Bacteria that have migrated from the intestinal tract to the urinary tract are often to blame for bladder infections. Sexual intercourse is one way that helps the bacteria travel. Urinating before and after intercourse may help to flush the offending bacteria out of the urinary tract before it can get a foothold and multiply.
The urinary bladder can become infected with bacteria that normally inhabit the intestinal tract. Bladder infection is much more common in women than in men because a woman’s urethra — the passage that leads from the bladder to the outside of the body — is much shorter than a man’s, thus allowing bacteria to travel to the bladder more easily. Bladder infections can appear again and again, and the kidneys and other parts of the urinary tract may also become infected.
Practitioners of several alternative therapies frown on conventional medicine’s dependence on antibiotics — drugs that can disrupt the body’s normal balance of bacteria and may trigger yeast infections and other conditions. However, the alternative and conventional approaches do share one aspect of bladder infection treatment: They both promote self-help measures, such as drinking a lot of water and cranberry juice and maintaining good toilet hygiene.
Herbal Medicine for Bladder Infection
Herbs can be used to fight infection, soothe the inflamed urinary tract, and encourage urination (which flushes bacteria out of the system). Uva ursi (also known as bearberry and upland cranberry) can be effective in clearing infections from the urinary tract and triggering urination. Its leaves are often taken as a tincture or tea. Because it can be toxic, only small doses of this herb should be used.
Echinacea (or purple coneflower) and goldenseal are commonly prescribed to boost the immune system and as a natural antibiotic. They can be taken in tincture or capsule form.
Marshmallow root and couch grass can relieve the inflamed lining of the urinary tract. For example, marshmallow root teas may be used. Other herbs that are helpful in treating bladder infection include:
- juniper berries
Nutritional therapy offers several ways to treat and prevent bladder infections. Cranberries are often prescribed to increase the acid content of urine, making it unfriendly to bacteria. It’s also thought that certain substances in cranberries may prevent bacteria from attaching to the walls of the urinary tract. Research has confirmed that cranberry juice can effectively treat bladder infections. The juice should not contain added sugar, though, which may weaken the immune system. The fruit also can be taken in capsule form; this method can be desirable as it avoids the excess sugar in most cranberry juice formulas, but the patient must remember to maintain her fluid — especially water — intake.
Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) supplements may be used for the same antibacterial functions as cranberries. Other supplements that can aid in the treatment of recurrent infections include:
If antibiotics are included in the treatment program, then the body’s “good” bacteria should be reestablished with Lactobacillus acidophilus supplements or yogurt with live cultures.
Finally, good eating habits can contribute to a healthy immune system and lessen susceptibility to bladder infection. Many practitioners of nutritional therapy recommend eating a diet high in fresh vegetables, whole grains, and organic foods and low in sugars, refined carbohydrates, saturated oils, and animal products. Any food allergies should be ruled out with the help of an elimination diet. A naturopathic physician may recommend drinking unsweetened cranberry juice daily as soon as the symptoms of bladder infection begin.
Homeopathic medicine works to treat bladder infections by giving highly diluted doses of a natural substance that would produce the same infection if given in full strength to a healthy person. The substances are taken from plant, mineral, or animal sources. To find a remedy appropriate for the patient’s symptoms, a homeopath questions the patient on details of the infection and assesses the general state of physical and emotional health. Using these clues, the remedy is then individualized to the patient. Some characteristics to consider:
- Did the symptoms come on slowly or quickly?
- Has the need to urinate changed? How has it changed?
- Is the urine unusual-looking?
- What is the nature of the pain?
Aromatherapy can relieve the pain of bladder infections. The essential oils of the following herbs are commonly used:
- tea tree
These oils are often administered with body compresses and massages and in warm sitz baths and regular baths. It is important that these therapies not be used in conjunction with homeopathic treatments.
- Chiropractic Treatment for Bladder Infection — Some cases of bladder infection may benefit from a rebalancing of the lower spine.
- Detoxification, Fasting, and Colon Therapy for Bladder Infection — Short fasts can purify the urinary tract.
- Hydrotherapy for Bladder Infection — Warm or hot sitz baths and compresses can relieve the pain of bladder infection. These and other forms of hydrotherapy can increase blood circulation and encourage the healing process.
- Traditional Chinese Medicine for Bladder Infection — Bladder infection is often attributed to an excess of damp heat in the bladder. Treatment can include acupuncture, acupressure, and herbal therapy.