If you’re a woman, you may have had a bladder infection; up to 20 percent of women have. And if you’ve had one, you’re not likely to forget it. Not only do you feel like you have to go to the bathroom all the time, but it’s not much fun once you get there! Although you may not urinate much, you will still suffer from pain and burning—and this won’t be relieved by “going.”
You’ll find that bladder infections, or what is known as cystitis, are often caused by bacterial infections caused by Escherichia coli or E. coli. Your doctor will likely discover these bacteria and white blood cells in your urine when doing a urine culture.
When It Hurts to Go
Ask any man about bladder infections, and you’ll probably get a blank stare. That’s because, as women, our anatomy works against us. This means we’re the ones who are most prone to this condition. Why? It’s because our urethras are much shorter than a man’s is (it makes sense if you look at an anatomy chart), and this means that bacteria have a very short trip from the anus to the vagina.
It doesn’t take much to trigger an infection. Maybe you overuse antibiotics, which can destroy the “friendly bacteria” we need to stay well. An infection can also be triggered by that romantic getaway, a diaphragm, spermicides, and douches.
Cranberry juice may help prevent bladder infections by preventing E. coli bacteria from sticking to the walls of the bladder. This property may come from a specific type of tannin found in the cranberries. New evidence from Yale researchers also shows that doubling the amount of cranberry juice you drink, from 4 to 8 oz., may double the protective effect, meaning it may be a more potent fix against bladder infections. Although more research needs to be done, you may want to try this natural approach as a preventive measure. If you do this, go for the unsweetened kind. Bacteria love sugar.
Herbs can be tremendously soothing when it comes to bladder infections natural remedies. This can be good news if you’re suffering. Try herbs like uva-ursi and dandelion, marshmallow, juniper, horsetail, and Oregon grape, for starters. You also have a choice. You can either make up a nice pot of, say, marshmallow tea, or use a tincture if you’re on the go, to get relief from your symptoms.
Studies show that using dandelion and uva-ursi together can help reduce the recurrence rate of bladder infections. This is thought to be because uva-ursi has antibacterial properties and dandelion, a diuretic, increases urination. Research still isn’t definitive about long-term use of this combination, however, so check with your health care practitioner.
You may also want to take 3,000 mg of vitamin C in divided doses (cut back on the total if you experience diarrhea) and 10,000 IU of vitamin A daily to help build up the immune system to fight infections.
If you have chronic bladder infections, the homeopathic remedy Staphysagria may do the trick, says Beverly Yates, N.D., a naturopathic physician and director of the Naturopathic Family Health Clinic in Mill Valley, CA. “It can be really helpful—particularly if it’s a chronic case and it’s really a burning, stabbing kind of pain when you urinate.” Staphysagria eases inflammation of the urethra in men and women. It can also help balance emotions.