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Debra Wu, ND, LAc
Cystitis and Urinary Tract Infections
A Natural Alternative

Cystitis and Urinary Tract Infections

Every year there are about two million cases of cystitis (inflammation of the bladder) and urinary tract infections. It is more common in women than in men. Common symptoms include burning when urinating, increased frequency of urination, pain, bleeding, and a change in color and odor to the urine. It can be a mild infection or a severe one.
There are several causes of cystitis. Wiping back to front after a bowel movement can increase the chances of introducing bacteria into the urethra. Not voiding after sexual intercourse, anatomical abnormalities of the urethra, pregnancy and mechanical irritation (e.g.from catheter insertion) can make a person more susceptible to bladder infections.
A urinalysis is the standard test to diagnose cystitis or a urinary tract infection. However, there are instances in which a person will present all the typical signs and symptoms of an infection but not present an elevated white blood cell count or bacteria. The conventional allopathic treatment for cystitis is antibiotics, given as a course for several days or as a single large dose.
There are several natural ways to treat a mild urinary tract infection and cystitis. You may try a natural approach for the first 1-3 days. If symptoms become worse or show no improvement within that time, then you may require antibiotics.
As soon as symptoms begin, start drinking unsweetened cranberry juice. You may also buy cranberry juice concentrate and add water to it. Cranberry juice may help to prevent bacteria from adhering to the bladder wall and urethra. Drink 3-4 cups a day and stay well hydrated with water. Vitamin C can be used to boost your immune system. You can take 500-1000 mg 2-3 times per day depending on bowel tolerance.
At your local health food store, you should be able to find some herbal tinctures that combine anti-microbials with urinary antiseptics. Herbs like arctostaphylos, uva ursi, goldenseal and echinacea, are immune stimulating herbs. Uva ursi has an affinity for the renal system. Diuretics such as dandelion, urtica (netteles) and zea mays (corn silk) are good for promoting urination. Buchu (barosma betulina) is also a mild anti inflammatory and diuretic.
In addition to water and unsweetened cranberry juice, you can also try marshmallow root tea (althea officinalis). When steeped in room temperature water, it produces a mucilaginous tea that is very soothing to the urinary tract.
Herbal tinctures are not as strong as antibiotics and have to be taken every two hours for the first 1-2 days. Results may be slower with herbal treatment than with antibiotics, but herbal treatment often has fewer side effects. Many people have difficulty taking antibiotics because of its effect on the digestive tract. If you need to take antibiotics supplement with some form of lactobacillus or acidophilus since antibiotics will tend to kill both beneficial and harmful bacteria in the gut. Lactobacillus and Acidophilus are beneficial gut flora/bacteria that can be found at most health food stores.
From a Chinese medicine perspective, urinary tract and bladder infections are often related to a heat condition, so “heaty” foods are avoided. These include alcohol, nuts, chocolate and coffee. Foods high in sugars should also be avoided since sugar depresses the immune system.
If you are prone to cystitis or urinary tract infections, then you should make an effort to stay hydrated, particularly if you know you will be traveling or are under stress. It is a good idea to carry some Vitamin C with you and an herbal tincture with you when you are traveling. At the first sign of symptoms, you may be able to start treatment and prevent the infection form getting worse.

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