8 ways to avoid urinary tract infections naturally
(NaturalHealth365) No doubt, urinary tract infections are unpleasant, painful and (sadly) too common for many people. As a general rule, the chances of developing a urinary tract infection (UTI) are higher among females with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services estimating that up to 60 percent of all women will experience a UTI at some point in their lives.
And, while Western medicine addresses UTIs with antibiotics, these can cause toxic side effects – as well as contributing to the emerging public health crisis of antibiotic resistance. Clearly, non-toxic, natural methods of prevention and treatment are needed.
Today, we’ll focus on a variety of natural nutrients, herbs and simple strategies that can help you to avoid a UTI – or help prevent a recurrence.
Warning: Untreated UTIs can progress to serious kidney infections
UTIs are primarily caused by pathogenic bacteria, with two types – E. coli and S. saphrophyticus – accounting for about 80 percent of all cases.
UTIs generally fall into two categories – lower and upper. While lower urinary tract infections may clear up on their own, untreated lower UTIs can occasionally lead to more serious upper urinary tract infections – which involve the kidneys and ureters. These can, in turn, lead to life-threatening sepsis.
Symptoms of a lower UTI include burning pain on urination, frequent urination and urine that is cloudy, dark, reddish or odorous. Pelvic pain and fever may also be present.
Symptoms of an upper urinary tract infection include vomiting, fever and pain in the flanks.
It should be noted: The above symptoms call for an immediate physician to a medical professional for diagnosis and treatment. Don’t stop taking any prescribed medications unless advised to do so by your healthcare provider – and check first with a trusted, integrative doctor before adding any of the following supplements to your health routine.
Don’t overlook the value of cranberry juice
Studies have shown that cranberry juice consumption is linked to fewer UTIs – and that it combats infection by multiple mechanisms. First, cranberries are rich in disease-fighting anthocyanins – which have powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory qualities.
In addition, studies suggest that quinic acid in cranberries increases levels of hippuric acid – a natural antibacterial agent – in urine. But cranberry juice’s main gift to urinary tract health is that it prevents the adhesion of bacteria to mucous membranes, allowing them to be flushed harmlessly from the system.
This quality also helps to prevent large communities of bacteria from accumulating, thereby preventing the growth of treatment-resistant biofilms. For maximum benefit, seek out unsweetened, pure, organic cranberry juice. Avoid cranberry juice “cocktails,” which may be composed of inferior juices.
In addition, natural health experts advise drinking around 12 ounces a day of cranberry juice to help prevent UTIs. By the way, if fresh cranberry juice is too pricey for you, cranberry tablets can be just as effective for some people.
Eliminate the threat of UTIs with vitamin C
Having optimal vitamin C levels is one of the keystones of disease prevention and good health, as this water-soluble essential vitamin is absolutely vital for a healthy immune system. Vitamin C, also known as ascorbic acid, fights disease through its remarkable antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
Vitamin C is a particularly valuable ally when it comes to warding off UTIs – which it does by acidifying the urine, a process which converts bacterial nitrites into bacteria-killing nitric oxide.
Many natural health experts recommend vitamin C amounts in the range of 1,000 mg to 2,000 mg a day – but check first with your integrative doctor regarding supplementation, as individual vitamin C requirements may vary.
One health tip you may find useful: liposomal vitamin C tends to deliver much more vitamin C into the cells without any bowel issues.
Get proactive with probiotics
Probiotics, live organisms that help to promote the survival and function of beneficial bacteria, can be your best friend when it comes to urinary tract health. Many studies show that probiotics can perform a “hat trick” against UTIs, combating them in three different ways.
Simply put, probiotics prevent bacteria from adhering to uterine cells, while producing natural antibacterial chemicals (bacteriocins). And, finally, probiotics compete with pathogenic bacteria for resources.
For maximum effect, your probiotic blend should contain bacteria in the Lactobacillus family, as these have been shown in clinical studies to specifically prevent UTIs. In fact, a study comparing Lactobacillus bacteria to the antibiotic combination trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole showed that the probiotics performed almost as well as the antibiotics – without increasing the risk of antibiotic resistance.
You can help ward off UTIs by eating healthy amounts of probiotic foods, such as kombucha, miso, fresh sauerkraut, raw cheeses and yogurt with live cultures.
For probiotic supplementation, look for a high-quality formulation containing at least 100 billion CFUs (colony forming units). But, no matter which brand you choose, most natural health experts will suggest at least 10 to 20 billion CFUs per day.
Get help from hibiscus
Colorful hibiscus blooms are more than just eye-catching additions to subtropical landscaping. The flowers and leaves of the hibiscus plant contain antibacterial, antifungal and antioxidant compounds that can help discourage UTIs.
Hibiscus extracts also have a diuretic effect, helping to flush out bacteria and cleanse the urinary system.
But hibiscus’ own special superpower against UTIs may be its content of the strong natural antibacterial agent gossypetin – which has been shown to be effective against common UTI-causing bacteria.
Note: In one impressive study, researchers found that women taking hibiscus extracts experienced a whopping 77 percent reduction in UTI occurrence. And, yes, hibiscus extracts are available in tablets, capsules or, if you like, tea form.
Protect urinary health with pumpkin seed extracts
Snacking regularly on pumpkin seeds – or taking pumpkin seed extracts – may offer some protection against UTIs.
It turns out that the fatty acids in these tasty little seeds have disease-fighting antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects. Not only that, but they have been shown to improve bladder tone and support healthy bladder function and urination.
Natural healers typically recommend amounts of 500 mg a day of pumpkin seed oil to fight UTIs.
Are you going to the bathroom like you should?
Some days are so overwhelmingly busy that it even seems difficult to find the time for bathroom breaks.
However, “holding it” is not the best policy for bladder health. Simply put, when you feel the need to urinate, it’s time for a visit to the lavatory. In fact, it’s ideal to be urinating at least once every 2-3 hours per day to ensure the proper removal of unwanted waste products.
This is a particularly important caveat if you are female. Studies have shown that women who delay urination for more than one hour post-urge have an increased risk of UTIs.
Healthful hydration: Use “liquid therapy” against UTIs
Here’s a low-tech, simple strategy for defeating UTIs: drink plenty of purified water throughout the day. The reason, of course, is that this helps to flush bacteria from the urinary tract.
And, it’s scientifically sound: the opposite of good hydration – low fluid intake, and resultant infrequent urination – is directly linked to an increased risk of UTIs.
Get comfortable with the clothes you wear
Experts also advise promoting urinary tract health by avoiding tight-fighting, restrictive undergarments and opting for comfortable, “breathable” (organic) cotton underwear.
Note: although it might feel luxurious to lounge in mountains of artificially-scented bath bubbles – avoid commercial bubble baths, which can have distinctly uncomfortable consequences. The harsh chemicals can trigger allergic reactions, causing irritation that often sets the stage for the entry of bacteria.
One final tip: after using the bathroom, wipe from front-to-back—the “gold standard” of old-fashioned (yet practical) advice for avoiding pesky UTIs.
UTIs are uncomfortable, unpleasant events that can pose serious health hazards. Fortunately, these non-toxic nutrients, herbs and strategies can help you dramatically cut your risk of experiencing them.
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