Urinary tract infections are a common nuisance. UTIs occur mostly in women, but can frequently occur with men as well. Sexually active women between the ages of 25 and 35 years of age are the most common victims of UTIs.
Studies indicate that as many as 35 percent of women under the age of 40 have experienced this form of infection (x). Due to the increasing number of sexually active women at younger ages, these infections may be increasing. In fact, a more recent study indicates that perhaps as many as half of all women will experience a urinary tract infection at some point (x).
Escherichia coli or E. coli is the primary cause for the bulk of cases. In fact E. coli is responsible for up to 95 percent of reported occurrences (x). The rest of the cases are predominantly a result of Staphylococcus saprophyticus.
There are two clinically differentiated types of urinary tract infection — an upper UTI is referred to as pyelonephritis, while a lower UTI is referred to as cystis (x). The hallmark symptoms of a urinary tract infection are dysuria, frequent and urgent urination and pelvic pain. More severe cases can cause fever and blood in the urine. Though there is no sure method to diagnose a urinary tract infection, urinalysis is the traditional way of indicating its probability (x). If leukocyte esterase or nitrites are present in a midstream urination, it is likely the culprit of the symptoms (x).
Uropathogens that cause urinary tract infections can enter the urinary tract in various ways (x). Personal contact with others (especially through sexual contact) as well as food consumption can promote the spread of these pathogens.
Urinary Tract Infection Symptoms
Excessive, Urgent Need to Urinate
The most noticeable symptom of a urinary tract infection is the need to urinate frequently. Sometimes within minutes of going you might need to go again. In addition to frequency, an urgency to go is almost always present. You might feel no need to go one minute, and suddenly feel the need to urinate. Often there is little or no time to make it to the bathroom.
Pain or Irritation While Urinating
In addition to an increased frequency, pain or irritation while urinating is a common symptom. Often described as a burning sensation, this symptom, also called dysuria, is present in around 30 percent of cases (x). Because this symptom can occur in other maladies, it is important to diagnose this symptom properly and in the context of other symptoms.
Cloudy or Bloody Urine
Though slightly more uncommon, you might experience the symptom of cloudy urine or urine that contains blood (x). Protein or crystalline residue in the urinary tract can cause this. What’s more, the cloudy appearance can be a result of residue in the urethra. This can be a serious symptom of other maladies. Your physician will determine if this is a symptom of a urinary tract infection or another ailment.
Rectal, Pelvic or Abdominal Pain
Pain or tenderness might be present in the pelvic, rectal or abdominal areas (x). This can range from a mild discomfort to a dull ache. In general, a soreness might occur in any neighboring region and is a common complaint when UTIs present in clinical settings.
Fever and Chills
A consistent fever can be present in a urinary tract infection. Particularly common in an upper UTI, this symptom usually presents itself with pyelonephritis cases (x).
Nausea and Vomiting
Causes of Urinary Tract Infection
Though many cases of urinary tract infections present themselves in clinical settings with no known cause, there are some common factors that are frequently involved. The following are commonly associated behaviors or conditions that might be responsible for the UTI. Any or all of these might be present in your situation, so your physician will want to take a recent medical history to determine the cause.
Urinary tract infections, especially those that are recurring, can be a sign of kidney stones (x). This is a serious medical condition. Your physician should determine whether your UTI is a result of stones so that the underlying condition can be treated.
Intercourse can be the cause of a urinary tract infection (x). If your symptoms presented themselves shortly after engaging in sexual intercourse, this might very well be the case. Uropathogens can actually be transmitted from one partner to another during intercourse. A general sense of good personal hygiene in addition to good communication with your partner if symptoms occur can go a long way.
Urinary Tract Infection While Pregnant
Pregnancy is also commonly associated with urinary tract infections. Immunosuppression of any kind, including pregnancy, can bring on the symptoms of a UTI. The normal defenses in such a state are not on guard. The result can be an onslaught of uropathogens that are able to take hold.
Diabetes is a common cause of UTIs due to the build-up of sugars in the urine, as well as the inability to fully empty the bladder. Furthermore, a general weakening of the immune system and lack of metabolic control enhance the ability for uropathogens to find a hospitable environment in the urethra. In type 2 diabetes, these infections can be particularly serious (x). This is due to the fact that the pathogens affecting these particular cases are often resistant to treatment. This can make it difficult to combat, especially if the infections are recurring. Alternative treatments are especially useful for those with diabetes for this reason.
It is a common belief that improper cleaning after a bowel movement or cross contamination of feces can lead to a urinary tract infection. It is best that the rectum be cleaned well and thoroughly after a bowel movement. For women, it is recommended to wipe oneself away from the vagina so as not to contaminate the urethra with fecal matter that can carry harmful bacteria.
Home Remedy for Urinary Tract Infection and Dietary Supplements
Though the traditional clinical method for treating urinary tract infections has been antibiotics, there are other remedies and supplements that can help to treat an infection. These supplements can help to stave off another occurrence of a UTI in the future. A general strengthening of the immune system as well as managing urine toxicity will help to prevent UTIs from getting the upper hand.
Cranberry Juice for Urinary Tract Infection
The most noteworthy supplement for treating and preventing UTIs is cranberry juice. Though clinical trials have had mixed reviews with juice, largely due to the various brands and mixtures on the market, cranberry extract has had positive results (x,x).
Cranberry extract is superior to ingestion of the actual juice for multiple reasons. First is the consistency of the deliverable benefits. Because many juices contain varied amounts of the beneficial ingredients, the supplement assists in a consistent delivery of ingredients every time. Second, the taste for many is difficult to tolerate for prolonged use. Because cranberry supplements are water soluble, the administration is much easier.
For those starting with a cranberry extract supplement, the recommended dosage is 400 mg (¼ teaspoon) one to three times daily. Of course, you should always consult with your physician to discuss a dosage best for you.
Vitamin C is another great way to stave off a potential urinary tract infection. This is due to the fact that vitamin C, in general, helps to build the immune system. Because uropathogens thrive in the presence of a weakened immune system, a daily supplement of vitamin C can go a long way.
The daily recommendation for vitamin C extract powder is 1,000 mg (1 tsp) daily. Though the FDA recommends dosages no higher than 60 mg daily, studies show this may be overcautious. It is likely that a higher dosage is necessary to reap the supplemental benefits of vitamin C in general (x).
As a glycol-nutrient sugar naturally present in many fruits and vegetables, D-Mannose supplement powder is capable of promoting overall urinary tract health. In general, a daily dose of 1,000 mg (1 level teaspoon) of D-Mannose powder is sufficient. Because research on D-Mannose is still ongoing, you should consult with your physician to determine the potential benefits and appropriate daily dosage (x).
Though it seems obvious, the daily consumption of a healthy amount of water can also help stave off urinary tract infections. Water, in general, helps to flush the system and keeps you continually hydrated. What’s more, water dilutes the urine and helps to eliminate uropathogens before they can form an infection. For those that already have a UTI, consult with your physician before increasing your daily water intake. For those looking to prevent recurring urinary tract infections, this is a great and easy way to promote your overall health.
In a recent study, (x) results of less frequently occurring urinary tract infections were found in women who added at least 1.5 L of water consumption to their daily intake.
The Bottom Line
Because urinary tract infections have traditionally been treated with antibiotics, other natural remedies have continued to gain popularity. Antibiotics, unfortunately, come with a host of unwanted side effects. What’s more, after regular use, the efficacy of some antibiotics are reduced in their ability to fight infection. For those frequently plagued with the nuisance of UTIs, taking antibiotics each time is not necessarily the best option.
With more clinical trials backing their use, the natural remedies for both treating and discouraging UTIs definitely have a hand in the game. While some treatments are still in clinical trials, at the very least, these alternative approaches and supplements help to maintain a healthy acidic and sugar level in the urine and flush away unwanted uropathogens.
Because of this, the most direct effect of these methods is on the prevention of recurrent urinary tract infections. Implementing a daily supplement regimen could provide the healthy balance that will prevent future infections from occurring.
The best medicine is, of course, UTI prevention. These alternative remedies and supplements, especially when used in conjunction with each other, provide a strengthened urinary tract and overall immune system reinforcement.