That problem, again. Burning discomfort, endless visits to the loo but with a feeling of fullness in the bladder that doesn’t go away. Add feeling tired, perhaps feverish and having a heavy sensation in your pelvis…
For women who frequently get urinary tract infections, it becomes a nightmare while trying to cope with everyday life.
Why women are more prone to bladder infections
Women have a shorter urinary tract than men, which makes it easier for bacteria to travel into the bladder and cause inflammation. Left untreated, there can be serious consequences and therefore it is important not to ignore the symptoms.
Recurrent, poorly managed cystitis can lead to the infection spreading into the kidneys and causing kidney damage. This is something that should be avoided, as our kidneys not only filter liquid waste out of our bodies but also play a role in managing blood pressure.
Kidney damage brings a multitude of complications that takes priority over everyday life. That said, cystitis is extremely common, reportedly being responsible for six million doctor visits yearly in the US.
Factors that lead to cystitis
Other factors that can lead to cystitis, besides being female, include long-term catheterisation, chemotherapy, radiation therapy treatment, as well as hypersensitivity to chemicals contained in certain bubble baths, feminine hygiene products and spermicidal jellies.
Pre-existing conditions like diabetes, kidneys stones and spinal cord injuries can also predispose you to getting cystitis more easily.
Bacterial cystitis typically caused by Escherichia coli can be triggered more easily in women who are sexually active, pregnant and postmenopausal. Using the diaphragm as contraception can also increase your risk to get cystitis.
Stress and anxiety also play role in infections
Consider the anatomy of the bladder as a finely meshed gossamer bag that doesn’t like to be overstretched and that needs to be held in place by your pelvic organs.
When overly stressed, rushed or anxious with spasms occurring in the muscles, your bladder will not be unaffected. Louise Hay writes in her book You Can Heal Your Life that bladder problems can be associated with anxiety, holding on to old ideas, fear of letting go and being annoyed.
In Chinese traditional medicine the bladder is associated with the element of water, and the emotion of fear and fright.
There are no good or bad emotions, but issues with stagnant and chronic emotional conditions necessitate us looking at suppressed emotions and finding healthy ways to process them.
Identifying pathogens the answer
Research around microbes in the female urinary tract shows the bladder is not a sterile environment and it is uncertain as to what these microbes’ roles are.
When it comes to treatment, identifying the pathogen causing the inflammation as opposed to a widespread antibiotic treatment is advised. The bacteria that live on our skin, in our gut and throughout our bodies outnumber our cells 10 to one — if not more.
The role of “good” and “bad” bacteria is less clear than previously thought, and a balance in the roles of these pathogens might be part of the answer.
Ways to keep your urinary tract healthy
Avoiding antimicrobial washes will help preserve the balance of microbes in the female urinary tract. Breathable cotton underwear, wiping from front to back and drinking plenty of water are advised.
Probiotics that focus on the female urinary tract are worth considering. A diet that supports balanced microbial activity, lots of vegetables, less sugar, caffeine and alcohol, and food like sauerkraut need to be considered.
And again water. Water on waking, before coffee, through the day and evening is essential.
Herbal and other support
Herbal support for the bladder include:
- Marshmallow root
- Bearberry leaf
- Indian corn beard
Supplements like cranberry extract, D-mannose, garlic oil, green tea extract and, in post-menopausal women, a collagen supplement with herbs like dong quai and wild yam might be considered.
In colour therapy, orange and red relate to the base of the spine and bladder. If anxiety is a major contributor to bladder irritation, blue and green light can also be used.
Homeopathic bladder support
Homeopathic over-the-counter remedies include Urina by Natura, Cystoforce by Vogel, Anti-spasm 200c,Anti-virabac 200c and Cystitis 30c by Pegasus.