Cystitis -- Urinary Tract infections

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Finding a good herbalist

Much of what's written in this article is entirely suitable for a person to work through themselves but, especially if things are quite bad, or you just know that you need further help, then there may be a great deal of benefit to you to go to whatever lengths necessary to find a good herbalist or truly holistic practitioner to guide you on to a safe and strong treatment program. There's a short write-up to suggest how you might go about finding such a person here

Who gets cystitis?

Cystitis, or urinary tract infections, clearly affect a great many people and can cause much distress and discomfort. Because of anatomical differences, cystitis is nearly always a problem that affects women and it is estimated that up to 20% of all women have at least one bout of cystitis a year. At any one time nearly 5% of all women show high levels of bacteria in their urine meaning that they have a current infection.

Urine is actually normally very sterile until it finally gets out of the bladder and into the tube that connects us to the outside world, the ‘urethra’. Those bacteria get into the bladder by climbing up the urethral tube. Where we get into real problems is where urinary tract infections don’t resolve and keep coming back. At this point there is a high chance (which has been estimated as up to 50%) that this can cause further damage higher up the urinary tract all the way to the kidneys.

The bad bugs

The bacterium that is by far the most to blame for cystitis is our old foe Escherichia coli, or E. coli. Everyone has some E. coli in their system; an infection with it is more a matter of where it has got to and how much of it there is. Other bacteria that are commonly identified in urinary tract infections include Proteus species, Klebsiella and Staphylococcus saprophyticus.

Antibiotics are routinely given for cystitis but they seem to be ineffective for a growing number of people and there is increasing concern that bacteria are becoming  more and more impervious to the drugs.

Whether a woman has tried antibiotics without success or whether she simply does not want to use drugs, or can't -- it is reassuring to know that there are several remedies within Nature that have an excellent track-record and are highly likely to help.


Clinical experience - what works?

I have personally worked in this area extensively in my own clinical practice, many women have come in over the years with recurrent and resistant urinary tract infections and, so long as we have carefully followed the two steps described below of 1) drinking plenty of the UT tea along with 2) lots of water and an alkaline diet, we have almost always had exceptionally good, and fast, results! almost always work exceptionally well.

UT Tea

60gms Uva-Ursi leaf (Bearberry)                                
30gms Elder flowers      
30gms Golden Rod leaf & flower         
20gms Corn Silk       

The first place I start with my own patients and, if it is at all possible for you to get something similar from your local herbalist I would urge you to do the same, is with the use of the UT tea. The amounts we would use to give a good sized jar are above which also give you the proportions of the herbs. These are dried, cut herbs (not powders) and the dosage is 3-4 heaped tsps in one cup of freshly boiled water. Cover and allow the tea to steep for at least 10 minutes (not more than 15) then strain and drink (ok to add honey).


I have used this tea many hundreds of times with much success in the treatment of cystitis and have great confidence to recommend it to anyone. I suggest to make a fresh cup up to 3 or even 4 times a day if the infection is bad and to anticipate some rapid relief from symptoms whereupon you may start reducing the dose as soon as you like.

If you are not noticing a reduction in pain or burning after 2 or at the most 3 cups of the tea then start having a small tsp of baking soda mixed in a little water each time you take another dose of the tea. This will rapidly alkalise your urine and may be a necessary step for some women to get the full antibiotic action of the Uva-ursi.

It may be helpful to read further about this particular herb Uva-ursi so you can understand why it is the main herb in the tea and why it deserves your trying it with an open mind even if antibiotics have failed you in the past -- read more about it here.

For women who have had recurrent infections or who have been sick for more than a few weeks I suggest having a daily cup of the UT tea to prevent recurrence and to allow the delicate tissues of the bladder time to heal an improvement within

Arctostaphylos uva-ursi (a key herb in the UT tea)


Drink water & alkalise your diet

The second key steps are to drink plenty of water and to alkalise your diet. I am sure you have been told to drink plenty of water many times already and it really is one of the most important things you can do to reduce the severity of an infection and to help prevent a recurrence of the cystitis. So how much is too much? A good rule of thumb is how often a person needs to go the toilet. More than once an hour is too much, less than once in two hours is too little. Urine should be light in colour and virtually free from odour if you have been drinking enough.

You can alkalise your diet by simply eating plenty of fruit and vegetables. An alkaline diet will both help reduce the symptoms of cystitis when you have an infection and will also go a long way to prevent a recurrence of infections. The dietary guidelines written up in the cleansing diet here will point you in the right direction in this regard and this is a very good diet to follow when you have an actual current infection.


Is your immune system healthy?

If you are getting recurrent cystitis then you may need to consider the possibility that your immune system is too low to defend you against the common bugs that live in us, on us and around us.

Start your enquiry into how likely your immune system needs attention by looking at this simple check list

~ do I have signs of food intolerance such as a bloated stomach and dark rings under my eyes?
~ do I eat a healthy diet and would score myself at least 7 out of 10 for a good nutrition?
~ do I feel tired, tense or run down or am I relatively happy in myself?


Food Allergy

Food intolerances are really common and can be a key reason why people keep getting infections even when they may be eating a good diet and having a reasonably balanced lifestyle.

What happens with food intolerance is that there is a low grade allergy (wheat, eggs or dairy products being the most common triggers) that causes a continual imbalance and stress to the immune system which in turn gives rise to both inflammation and susceptibility to infection.

Food allergy is a complex subject that needs a thoughtful, scientific and sensitive approach to understand and get on top of. If, as well as cystitis, you have the classic signs of chronic bloating in the abdomen after food and dark rings under the eyes then you should start by reading here.


Healthy Diet & Immunity

I analyse the blood and immune systems of pretty much everyone who comes to see me. I also often ask people to give themselves a score out of 10 for their diet. For many people there is an abundantly clear correlation between how healthy their diet is and how balanced and healthy their immune systems are.

If you know your diet is poor then don't expect a free health pass through life by taking a bit of medicine because the cystitis will just be the beginning of the troubles! A good diet is really important for everyone and the older you get the more it matters.

I know that there is a lot of conflicting and crazy advice out in the health world about food but the simple and practical advice written up here on excellent nutrition will make sense and won't change.


Stress & Immunity

There can be no shadow of a doubt that excess stress and tension can impact adversely on the immune system. Some women I have met with chronic cystitis straight away volunteer their own belief that their problems are caused by stress or at least made worse by it.

If this is true for you then don't think it is too big a problem to deal with. I have worked successfully with so many people in high levels of stress, tension and anxiety that I know it can get better -- no matter how bad things may have become. The key is not expecting an overnight change but committing to a regular practice of doing those things that make you better.

If you feel that it is an anxiety kind of tension that is affecting you badly then read here. If you think that your mood may be too low or even that you might be depressed then read here. If you feel that your immune system is down through simply being too tired then read here to get going in the right direction.

Even if you aren't associating stress with your cystitis, pretty much everyone, no matter what is wrong with them, gets better faster and easier if they relax more (I'm sure this is the main reason small children and animals are the easiest patients, they don't make themselves keep going when they just need to rest and relax!) I've put up some relaxation commentaries and music that may be of help to you in this regard; you can find them here.


Constitutional Health Note

Finally, you might benefit from learning about your constitution to know what kind of foods, herbs, exercises etc. will work especially well for your health in general as well as helping you to treat and prevent cystitis. Constitutional health is an old and fascinating way of understanding our differences and, to demonstrate how it works in this area it has to be said that the chances of you having a problem with recurrent urinary tract infections are greatly increased if you are one of the cooler constitutions. In any case there is a brief introduction to this great subject here and a more detailed section on working out which constitution you are here.

Please understand that I cannot personally advise you without seeing you in my clinic.
This living 'book' is my labour of love so, wherever you are, I wish you peace & good health!



© 2011 R.J.Whelan Ltd