You know the itch, that constant feeling of having to run to the bathroom, the stress of knowing how quickly it could get worse and become an emergency.
Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs) are no fun. 1 in every 5 women have at least one in their lifetime, and up to 4% of women have reoccurring issues—they’re more common than you think.
But what is a UTI? Where do they come from, and how can we prevent them?
What is a UTI?
Also known as a cystitis or a bladder infection, a UTI is a bacterial infection in the urinary system. This typically happens at the opening of the urethra and the bacteria climbs through and into the bladder. Most infections stay in the bladder but if it isn’t addressed, the cystitis can spread to the kidneys within a week and cause much more serious issues.
It is much more common for women and girls to get UTIs because the female urethra is much shorter than the males. Men, however, can absolutely get bladder infections and often present with symptoms when there is a block in urine flow (such as an enlarged prostate gland) or after sex.
80-90% of these infections are caused by the E. coli bacteria. E. coli live naturally in the body’s intestinal tract, but sometimes they find their way into the urinary tract.
The E. coli bacteria can spread and replicate quickly in the right environment, so it’s important to pay attention to what’s happening in your body, know your own ‘normal’ and recognize when things feel ‘off.’
Symptoms of a UTI
Symptoms of a UTI are hard to ignore. They can come on quickly, especially in cases where dehydration plays a part, and they can seriously impact your day-to-day life.
Most commonly there is the feeling that you always have to urinate. Your body is being invaded and you can feel it. The urge to urinate is your body trying, hard to flush out the bacteria.
A burning sensation when you are able to go. It’s sensitive in there, your urinary system is a literal war zone.
Cloudy and/or smelly urine. If your urinary system is the war zone, these are the fallen soldiers. A mixture of bacteria and your body’s defense systems kicking it into gear.
If you’re dealing with back pain, fever, or nausea, it’s possible that the infection spread to your kidneys and now you should definitely see a doctor immediately.
How to Treat Cystitis
If you’re in the throws of a bladder infection, especially if you’re having lots of symptoms, you need to talk with your healthcare practitioner.
Once an infection takes hold, it typically needs a prescribed type of antibacterial treatment to help the body work through the infection.
Since antibiotics often weaken your good bacteria and thusly your immune system, we suggest also working with your natural healthcare practitioner to help bolster your defenses afterward to help lessen the chance of recurrent infections (or a differenct type of sickness).
6 Ways to Prevent Bladder Infections Naturally
If you’re someone working with recurrent UTIs, you’re feeling a little worry that you might be, or you just want to fortify yourself against an infection, the best medicine is prevention. You don’t want to wait to deal with the problem when it’s already knocking at the door, get your wards up so it passes you right on by. Here are the top tips of UTI prevention:
This will likely be on every prevention list we have, but it’s especially pertinent on this one. Our urine is acidic and purifying to our urethra. If you stay hydrated throughout your every day, you often pee enough to flush the E. coli bacteria from your urethra.
2—Wash before and pee after sex.
Intercourse is a major bacterial transfer between humans. Remember that E. coli exists inside of our bodies so mixing fluids can mean that bacteria ends up in places it wasn’t meant for. Peeing after sex, especially for women, flushes out bacteria that may have spread into the urethra.
3—Always wipe front to back.
Laugh, but this is one ladies learn early. Young girls often get bladder infections when their learning that the front to back rule is for safety. There’s a lot of bacteria in our feces, including (you guessed it) E. coli, so just to stay on the safe side front to back is the way to go.
4—Sanandi Urinary Tract Herbal Extract.
If you’re following the rules but you’re needing a little herbal preventative boost, the Urinary Tract Herbal Extract is awesome to help boost the body so it is strong enough to keep the bacteria at bay. It boasts cleansing herbs and diuretics to help you pee more and purify your urinary system.
This is something not everyone woman wants to do, but I’ll throw it out there because hey, it’s tried and true- it’s worked for me. At the first inkling of a potential infection, grab a clove of garlic (or two) and a string. Make a small cut in the garlic and then put it on the string (you’ll probably need a needle to string it). Insert the clove into your vagina and leave it overnight. Garlic is a natural antibacterial plant, and the vaginal wall is very thin and absorbant (you might even be able to taste the garlic). This together with drinking a lot of liquid can be helpful to ward off a UTI.
I’m purposefully leaving off “drink cranberry juice” from this list because I’ve found that making a tea with marshmallow root is more effective—for the very same reason. E. coli travel up the urethra using little sticky fingers (I think about it like the suckers on my Virginia Creeper vine—I know, now the article image makes sense.) cranberry juice is effective because it has a constituent in it that makes the lining there slippery. Marshmallow root does the same thing, it helps your body to reinvigorate the mucus membranes throughout your system so the E. coli bacteria can’t hang on or climb up.
Drinking a quart of the marshmallow root tea cold infusion is the best. Here’s how to do that:
Step one: Using a small strainer, suspend 3 Tablespoons of Marshmallow Root (cut and sifted works best here) over a quart jar.
Step two: heat 1 qt of water to almost boiling and pour it over
Step three: let it steep overnight, or for at least 4-5 hours.
Drink it first thing when you wake up in the morning. I typically start a new infusion when I drink the first one, and have it before bed as well.
Because it takes time to make, this is something that I suggest doing in conjunction with other preventative measures. Additionally, adding an herb with antibiotic properties like Juniper berry or Sage to this infusion can be pleasant (though add only a little or the long steep time will make it very strong).
What’s your go-to natural UTI prevention tactic? Tell us in the comments below!