Bladder infections are no fun, as any of you who have suffered from the burning pain and nonstop, often urgent, trips to the bathroom will agree. And, for those of you who have had more severe symptoms such as incapacitating bladder and kidney pain or blood in your urine, it may have been a frightening experience. Bladder infections can come on quickly and, if untreated, can sometimes move up to the kidneys in a matter of hours or days, so they are not to be ignored. If one of our patients calls us with symptoms of a bladder infection, we always ask them to come in the same day.
How Do I Know If I Have a Bladder Infection? You will most likely begin to feel a sense of pain on urination, either in the bladder itself or in the urethra, where the urine comes out. Although the pain is usually associated with urination, this is not always the case. The pain is often burning. You may also notice that you have to urinate frequently, and that, once the urge hits, you have to make a dash for the nearest bathroom. If your infection is severe, you may notice some blood in your urine or feel pain in the mid back, over the kidneys. Your doctor will take a urine sample and test it for bacteria to make sure it is a bladder infection.
Why Me? What Causes Bladder Infections? Bladder infections, called cystitis in medical terms, are extremely common in women (about one-fifth of all women), and less so in men. During a bladder infection, the urine is often highly alkaline. Bacteria can usually be isolated, often of the E. coli type. You are most likely to end up with a bladder infection if you are under a lot of stress, when your vital force is most susceptible. Common etiologies for bladder infections are sex with a new partner and not allowing yourself to urinate when your body calls. Excess sugar consumption, particularly during a period of fatigue, can also tip the scales of susceptibility, since sugar suppresses the immune system and fosters bscterial growth. Fortunately, bladder infections are few and far between for most people. The recommendations in this article are for acute bladder infections. We recommend that anyone with chronic or recurring bladder infections seek out the care of a doctor specializing in homeopathy, which we have found to be extremely effective in ending this cycle and preventing future recurrences.
Natural alternatives. Most of you probably think that antibiotics are the only solution to bladder infections, but this is not true. In the majority of cases, healthy diet, homeopathic remedies and/or herbs, along with some common-sense lifestyle suggestions, can take care of bladder infections quickly and without side effects, such as the yeast infections which may result from antibiotics. But, remember, if your symptoms aren't better in a few days, or if they become severe, seek out professional care immediately.
Drink! Drink! Drink! Be sure to chug as much water as you possibly can during an acute bladder infection. Whenever you have any infection, cut out sweets. We recommend cranberry capsules, up to nine a day, since cranberry juice often has lots of sugar or honey in it. Cranberry concentrate diluted in water is also okay. Although some say cranberries are contraindicated in E. coli bladder infections, we have not found this to be the case in our practices. Avoid caffeine and nicotine, which are known to irritate the bladder. Vitamin C can also be helpful.
Help From Homeopathy. As homeopaths, we have had many, many opportunities to see homeopathy work beautifully for bladder infections. We attended a yoga retreat recently. At the end of the evening, as we were about to go to bed, we were called to treat a woman with a severe bladder infection. You might call this a kind of collective treatment, since there were four of us homeopathic yogis present! The woman was frantic. She could barely sit still, and paced to and fro as we talked. Her extreme bladder pain and blood in the urine had come on very quickly. The four of us all agreed on homeopathic Cantharis (Spanish Fly), which is a common bladder infection remedy having all the above symptoms. She was somewhat better within a few hours and considerably better the next morning. She still had slight burning pain in the urethra at the close of urination, for which we gave her homeopathic Sarsaparilla. Some other important bladder infection remedies are Staphysagria (Stavesacre), given for "honeymoon cystitis", when a bladder infection follows sex, and Berberis aquifolium (Oregon grape), when the bladder infection is accompanied by pain around the kidney, particularly on the right side. You should experience relief from the correct homeopathic remedy within twelve hours or less.
Herbal Relief. There are many herbs which are very helpful in urinary tract infections. Which to choose really depends on personal preference. Herbal tinctures are known to have a more rapid effect than teas, so that is what we use, generally in small doses throughout the day. Our favorite herbs for bladder infections are Barosma betulina (Bucchu), Chimaphilia (Pipsissewa), Berberis aquifolia (Oregon grape), and Uva ursi (Bearberry). Other herbs commonly used for bladder infections are Hydrastis canadensis (Goldenseal), Zea mays (corn silk), and Althea officinalis (Marshmallow root).
A Few Do's And Don'ts. Do rest and do listen to what your body is trying to tell you through the infection. Do look for the underlying cause. It's important that you learn the lesson your bladder infection is trying to teach you so you don't have to go through it again. Do breathe into the pain and try to relax. We had one patient who cured a bladder infection solely through visualization and meditation. Don't have sex while you have an acute bladder infection. Don't wear a diaphragm or a cervical cap. 8Don't take a hot tub or extremely hot bath. Don't overstress yourself. Don't wear tight clothing around the abdomen and pelvis.
We hope that these tips will put an end to your discomfort from bladder infections and convince you that natural therapies can work beautifully, especially if you begin them at the first hint of a urinary infection. May your relief be rapid!
Drs. Judyth Reichenberg-Ullman and Robert Ullman are naturopathic and homeopathic physicians and cofounders of the Northwest Center for Homeopathic Medicine in Edmonds, WA. They are coauthors of The Patient's Guide to Homeopathic Medicine and Beyond Ritalin: Homeopathic Treatment of ADD and Other Behavioral and Learning Problems. They can be reached at (206) 774-5599.