Bladder infections occur when bacteria invade the urinary bladder. Bladder infections are very common in women—10 to 20 percent of all women have urinary-tract discomfort at least once a year. Recurrent bladder infections can be a significant problem for some women and can cause progressive damage, resulting in scarring and, in rare cases, kidney failure.
WARNING: Although most bladder infections are not serious, it is important that you be properly diagnosed, treated and monitored. If you have symptoms suggestive of a bladder infection, consult a physician immediately.
What are the Signs and Symptoms of a Bladder Infection?
Burning pain on urination; increased urinary frequency (especially at night); cloudy, foul-smelling or dark urine; and lower abdominal pain are the typical symptoms. A urine analysis will show significant numbers of bacteria and white blood cells.
What Causes a Bladder Infection?
Most bladder infections are caused by the E. coli bacteria. Many factors are associated with increased risk of bladder infections: pregnancy (twice as frequent), menopause, sexual intercourse (nuns have one-tenth the incidence), mechanical trauma or irritation and, perhaps most importantly, structural abnormalities of the urinary tract that block the free flow of urine.
Which Dietary Factors are Important in a Bladder Infection?
My most important dietary recommendation is to increase the quantity of liquids you consume. Ideally, the liquids should be pure water, herbal teas, and fresh fruit and vegetable juices diluted with at least an equal amount of water. If you have a bladder infection, you should drink at least 64 ounces of liquids from this group, with at least half of this amount being water. You should also avoid soft drinks, concentrated fruit drinks, coffee and alcoholic beverages.
Cranberry juice is particularly beneficial in the treatment of bladder infections. Several clinical studies have shown that consuming 16 ounces of cranberry juice per day produces beneficial effects in roughly 70 percent of people with active bladder infections. The juice appears even more effective in preventing bladder infections. Cranberry juice reduces the ability of E. coli bacteria to adhere to the lining of the bladder, which greatly reduces the likelihood of infection and helps the body fight off infection. Blueberry juice is a suitable alternative to cranberry juice in treating bladder infections.
Which Nutritional Supplements Should I Take for a Bladder Infection?
Foundation Supplements. There are three products from Natural Factors that I think are critical in supporting good health:
- MultiStart: Age- and gender-specific multiple vitamin and mineral formulas. Follow label instructions for dosages.
- Enriching Greens: A great-tasting “greens drink” containing highly concentrated greens like chlorella, spirulina, wheat grass juice and barley grass juice, along with herbal extracts. Take one serving (1 tablespoon) in 8 ounces of water daily.
- RxOmega-3 Factors: A true pharmaceutical-grade fish-oil supplement. Take two capsules daily.
Calcium citrate. Minerals bound to citrate have long been employed in the treatment of lower urinary–tract infections. If calcium citrate is being used as the source of citrate, the dosage is 125 to 250 mg three to four times daily.
Uva ursi (Arctostaphylos uva ursi: bearberry or upland cranberry) is the most useful herb in most cases of bladder infection. It is especially helpful in preventing bladder infections. In fact, it is more effective than cranberry juice in this regard. In one year-long, double-blind study using a standardized uva ursi extract on recurrent bladder infections, five of the 27 women in the placebo group had a recurrence , while none of the 30 women who took uva ursi extract had a recurrence. No side effects were reported in either group. Use uva ursi extracts that are standardize to contain 10 percent arbutin at a dosage of 250 to 500 mg three times daily. Take the extract with a glass of water for maximum benefit.
Cranberry concentrates or extracts provide an easy and cost-effective way to take advantage of the benefits of cranberries in pill form. For example, UriSense from Natural Factors provides CranRich, a highly concentrated cranberry preparation. CranRich is made via a special proprietary process that intensifies the natural benefits of the whole cranberry, without the use of any solvents, preservatives, sugars, water, flavorings or artificial color. It takes about 40 pounds of whole, fresh cranberries to produce 1 pound of CranRich. The recommended dosage for UriSense is one capsule two to four times daily.
The best treatment for recurrent bladder infections, in my opinion, is prevention by using natural methods. By effectively preventing bladder infections, we can go a long way in reducing the need for antibiotics. There is a growing concern that antibiotic therapy actually promotes recurrent bladder infections by disturbing the bacterial flora of the vagina and by giving rise to antibiotic-resistant strains of E. coli. One of the body’s most important defenses against bacterial colonization of the bladder is a protective shield of bacteria that line and protect the external portion of the urethra. When antibiotics are used, this normal protective shield is usually stripped away or is replaced by less-effective organisms.
If you are a woman who suffers from recurrent bladder infections, or if you have used antibiotics, it is appropriate to reintroduce friendly bacteria into the vagina. The best way to do this is to use commercially available Lactobacillus acidophilus probiotic products. Use a product that is a capsule or tablet, and simply place one or two in the vagina before going to bed every other night for two weeks.
How do I Know if the Recommendations are Working?
Again, if you have symptoms suggestive of a bladder infection, consult a physician immediately. You will know the program is working when you cease to have symptoms. If you have chronic bladder infections, you will know the program is working if your infections become significantly less frequent.