Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs) are perhaps one of the most unfortunate ailments a woman can experience. Granted, there are any number of health issues that can be worse than a UTI, but in the moment when you are plagued by the awful cramping, urgency, and fire-piss you experience, you will give just about anything to make it go away.
So what is going on that makes a UTI so outrageously uncomfortable?
For starters, a UTI is inflammation of either your urethra (urethritis) or your bladder (cystitis) – these types of UTIs are often classified as Lower Urinary Tract Infections (LUTIs) because the infection resides in the lower portion of your urinary system. Sometimes, when an infection becomes worse, it can spread into your kidneys (nephritis), which can be a serious condition – one that you should immediately consult with your physician on for treatment.
A UTI can develop from any number of reasons but the most common reason is the introduction of a foreign bacteria. This happens more frequently in women rather than men because the opening to the urethra is so close to the anus, so bacteria can find its way to the urethra and begin to proliferate if unchecked. Furthermore, having oral sex and intercourse can also irritate the urethra and provide bacteria opportunities to cultivate the sensitive tissue – therefore practicing proper cleanliness is vital (i.e. peeing immediately after sex, washing yourself, wiping from front to back, etc.).
For the purposes of this post, I will be discussing some remedies that I have found helpful for LUTIs.
If you have never had a UTI before, your first occurrence can be unsettling. Common symptoms include:
· Burning sensation upon urination
· Lower back and abdominal pain and pressure
· Chills or fever
· Urgency (meaning you do not feel relieved after peeing – and when you try again, only small amounts of urine is released)
· Dark, cloudy, or excessively strange/foul-smelling urine
· Tiredness and feeling shaky
When I first notice symptoms (or potential symptoms), I immediately begin drinking a TON of water. You’ll feel like you have to urinate a lot, but that is what you want because you’re trying to flush the infection out.
Furthermore, I like to support my membranes by drinking demulcent teas (licorice root, marshmallow root, or slippery elm bark are my go-to teas). These herbs are mucilaginous, meaning that they help promote mucous production. This is helpful with a UTI because it helps coat the internal membranes of the urethra where the infection is attempting to attach itself and spread further. By drinking a demulcent tea, you can further help flush the infection from your body by making your membranes more slippery.
I am also partial to using tinctures, which I know some people don’t like because they are concentrated herbs extracted in alcohol. However, I find them very helpful because they make the herbs far more potent than when used in teas, plus they are easier to take than drinking a whole bunch of tea. I like to use Uva Ursi tincture when I first start noticing discomfort. Uva Ursi has particular chemical components that help bind the infectious compounds of UTIs and excrete them through urination. I warn you, it has a VERY strong flavor, as the herb itself is very bitter. However, it is far more pleasant taking a quick swig of tincture than drinking a full 16 oz of very bitter-tasting tea! I use a standard dosage when I take this tincture (3 droppers at a time). You can take this amount up to 3x/day as needed; although I have found that when I take just one or two doses when I first notice symptoms, the UTI doesn’t fully develop and goes away.
Apple cider vinegar is another excellent option for helping as a preventative against UTIs (amongst a number of other health benefits). You want to make sure you get RAW, UNFILTERED apple cider vinegar (I like to use Bragg’s) because the live culture does wonders for your overall health (and “apple cider” vinegars without the live culture are simply white vinegar with artificial colorings and flavors).
Unfortunately, these remedies don’t always work, and if you feel the infection has worsened to the point of severe discomfort, I would recommend doing a urine test and getting some antibiotics. I understand all too well that sometimes you simply can’t wait for them to take effect, especially in the case of a particularly painful UTI. Sometimes the infection can be too painful or severe for these holistic remedies to quickly affect them; however it is my belief that given enough time and diligence, these herbs and protocols will make a significant difference for you.
Sierra T, NTP