Escape the Misery of Cystitis

Do you suffer from cystitis over and over again? Do you dread the warning signs – the burning sensation when you pee, and feeling like you need to visit the toilet every ten minutes? Read on because help is at hand.

Urology Awareness Month runs throughout September, and although urology covers the kidneys, bladder and, in men, the prostate, in this blog we’ll concentrate on preventing cystitis, which can make life a misery, affecting daily life, work and relationships.

What is Cystitis?

Cystitis is the common name for an infection in your urinary tract. The word cystitis means inflammation of the bladder.

It’s estimated three million people visit their GP to seek help for cystitis every year. Although it’s much more common in women, men do also suffer from cystitis, especially if their prostate is enlarged, impeding the flow of urine.

The symptoms of cystitis include pain and a burning sensation when you pee, and an urgent need to pass urine frequently, even when there’s hardly any to pass.  You may notice your urine is darker than usual or cloudy. You may feel generally unwell, tired or run down, or you might experience pelvic pain.

However, any pain around your kidneys or in your side, especially if it’s accompanied by a high temperature or blood in your urine, could mean the infection has spread to your kidneys. In this case it’s important to seek medical attention.

Most bouts of cystitis resolve on their own but if your symptoms don’t subside after three days, it will usually be treated by antibiotics. This is because it’s generally caused by bacteria such as E. coli originating in your gut. The bacteria are easily transferred to your urinary tract because, in women, the openings from the bowel and bladder are located very close to each other.

Many women find they experience attacks of cystitis after sex, and using tampons can spark it off. It tends to be more common if your immune system is compromised, as well as during pregnancy and after the menopause.

Why do I Keep Getting Cystitis?

Unfortunately, you may have discovered your first attack of cystitis isn’t your last. Repeated courses of antibiotics upset the population of beneficial bacteria resident in your gut and your urinary system, in turn weakening your immune system and making further bouts of cystitis even more likely.

Often, traces of bacteria will remain in your bladder, waiting in the wings for their chance to reproduce.

Sometimes, no bacterial cause can be detected, in which case the condition is known as interstitial cystitis – but the symptoms are similar.

It’s thought interstitial cystitis may be caused by the immune system attacking the bladder, triggering inflammation in the bladder lining, or by a type of pathogen not detectible in a standard doctor’s test. In some women, interstitial cystitis can reduce bladder capacity because damage to their bladder lining is not repaired as it would usually be.

How Can I Reduce my Risk of Cystitis?

  • Stay hydrated – drink water and herbal teas rather than caffeinated drinks because caffeine can trigger cystitis in some people. Ensuring your urine is dilute helps flush bacteria out of your bladder.
  • Red meat, dairy products, grains, sugar and processed foods all cause your urine to become more acid, and this can irritate your bladder. Many women find certain foods spark off cystitis, including alcohol, undiluted citrus juices and spicy foods. Plenty of fresh vegetables and fruit, pulses and legumes can keep urine alkaline.
  • Avoid sugar, the natural food for bacteria.
  • Try including fermented foods and drinks in your diet like sauerkraut, kombucha and kefir. These encourage a healthy bacterial balance.
  • Cranberry has traditionally been used to manage cystitis because it contains compounds able to discourage bacteria from sticking to your bladder wall. Most cranberry juice however contains sugar, because cranberry is naturally very tart. Look for an unsweetened variety or think about taking a supplement of cranberry extract instead.
  • It can help to empty your bladder fully when you go to the toilet and after having sex, and always wipe from front to back to reduce the likelihood of transferring bacteria. Avoid tight underwear, especially if it’s made from synthetic fabrics, and don’t use perfumed soaps and chemical-based toiletries.

Functional Medicine and Cystitis

Discovering the causes of cystitis in your particular case can help put things right and avoid its recurrence.

Functional testing can assess how your gut bacteria may be impacting your urinary system health, as well as detecting any nutritional deficiencies affecting your immune system. Specific nutrients and herbs may be recommended to restore optimum immunity, and lifestyle habits like stress reduction techniques adopted to support your immune system.

Certain probiotic supplements containing specific strains of bacteria known to reduce the recurrence of cystitis may be useful. These, in combination with natural antibacterial agents can help you wave goodbye to cystitis for good.

Contact me to start your better health journey today.

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