The DL on UTI's
Ask any woman who’s ever dealt with the utter misery of a urinary tract infection (UTI): they’re a major pain in more ways than one. UTIs are some of the most common bacterial infections there are, and they’re not the type of annoying problem that crops up once and disappears forever; UTIs are often recurrent, sneakily showing up over and over again, sneakily evading total elimination even though you go through standard treatment procedures.
While anyone can get a UTI once in awhile, recurrent UTIs are a whole other beast. They affect about one in five women and can be seriously debilitating. UTIs are considered recurrent if they crop up more than twice in a six month period. If you get three UTIs over time, you’re more likely to keep getting them down the road and find yourself struggling with recurrent UTIs.
So why does this happen to us ladies? While our bodies are beautiful, intees it easier for E.coli bacteria to travel and cause infection. A UTI can strike anywhere in your urinary system, but if you happen to get hit with an infection in your bladder, it’s generally considered mild and totally treatable via natural means. You’ll know you have a mild infection if you feel that notorious burning sensation when you pee and lligent works of art, the anatomy of our lady parts does set us up for some potential problems. The bladder is the perfect closed environment for bacteria to thrive, and because of the placement of the urethra and the rectum, females are much more likely to get recurrent UTIs than guys, thanks E.coli bacteria that can spread and cause problems.
Why Recurrent UTIs Happen
So why are recurrent UTIs a thing? Many reasons, including:
- Underwear made of synthetic material
- Tight clothing like leggings or jeggings
- Not urinating immediately after sex (romantic, I know)
- Sitting in chemical-laden bath bubbles
- Bath bombs
- Scented wipes
But above all else, the absolute worst and most unnecessary cause of UTIs? Douches. Your vagina is designed to clean itself - no products required! While these agents and activities can certainly trigger a UTI, your microbiome and immunity are what set you up for the infection; if both are in bad shape, you’re much more likely to develop recurrent problems.
While UTIs can happen anywhere in the urinary system, they can be relatively mild and treatable with natural means if they stay in the bladder. You’ll know you have a mild infection if you have the hallmark burning sensation when you pee plus pain in your bladder area and lower back. But UTIs can be serious too - this can happen if they reach the kidneys. If your UTI gets to this point, you’ll have more severe symptoms like nausea, vomiting, and a high fever, and you’ll need antibiotics for treatment. However, if you’re vigilant of symptoms and utilizing effective natural treatments, you can stop a UTI in its tracks and be in a much better position to prevent it from recurring.
Why Antibiotics Aren’t the Answer
As you may already know, I am no fan of antibiotics for a couple of reasons: 1) They destroy the microbiome, which plays a crucial part in keeping your body – including your vagina and bladder – populated with good bacteria versus bad bacteria, and 2) They suppress the immune system, making you more susceptible to infections.
But as I mentioned earlier, antibiotics are essential when a UTI spreads to the kidneys. Your goal, however is to avoid letting a UTI escalate to such a critical point and to prevent recurring UTIs. When we take antibiotics at the first sign of a UTI or use them as a preventative measure, we set ourselves up for a disrupted and dysfunctional microbiome. More and more research is showing us that the microbiome is crucial for long term endocrine health.
So many women take antibiotics at the first mild signs of a UTI. But rather than alleviate the issue, this only serves as a Band-Aid solution at best, creating a vicious cycle: Your microbiome becomes disrupted, which increases your risk of developing yeast infections, and then your internal ecosystem is vulnerable to recurrence. So you don’t get rid of the UTI completely, and it comes back with a vengeance again and again.
How Pregnancy, Postpartum, and Breastfeeding Affect UTIs
Some scientific research ties prenatal antibiotic exposure to childhood obesity. This is just one big reason you’ll want to tell your OB you want to avoid antibiotics if you’re pregnant or planning to become pregnant. But If you are susceptible to UTIs or have experienced a recurrent UTI situation, you’ll need to have a good protocol in place to lower your risk of getting a serious infection. Aside from antibiotic exposure, there’s a real risk for preterm labor increases when a UTI progresses to a kidney infection.
I definitely experienced recurrent UTIs after giving birth. And after nursing (no bottles!), on demand, for almost two years, my hormone levels were essentially those of a postmenopausal woman (very low estrogen). These hormone levels make you more susceptible to chronic infections of the bladder and the vagina, due to lower levels of bacterial-balancing estrogen.
Avoiding antibiotics is a top priority of mine because I don’t want them to end up in my breast milk and disrupt my daughter’s microbiome. Study after study is coming out about how critical the microbiome is for long term endocrine health. I see it as my job to take care of myself and my child in a way that doesn’t cause future health issues. That’s why I practice the protocol outlined below, and why I’m vigilant about avoiding infection and watching for the signs of an early infection.
Other hormonal issues like PCOS, amenorrhea, and perimenopause, which present with estrogen levels on the low side, can also increase your vulnerability to experiencing chronic UTI’s.
My effective, natural treatment strategy for recurring UTIs
I suggest a 4-step strategy (in addition to a microbiome and immunity-supportive diet) for getting immediate relief and effectively preventing a recurring, chronic UTI:
- Cranactin: Take an activated cranberry compound every day alongside your regular favorite supplements. Double dose every time you have sex that day and for a few days after, if this is something that triggers your UTIs (usually more common with new partners rather than long term partners, or when you stop using condoms).
- Jarrow’s Fem-Dophilus Probiotic: Take a daily, good quality probiotic designed for vaginal and urinary tract health. Again, double dose as above if needed.
- D-Mannose: This supplement supports a healthy urinary tract. Take daily and double up as needed. You can take this every 3 hours. You can also have your partner take this to protect you from any E.coli bacterias he may be carrying.
- Baking soda: Drink one teaspoon of regular baking soda in a glass of water each morning. This will help to balance your internal pH.
Always remember, that once you have the right information about how your body really works, you can start making health choices that finally start to work for you! You can do this – the science of your body is on your side!
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