urgent urination 
  • Blood in urine 
  • Pressure/aching/cramping above the pubic bone 
  • Feelings of tiredness or general feelings of being unwell 
  • Fever, nausea, lower back pain (when progressed) 
There are typically no changes in vaginal discharge with UTIs.  If you are experiencing the above symptoms alongside changes in vaginal discharge such as profuse watery, or thick white/yellow/orange/green/grey discharge, you may be experiencing a vaginal infection. 

What causes UTIs? 

Alongside the gut microbiome and vaginal microbiome, there is also a urinary tract microbiome. This specific microbiome is in charge of maintaining a healthy ecosystem within the urinary tract, which includes supporting optimal pH, supporting beneficial bacteria and keeping harmful bacteria out.  When harmful bacteria/pathogens are able to grow and proliferate, (resulting in a UTI) we can assume the microbial health of the urinary tract has been compromised to allow this growth to occur.  Some reasons for a change in the urinary microbiome/prevalence of UTI’s can include: 
  • Change of sexual partner or increased sexual activity 
  • Not urinating after sex 
  • Higher stress levels which have compromised the immune system and microbiome
  • High intake of sugar or alcohol – altering the microbiome 
  • “Feminine care” products such as vaginal/vulvas sprays, douches, deodorants and cleansers 
  • Synthetic underwear
  • Not changing menstrual products such as pads/tampons/period underwear frequently allowing bacteria to harbour 
  • Certain medications which can impact the microbiome such as antibiotics and certain birth control. 

How to support UTIs naturally? 

Key areas of focus to support UTIs naturally include: 
  • Supporting pH 
  • Supporting the immune system 
  • Supporting microbial health 
  • Supporting the nervous system 

Some things to consider when supporting UTIs naturally: 

  • Increase water intake 
  • Urinate after sex 
  • Switch to cotton/bamboo fabric for underwear and avoid G-strings 
  • The oral contraceptive pill increases the risk for UTIs. If you have been experiencing chronic recurring UTIs and are taking the pill, you may wish to revisit your various options for contraception or menstrual symptom management 
  • Change menstrual products (pads, tampons, period underwear etc) frequently Always ensure to wipe front to back when going to the toilet 
  • Address nervous system regulation if stress has been higher prior to the start of the UTI 

  • Support your gut microbiome by opting for organic produce as much as possible, eating a primarily whole foods diet (low on packaged/processed foods), eating a wide variety of foods, eating fermented foods (sauerkraut, kimchi, kefir), supporting intestinal integrity with bone broths, collagen, gelatin and slow cooked meats, keep processed sugar intake low. 

Supplements, Herbs and More 
  • Consider a probiotic containing lactobacillus strains that have been shown to be supportive for genitourinary health such as lactobacillus rhamnosus, lactobacillus reuteri and lactobacillus crispatus. 
  • D-mannose powder helps to prevent bacteria from adhering to the bladder wall.
  • Cranberry powder/juice/extract can help to prevent the proliferation of bacteria in the urinary tract. 
  • Vitamin C has been shown to be effective in inhibiting bacterial growth and alleviating UTIs at a treatment dose of 100mg per day. 
  • Love your garlic! Garlic is a wonderful antimicrobial herb and is always a good to call on when dealing with an infection. You can increase your garlic in your cooking, take garlic cloves (chop a clove up finely and combine with honey) or take garlic extract. 
  • Herbs such as marshmallow root and uva ursi leaves can help to reduce UTI symptoms. 
These herbs are best taken as a long-brewed infusion to help flush the urinary tract. 
  • Marshmallow root is a mucilaginous herb, the mucilage is best extracted with cold water and has an anti-inflammatory effect on mucus membranes. Take ⅓ of a cup of each herb, place in a 1L jar, fill with cold water and leave to sit for at least 4 hours. When ready, strain and drink 1-2 cups per day until symptoms have resolved. 
  • The Chinese herbal medicine formula Ba Zheng Tang is a common and effective formula used for treating UTIs. Consult with your Chinese medicine practitioner to ensure this formula is appropriate for you. 
  • Acupuncture can provide fast relief from UTI symptoms, especially when treatment is given quickly in the early stages of symptoms developing. When you feel those symptoms starting, don’t hesitate to book in with your acupuncturist to get on top of it asap! 

Remember, when left untreated, UTIs can become quite serious, and quickly! Don’t ignore your symptoms, and if you are experiencing chronically recurring UTIs, you may like to explore further with an integrative practitioner to create a holistic plan to say goodbye to UTIs once and for all!

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