Urinary tract infections, known as cystitis, are bladder infections that present with the
• a burning sensation or pain on urination
• very odorous urine that may be dark orange in colour
• frequent urges to urinate with minimal or no urination passing
• deep pain in the lower abdomen or lower back
• cloudy urine
Cystitis is more common in women than men due to the anatomical structure of the female urinary system and it’s shortened urethra compared to the male anatomy. Bacteria can enter from the vagina or the anus causing a bacterial infection. In infants however, boys are at higher risk of developing a urinary tract infection. Pregnant women, the elderly and diabetics also face an increased risk of developing this condition.
Although the pH of the urine is designed to inhibit the growth of many bacteria and flush
bacteria out of the body, if the urine is too alkaline, it can enable bacteria to survive and
pass upwards through the urethra towards the kidneys.
Other causes of bladder infections may be due to incomplete bladder emptying, interrupted or scanty urine flow, obstruction (structural abnormalities) and impaired immune function.
Natural medicine can be very effective in managing mild to moderate cystitis. Treatment is focused on rebalancing the urinary tract flora, strengthening the immune system, enhancing hygienic practices and stress management. This is managed by modifying the diet to restrict immune-impairing foods including sugar, refined carbohydrates and allergenic foods. Inclusions of specific foods that contain powerful antibacterial and immune modulating activity should be followed as well as foods known to support renal function. These foods include cranberry and blueberry juice, garlic, onions, fermented vegetables, mixed berries, probiotic yoghurt, nettle leaf and chamomile tea. In addition to this increasing hydration to increase urine flow is helpful.
Nutrients including vitamin A and C, zinc, beta-carotene and probiotics are indicated in
cystitis and are often required in higher doses warranting nutritional supplementation.
Herbal medicine is targeted at increasing the flow of the urine, reducing the inflammation, attacking the pathogens (bacteria), toning the bladder and enhancing the immune response. Some herbal medicines act by stopping the bacteria adhering to the lining of the urethra and the walls of the bladder which prevents the infection advancing and enables the body to easily flush the bacteria out of the body.
Renal irritants such as caffeine, alcohol, soft drinks and highly processed foods and meats should be avoided. Identifying any allergens is important and in the case of recurrent cystitis, urinalysis and other investigations should be considered. Further testing and investigations provide identification of the pathogen/s which can assist with targeted treatment and a rapid recovery time.
Maintaining hygienic practices is part of reducing the risk of future infection and includes looking at sexual behaviour, hygiene practices/products, toilet habits, underwear fabrics and body products used.
Recurrent or severe urinary tract infections should be addressed due to the potential
implication of the kidneys. If the infection reaches the kidneys, hospitalisation is usually
required with intravenous antibiotics until the infection has been controlled. If you experience fever, vomiting or lower back pain you should go to the emergency department of your local hospital.
If you or someone you know suffers from cystitis, consider booking an appointment with
our Naturopath, Belle Oneile, who can implement a treatment plan to reduce the risk of
future infection and deliver symptomatic relief. Belle can be reached on 0405 128 213 or at firstname.lastname@example.org for bookings.