September is Urology Awareness Month, aiming to raising awareness of urological health issues and break down the taboo and stigma surrounding talking about the urinary system. 50% of the UK population will be affected by urological disease at some point.
Read on to find out more about problems affecting the urological system, and how to keep yours in tip-top health.
Urology diseases are conditions affecting the organs responsible for producing, storing and expelling your urine.
Your urology system comprises your kidneys, bladder, ureters – the tubes carrying urine from your kidneys to your bladder – and your urethra, the tube linking your bladder to the outside world.
Your kidneys have the mammoth task of filtering out waste products from your blood and shunting them into your urine, as well as extracting excess water so you don’t become dehydrated. They’re on duty 24 hours every day.
One issue affecting kidneys are kidney stones, hard deposits containing salts and minerals forming inside your kidneys. Stones can develop inside the ureters, urethra or bladder, too. They tend to occur when certain chemicals like uric acid, oxalate and calcium become very concentrated in the urine, forming crystals. If a stone becomes lodged in one of your ureters it can cause extreme pain.
People who consume a lot of soft drinks containing high fructose corn syrup, as well as those with problems metabolising calcium, or issues with blood sugar control, are all at risk of developing kidney stones. Your gut plays a role here, too – it’s believed certain bacteria in your gut help to metabolise the oxalic acid naturally present in many foods, and if these bacteria are missing, this oxalate can go on to form kidney stones.
Kidney cancer, also known as renal cancer, affects over 12,000 people in the UK each year. Kidney cancer doesn’t always produce symptoms, but you may find blood in your urine, have a dull pain or lump in your side between your abdomen and back, a fever, or you may find you’re losing weight.
Your bladder is a muscular, hollow pouch with the job of collecting and storing your urine.
Bladder cancer affects over 10,000 people in the UK annually. The most common warning sign is blood in the urine. This may occur suddenly and come and go. Blood in your urine can also be a sign of a bladder infection or stones.
Cystitis is usually connected with a bacterial infection in your bladder, or it can be caused by chronic inflammation of your bladder wall, when it’s known as interstitial cystitis. A bout of cystitis will usually mean you need to rush to the toilet more often, and you may have a burning sensation when you pee. Many women experience repeated episodes of cystitis.
A urinary tract infection affects your ureters, urethra and kidneys as well as your bladder. They’re usually caused by the E coli bacteria, but can be caused by fungi.
In older people, a urinary tract infection can escalate into a medical emergency if the bacteria spread to the bloodstream and into the brain.
Many women suffer from urinary incontinence, especially after childbirth or at menopause, yet it’s rarely openly discussed. But if you are suffering, you’re not alone – one survey found 42% of UK women questioned reported experiencing leakage of urine in the previous 30 days.
You might find you have an overwhelming urge to pass water, even if there isn’t much urine in your bladder. This is called urge incontinence. Stress incontinence on the other hand occurs when urine leaks out with movement such as jumping, or when laughing or coughing. Unbalanced hormones can play a role in urinary incontinence.
Frequent episodes of urinary tract infections, cystitis or ongoing urinary incontinence can make your life a misery.
A great insight into your urological health is the colour of your urine. Ideally, it should be the colour of pale straw. Any darker, and you’re dehydrated – don’t forget you may not necessarily feel thirsty – or if it’s fizzy, or tinged with pink or orange this could indicate a problem, for example with your kidneys or your liver.
The symptoms of urology health issues can seriously impact your quality of life. Don’t suffer in silence – the sooner you seek help, the easier they are to put right.
Functional medicine believes in treating the causes of ill-health, not plastering over the symptoms. Functional tests like those measuring the type of acids present in your urine can pinpoint what’s going wrong, making it easier to put right the causes of your symptoms. A personalised combination of nutritional, dietary and lifestyle measures will then focus on supporting your urological health. Contact Embracing Nutrition today for help and support.
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