Are you one of the many women who has a UTI... yet again? Are you regularly experiencing that painful sensation, sense of urinary urgency, making you feel self-conscious and annoyed? You might feel that this topic isn’t the most comfortable to talk about, leaving you to “just deal with it” every month or multiple times a year. I understand your discomfort and I’m here to help. We are diving into the most common questions about UTIs and ways to help manage or avoid them in the future.
The more you know about your female body, the more confident you’ll feel in talking about issues related to it. I want to empower you ladies so you can take control of your health and ask questions when you need it.
What is a Urinary Tract Infection?
A urinary tract infection, also known as a UTI, is any kind of infection along the urinary system including in the kidneys, ureters, urethra, and bladder. This happens when bacteria gets into the urinary system. Women are 30 times more likely to get a UTI than men, but men can still get one. The reason for this is because the woman’s urethra (the tiny tube from the bladder to where you urinate out of) is shorter than the man’s. This shortened length allows bacteria to reach the bladder quicker and more frequently.
While some UTIs can go away on their own, some might need extra support from supplements or care from a provider. Please be aware, however, that an untreated UTI could become serious if it gets to your kidneys.
Are UTIs Common?
Yes, urinary tract infections are very common. In fact, urinary tract infections are the second most common type of infection in the United States! So know that you aren’t struggling with these annoying and painful infections alone. UTIs actually cause 8.1 million visits to a healthcare provider EACH YEAR.
While some women experience urinary tract infections here and there, others experience them multiple times a year or even a month! This is known as chronic UTIs.
Symptoms of UTI
Urinary tract infections can cause a range of symptoms for each person, and symptoms can vary from one UTI to the next for the same person. If you are experiencing any of the following, you could be dealing with a UTI.
- Urge to urinate even when your bladder is empty
- Painful burning sensation when urinating
- Cloudy, dark or even bloody urine
- Strange smelling urine
- Feeling shaky or tired
- Getting the chills or a fever
- Pain in your lower abdominal or back
Factors That Increase Your Risk For UTIs
UTIs are caused by bacteria getting into the urinary system. However, there are certain factors that can increase your risk for infections, including:
- Birth Control Usage
- Being Sexually Active
- Impaired Immune System (i.e. people with diabetes)
Ways to Minimize Your Risk
While UTIs are not always preventable, there are ways that you can minimize or even avoid some in the future. Try practicing some of the following exercises.
- Go to the bathroom before and after sexual intercourse as soon as possible.
- Drink lots of water to stay hydrated.
- Go to the bathroom when you feel the urge. Do not hold in your urine longer than needed.
- Talk to your healthcare provider about switching to a different form or type of birth control.
- Wipe from front to back.
- Avoid scented feminine products that cause an imbalance of vaginal bacteria.
- Take supplements and consume certain food/herbs (see below for details)
Herbs and Supplements to Support the Urinary Tract
- Cranberry Juice
- Hibiscus Sabdariffa
- Dandelion Leaf Extract
- Uva Ursi
- Marshmallow Root
- Celery seed
Cranberry juice and its extracts are widely known to help prevent and treat urinary tract infections. It does this by inhibiting the binding of the bacteria to the host cell. It can also help to balance the makeup of the bacteria that are living in the urinary tract. (We need a healthy balance of harmful bacteria to beneficial bacteria.) One study showed how individuals who took cranberry products saw a 38% greater benefit in their UTIs compared to the placebo group.
Hibiscus Sabdariffa is also known as Roselle or Sour Tea. This herb inhibits bacteria from attaching to the bladder wall. Individuals who take this have seen an increase in urinary tract health of 77%!
Dandelion Leaf Extract
Dandelion leaf can help with urinary tract infection by increasing the amount of excretion and increasing the frequency of urination. Since it’s known as a diuretic, it may help to flush out any harmful bacteria.
Uva Ursi is a shrub that produces flowers and berries. The leaves, however, are the part of the plant that has been used for medicinal properties for centuries. These leaves have the ability to not only balance microbial, but they can also flush out the urinary tract as well, keeping it clear of any built-up harmful bacteria.
Marshmallow root is a perennial herb that's native to Europe, Western Asia, and Northern Africa. It has been shown to have a soothing effect on the mucus membrane including the mucosal lining of the urinary tissue and membrane. It can also have antibacterial properties to help with UTIs.
Celery Seed Extract
Celery seed can increase urine production, which can help get that bad bacteria out of your urinary tract before it can reach the bladder. It also has soothing and microbial-balancing qualities as well.
Before taking any of these herbs or supplements, it’s critical that you talk with your healthcare provider. There are different dosages that you should take depending on your specific case and health history. If you continue to struggle with recurrent UTIs, talking with an integrative medical provider is a great option for managing these annoying infections.
Can UTIs Be Treated Using Telehealth Integrative Urgent Care?
Telehealth can be a great option if you are having urinary tract issues. You can review your symptoms, medical history, and medication/supplement use all online with your integrative health provider. This is an easy and comfortable way for you to receive recommendations from a professional about what specific herbs/supplements and dosages you should take to support your UTI in a safe and healthy way.
Reshma Patel, PA-C, founder of Ananda Integrative Medicine, in Brentwood, Los Angeles is a caring integrative medicine practitioner, who has over 17 years of urgent care experience. She can help you with UTI struggles, as well as other women’s health issues you may be experiencing. She uses conventional Western medicine with an integrative and holistic approach to treat her patients. While you can visit her at her office, you can also schedule a virtual appointment so you can stay in the comfort of your home.
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