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Urinary Tract Infectionsby Dave Foreman
Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are common. It is estimated that just over 10 percent of women have this type of infection each year. It is also estimated that over half of women will have at least one UTI in their lifetime. Even more troubling is the fact that about 10 percent of women over the age of 70 will have chronic problems with UTIs. The reason I focus on women in this article is because, other than infant children, the majority of UTIs occur in women. Of these women, most are middle-aged (whatever that is) and sexually active. When we get older, the incidence of UTIs is about equal between genders.
To better understand what a UTI is and how it may be treated or prevented, you need to know a little about the composition of the urinary tract. The urinary tract is the system in the body that carries urine out of the body. It is comprised of the kidneys, bladder and tubes that connect everything. Most UTIs occur in the bladder and are called bladder infections. Usually bladder infections are not serious, but they can become so if left untreated. Should an infection make its way to your kidneys, the problem may escalate and permanent damage can be done.
Symptoms of UTIs vary depending on your threshold for pain, as well as the severity and location of the infection. I always advise people to consult with their health care provider whenever they have a question or symptoms appear. The following is a brief list of some of the more common symptoms:
WHAT CAUSES THESE INFECTIONS?
In most cases bacteria get into your system through your urethra, the tube that carries urine from your bladder out of your body. These bacteria often originate in your large intestine and are found in your stool one of the reasons good hygiene is needed when using the bathroom. If these bacteria make their way up the urethra, they can cause you to have either a bladder or kidney infection.One of the reasons women tend to get more bladder infections than men is because women have shorter urethras. The bacteria have much less distance to go before entering the bladder. Unfortuanately, sexual activity can make it easier for these little buggers to reach the urethra, too.
Other contributing factors include not drinking enough fluids, being pregnant or weakened by certain health challenges like diabetes, prostate enlargement, and kidney stones.
SO WHAT CAN YOU DO?
There are several easy steps to prevent ever getting a UTI. Many may seem like common sense, but as we all know, sometimes it helps even smart people to be reminded.
The following supplements are recommended either as a way to address an existing UTI or as a preventative. One of the most popular supplements for UTI's (even modern medicine recommends this) is Cranberry. Sad to say, most of the cranberry products sold in grocery stores contain little to no real cranberry, but tons of sugar.To really get the benefits, I recommend using a cranberry extract (capsule, tablet or tincture), or a juice from your local health food store. Scientific studies show regular consumption of cranberry helps decrease occurrences of UTIs. The belief is that cranberry inhibits bacteria from attaching to the bladder wall, thus preventing its spread.
Other herbs like asparagus, birch, nettle and parsley are known to be helpful. These herbs increase urine production, which may be their mechanism of action. The increased need to urinate may help flush bacteria from the urinary tract more regularly.The herb Uva Ursi is also frequently used around the world for the treatment of bladder infections. A compound found in this herb can be converted in the body into a natural antibiotic active in the urinary tract. As with any and all natural health programs, please consult with your health care provider prior to committing to your program.
ACUTE AND LONG-TERM APPROACHES
Boosting immune function short-term for an acute UTI or supporting it for chronic cases are also beneficial strategies. Supplements such as Esberitox,Vitamin C, Echinacea, etc. can boost immune function quickly, helping the body ward off infection. For long-term use, I prefer medicinal mushrooms like Maitake, Reishi, Beta-glucan (WGP 3-6), or combination products like Host Defense or Life Shield. These products support the immune system and are considered safe and effective for extended use. (Learn more about immunehealth supplements in my past newsletters)
A majority of UTIs are caused by bacteria that access the urinary tract from the large intestine (which suggests improper hygiene is involved), Therefore I recommend using a probiotic. Probiotics are friendly bacteria useful for those concerned with UTIs. Refer to my Probiotic article in this newsletter for more information.