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Recurrent UTIs: A Naturopathic Approach

What is a UTI?

A urinary tract infection (UTI) is an infection in any part of the urinary system, including the

kidneys, ureters, bladder and urethra. Most UTIs involve the lower urinary tract - the bladder

and urethra.

Infections affecting the lower urinary tract have been estimated to occur in up to 50–60% of

women and those assigned female at birth (AFAB) at some stage during their lives, with 1

in 3 experiencing one before the age of 24. Recurrent UTIs are defined as 2 or more UTIs

within 6 months or 3 in a year.

Common symptoms include.

  • Burning pain on urination

  • Increased frequency of urination

  • A feeling to needing to urinate with reduce urine volume

  • Lower abdominal pain and/or pain in the back or side

  • Cloudy or dark coloured urine

  • Urine with a strong odour

Other symptoms include, blood in the urine (visible or on urinalysis), elevated white blood

cells and/or bacteria in the urine (on urinalysis). Fever can also occur and indicates

increasing severity of the infection.

What causes UTIs?

Most UTIs occur when pathogenic microbes, most commonly the bacteria Escherichia coli

(E.coli), enter the urinary tract and multiply causing inflammation and infection. Other

potential microbes include Enterococcus faecalis, Klebsiella, Proteus

mirabilis, or Staphylococcus. In women and those AFAB, these microbes are most

commonly from faecal contamination or vaginal secretions.

Due to female anatomy including a shorter urethra, these microbes may be able to ascend more easily into the bladder. Sexual intercourse including pathogenic microbes on the skin, in saliva and from genital

secretions are also potential contributors.

Other contributing factors include immune system dysfunction, allergy or autoimmune processes and loss of Lactobacilli in the vaginal flora.

There are also hormonal factors associated with the risk of developing UTIs. Pregnant

women, perimenopausal and postmenopausal women and menstruating women all have a

higher risk of developing a UTI.

Additionally, those who have experienced a UTI are at a higher risk of developing another

one. This is due to an increased inflammatory response during the initial infection.

Testing for a UTI

In Australia, diagnosing a UTI typically involves a urinalysis requested by a GP to check for

the presence of bacteria, white blood cells or other indicators of infection. Additionally, urine

culture tests may be completed to identify the specific bacteria causing the infection and

determine its susceptibility to antibiotics.

Naturopaths may also recommend further testing to assess factors such as the urinary

microbiome, hormonal imbalances, immune function and gut health as these can all

influence a person’s susceptibility to UTIs.

Naturopathic Treatment of UTIs

Naturopathic treatment uses a holistic approach that aims to prevent the occurrence of UTIs

and address the root cause while supporting the body’s own innate healing abilities.

Treatment involves personalised dietary and lifestyle advice and may include supplements

that are recommended on an individual basis. Below are some of my favourite tips for

preventing UTIs.

Stay hydrated - Drinking plenty of water helps to flush out bacteria from the urinary tract

and dilute urine, reducing the risk of infection. Diluted cranberry juice concentrate, green tea

and herbal teas may also be beneficial.

Avoid known irritants - Foods and beverages that can irritate the bladder, such as caffeine,

alcohol, carbonated drinks, spicy foods, and artificial sweeteners, should be avoided.

Maintain good hygiene - This is essential for preventing the spread of bacteria that can

cause UTIs. It includes wiping from front to back after using the bathroom, washing genital

areas with a pH neutral wash and water, and wearing breathable underwear made from

natural fibres such as cotton or bamboo.

Urinate after sex and avoid holding urine - Urinating after sex helps to flush out any

bacteria that may have been introduced into the urinary tract during sex. Likewise urinating

regularly flushes the urinary tract, preventing bacteria multiplying.

Stay active - Regular exercise improves circulation and immune function, which can help

prevent UTIs.

Manage stress - Chronic stress can weaken the immune system and can contribute to

inflammation, making the body more susceptible to infections like UTIs.

Probiotics - Probiotic-rich foods like yogurt, kefir, and sauerkraut promote a healthy balance

of gut bacteria, which in turn can support urinary tract health. Probiotic supplements

containing strains such as Lactobacillus spp. can help to rebalance the urinary and gut

microbiomes, reducing the risk of recurrent UTIs.

Supplements - Supplements such as D-mannose, cranberry, certain probiotic strains, zinc,

vitamin C and herbal medicines may be helpful in treating and preventing UTIs. It’s important

to consult with a healthcare professional before taking nutritional and/or herbal supplements,

they should be prescribed by a naturopath or another qualified health professional following

a consultation.

It is important to note that UTIs can progress to upper urinary tract infections quickly and if

symptoms are not improving or are worsening then the advice of a GP or medical specialist

should be sought.

Jess is a degree qualified Naturopath who has a special clinical interest in treating genitourinary conditions such as UTI's. To book an appointment with Jess click HERE


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