Urinary tract infections (or irritations) can be very serious, so it is wise to seek diagnosis from a physician, if symptoms persist. Left untreated, bladder infections can quickly become kidney infections, which can become very severe. Infection can then spread throughout the body, as well as causing extreme damage to the kidneys. This can lead to the need for dialysis or even a kidney transplant.
In view of these facts, the best remedy is, first of all, prevention. Drinking 8 to 10 glasses of water daily helps to flush out bacteria from the urinary tract and bladder. It is also vital to empty your bladder often, and completely, to rid it of bacteria. Proper cleaning technique and hygiene are imperative. It is wise to use wet wipes after a bowel movement, or to wash with soap and water, when possible.
Many times, the bacteria E. Coli, which is normally found in the colon and stools, can be transferred through inadequate hygiene to the bladder. Proper wiping should be from the front to the back, after urinating, and after a bowel movement. While men do sometimes suffer from urinary tract infections, women are particularly vulnerable because of their anatomy, which consists of a shorter urethra. Bacteria have easier access to the bladder.
When the urethra suffers injury or trauma, it is very vulnerable to infection. Sometimes this occurs through intercourse, a catheter, or through surgery or various medical procedures. Some of the symptoms of a urinary tract infection include burning or stinging with urination, low pelvic pain (sometimes extreme), a feeling of needing to urinate frequently, (but not feeling relief after voiding), blood in the urine (either microscopic or visible), fever, and occasionally nausea. However, it is possible to have a urinary tract infection, and not have any symptoms.
You can have a urinalysis done through a lab test, but there are now over the counter urine tests available, to detect urinary infections. This can be helpful in deciding when to visit a doctor, or when to initiate natural treatments.
Drinking cranberry juice can be very effective, both in preventing and treating a urinary tract infection. But again, it is much better to use cranberry juice and supplements as a preventative, rather than a cure. Often a well established urinary tract infection cannot be successfully treated with cranberry juice or supplements, but it is worth a try, and cranberries do provide symptomatic relief in some cases. (I can attest to this.) It is best to get a cranberry juice that is sugar free or has reduced sugar, as bacteria thrive in the presence of sugar. (Cutting down on sugary foods and drinks is also helpful to discourage the growth of bacteria.)
After recently suffering a reoccurring bladder infection, that did not respond to five rounds of antibiotics, my doctor and I decided to try an alternative approach. She suggested that I use the probiotic Culturelle, at least twice a day. Her theory was, that when the good guys move in, the bad guys often move out. It worked! And it also was a good idea to restore the normal flora in my digestive system, after all those antibiotics. (I now take Culturelle daily, and always increase the dose, when I take antibiotics.) Consuming yogurt and other food items with healthy “good” bacteria can be helpful.
There are also herbal remedies and treatments for urinary tract infections such as echinacea, marshmallow root, cantharis (homeopathic treatment), and apis. (I have not tried the herbal remedies.)
But new research also suggests that d-mannose (a concentrated form of the active ingredient in cranberries and blueberries) shows great effectiveness. It causes the urine to become more acid, and helps to prevent bacteria from attaching to the bladder wall. This of course, makes it easier to flush out the bacteria. (Again, drinking lots of water will help this to occur.) So how exciting to have a natural, broad spectrum, anti-bacterial agent! It doesn’t actually kill bacteria, but it dislodges them, or doesn’t allow them to cling to the bladder wall, enabling them to be washed out with urine. Research has shown that d-mannose is 10 times more effective than cranberries, in inhibiting the bacteria from sticking to the bladder lining. D-mannose is a naturally occurring sugar, but it doesn’t metabolize like table sugar, and therefore, doesn’t cause an increase in blood glucose levels.
And finally, strengthening the immune system is always wise in preventing infections. A strong immune system is always the best defense against bacteria.
Just remember, that in the case of urinary tract infections, prevention is of the utmost importance. You can certainly try to alleviate symptoms by the mentioned remedies, but if the pain and discomfort persists, always consult with a physician in order to avoid a far more serious kidney infection.