The sharp rise in chronic urinary tract infections (UTIs) has been caused by the overprescribing of antibiotics, the “miracle of modern medicine”. Hospital admissions for UTIs have increased dramatically worldwide and the costs in treatment have blown out and are unsustainable. (1, 2) The level of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) to E. coli, the primary bacteria responsible for UTIs is rising at an alarming rate worldwide. (3)
Western medicine has run out of effective treatments left for antimicrobial resistant UTIs, yet urogynaecologists still insist on prescribing stronger and more antibiotics rather than refer patients to a CAM practitioner who can prescribe effective natural remedies, thus reducing the need for antibiotics to address the global scourge of AMR.
Bacteria is not a dirty word. Too many have become obsessed with ridding bacteria from our homes. Certain bacteria are required for optimum health. Most of us now know that good bacteria exist in the digestive tract. Certain foods enhance the production of theses bacteria. Just like the digestive tract, these bacteria also line other organs, including the bladder. The role of probiotics in the prevention and treatment of recurrent urinary tract infections has been well described. (4)
The overuse and abuse of antibiotics to treat UTIs also contributes to an imbalance of bad bacteria that can result in further infections. A common scenario is a woman with repeated history of cystitis often accompanied by vaginal thrush and digestive symptoms. This pattern needs the attention of a Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) consultant, not another round of antibiotics. Naturopathy is primarily about removing the causative factors of disease and creating an internal environment in which bacteria do not flourish.
Any infection, especially chronic in nature, means that there is immune system dysfunction. This can be due to stress or nutritional deficiency. Book an appointment to be prescribed supplements in the correct form and dose and how to take them at the correct time.
Vitamin C: Anti-bacterial and anti-viral. Vitamin C assists with the production of antibodies and T-lymphocytes.(5)
Vitamin E: As an anti-oxidant it scavenged free radicals produced in disease. Vitamin E enhances cell mediated immunity, lymphocyte response and Natural Killer cells. (6) Is anti-bacterial and anti-viral.
Selenium: Anti-oxidant and enhances lymphocytes, phagocytes, the thymus gland and all white blood cells (7)
Zinc: Zinc is anti-viral and important for the health of the thymus gland. (8)
Life on earth depends on appropriate pH levels with humans requiring a tightly controlled pH level in the serum of about 7.4. Foods are either acid or alkaline. The body must have the correct balance to be free of disease. Too much acid forming food will create acidic urine. Bacteria love this acidic environment. Very basically, red meat, milk and cheese are acid forming and green leafy vegetables are alkalising. Lemon juice in warm water has an alkalising effect on the body also. A full dietary assessment is recommended, as certain foods need to be prescribed. Whilst this longstanding naturopathic philosophy may sound very unscientific, studies have shown there may be some value in considering an alkaline diet in reducing morbidity and mortality from chronic diseases and further studies are warranted in this area of medicine. (9)
Herbal medicine for kidney health
There are a plethora of herbs for kidney health. The required herbal actions are urinary tract antimicrobials, immune stimulants, diuretics, anti-inflammatories and soothing demulcent healing herbs. In addition most herbs have at least a mild diuretic effect enhancing elimination of wastes. In my experience herbal medicine is rapidly effective to relieve cystitis.
Cranberries contain flavanoids, catechins and anthocyanodins. These have been scientifically proven to inhibit adherence of bacteria to bladder. Cranberries deodorises the urine essentially. Taking cranberry supplements on their own however is not naturopathic. Unless you take diet and emotions into account, you are not addressing the cause. Cranberry juice is high in sugar. Sugar feed bad bacteria. Water it down.
Uva Ursi / Bearberry
Bearberry, or affectionately, uva ursi is commonly prescribed. It contains hydroquinones, iridoids and flavonoids. It is a urinary antiseptic, particularly against E coli. This herb must be professionally prescribed.
I prescribe Echinacea angustifola, the premium Echinacea and far more therapeutic than the commonly available over the counter product containing Echinacea purpurea. A strong echinacea is required to treat antimicrobial resistant disease. Echinacea increases interferon (10) which in turn increases white blood cells, T lymphocyte, macrophages and natural killer cells to work as a natural broad spectrum antimicrobial, ie anti-viral and anti-bacterial and antifungal.
Herbal medicine for UTIs
Echinacea Echinacea Angustifolia
Crataeva Crataeva nurvala (11)
Uva ursi Arctostaphylos uva ursi (12)
Gravel root Eupatorium purpureum (13)
Dandelion leaf Taraxacum officinalis (14)
Marshmallow root Althea officinalis (15)
Carahealth Urinary Tonic is a urinary tract antimicrobials, immune stimulant, diuretic, anti-inflammatory and is soothing demulcent healing. The herbs are also antilithic (stone breaking) herbs that are traditionally used to prevent and treat the formation of stones or gravel in the urinary system and help the body in their removal. Kidney stones require professional treatment. From a naturopathic perspective however, kidney stones are entirely preventable with proper diet, and prevention is better than the pain.
Homoeopathy for bladder/kidney infections
Good for the strange, rare and peculiar symptoms. Homoeopathic medicine provides fast relief! The following symptoms indicate certain remedies that I can prescribe;
Urine is dark and highly offensive, smells like horses urine
Urine smells like violets
Frequent urination and burning pains
Frequency, urgency and only a few drops pass with stinging pain
High fever with pain, urgency, frequency
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2. Simmering JE, Tang F, Cavanaugh JE, Polgreen LA, Polgreen PM. The Increase in Hospitalizations for Urinary Tract Infections and the Associated Costs in the United States, 1998-2011. Open forum infectious diseases. 2017;4(1):ofw281-ofw.
3. Alanazi MQ, Alqahtani FY, Aleanizy FS. An evaluation of E. coli in urinary tract infection in emergency department at KAMC in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia: retrospective study. Annals of clinical microbiology and antimicrobials. 2018;17(1):3-.
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8. Mocchegiani E, Muzzioli M. Therapeutic Application of Zinc in Human Immunodeficiency Virus against Opportunistic Infections. The Journal of Nutrition. 2000;130(5):1424S-31S.
9. Schwalfenberg GK. The alkaline diet: is there evidence that an alkaline pH diet benefits health? Journal of environmental and public health. 2012;2012:727630-.
10. McCann DA, Solco A, Liu Y, Macaluso F, Murphy PA, Kohut ML, et al. Cytokine- and interferon-modulating properties of Echinacea spp. root tinctures stored at -20 degrees C for 2 years. J Interferon Cytokine Res. 2007;27(5):425-36.
11. Cho Y-C, Ju A, Kim BR, Cho S. Anti-inflammatory effects of Crataeva nurvala Buch. Ham. are mediated via inactivation of ERK but not NF-κB. Journal of ethnopharmacology. 2015;162:140-7.
12. Afshar K, Fleischmann N, Schmiemann G, Bleidorn J, Hummers-Pradier E, Friede T, et al. Reducing antibiotic use for uncomplicated urinary tract infection in general practice by treatment with uva-ursi (REGATTA) – a double-blind, randomized, controlled comparative effectiveness trial. 2018;18(1):203.
13. Habtemariam S. Antiinflammatory activity of the antirheumatic herbal drug, gravel root (Eupatorium purpureum): further biological activities and constituents. Phytotherapy research : PTR. 2001;15(8):687-90.
14. Clare BA, Conroy RS, Spelman K. The diuretic effect in human subjects of an extract of Taraxacum officinale folium over a single day. Journal of alternative and complementary medicine (New York, NY). 2009;15(8):929-34.
15. Rezaei M, Dadgar Z, Noori-Zadeh A, Mesbah-Namin SA, Pakzad I, Davodian E. Evaluation of the antibacterial activity of the Althaea officinalis L. leaf extract and its wound healing potency in the rat model of excision wound creation. Avicenna journal of phytomedicine. 2015;5(2):105-12.