Treating Urinary Tract Infections

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A urinary tract infection is an infection in any part of your urinary system - kidneys, bladder, urethra. An infection that is limited to the bladder is very painful, but if your kidneys become involved, there is a risk of serious complications. Once you have had a urinary tract infection, your chances of getting another one goes up, especially if you have been through rounds of antibiotic use. This is why it is not uncommon for some women to get as many as 10-12 infections a year! 

Symptoms

  • A strong, persistent urge to urinate
  • A burning sensation when urinating
  • Passing frequent, small amounts of urine
  • Urine that appears cloudy
  • Urine that appears red, bright pink or cola-colored — a sign of blood in the urine
  • Strong-smelling urine
  • Pelvic pain, in women 
  • Rectal pain, in men

Acupuncture

Acupuncture is to used to clear the acute infection and also support the body's immune function so that it is able to fight future infections off. Getting regular acupuncture treatments is especially important for patients who have a history of recurrent urinary tract infections. 

Acupuncture Study on UTI

Foods to Avoid

Stay away from foods that feed bacteria, the big ones to avoid are:

  • sugar
  • dairy
  • starches (breads, pastas)

Lifestyle Habits to Develop

  • Drink plenty of water to flush out the urinary system frequently. 
  • Wipe from front to back after using the bathroom.
  • Avoid irritating products like douches and deodorizing sprays or tampons.
  • Urinate when you need to. Don't hold it!
  • Urinate after sexual intercourse.

Uva Ursi and Cranberry

I like to use these two medicinal herbs together because they take a two-pronged approach to treating the UTI. The cranberry works by lowering the pH of the urine in your bladder to make it more acidic which makes it an unhappy home for bacteria. For the stubborn bacteria that hangs out on your bladder wall, the Uva Ursi works by creating a "slippery" lining on the walls of your bladder so it can't cling on. Uva Ursi has an astringent quality which shrinks and tightens mucous membranes in the body. In other words, it reduces inflammation and fights infection. I recommend a product called Cranberry Complex from Standard Process which has both herbs in one handy pill. 

Note: Do not take cranberry if you are on warfarin.

Chinese Herbal Medicine

Your acupuncturist will help you develop a acupuncture and herbal remedy plan to avoid future UTIs. I send my patients home with two herbal remedies: one that is taken during the acute infection period to help clear up the current UTI. The second is to help support the body during its healthy period to help stave off future UTIs. 

Warning Signs

Get yourself to a doctor if you develop any of these symptoms. You may be at risk for a kidney infection:

  • high fever
  • shaking, trembling, chills
  • upper back/flank pain (I've also seen patients who develop upper abdominal pain associated with kidney infection)
  • nausea, vomiting

Probiotics

If you end up going to the doctor and take antibiotics for your UTI, get thee on a pro/prebiotic regimen! Antibiotics are like an atom bomb on your body system. It doesn't differentiate "good" bacteria and "bad" bacteria so it takes out the whole population. What is left is a gut full of cozy empty apartment buildings that bacteria like to nest in. The idea with taking probiotics during your antibiotic regimen is that you want to support the "good" bacteria colony and encourage them to move into the empty apartment buildings before the "bad" bacteria has a chance to take over. 

Please feel free to email or comment with questions and I will answer them to the best of my ability. 

Kathleen Lee L.Ac.