Urinary Health

What is an UTI?

Cystitis and urinary tract infections, often referred to as UTIs, are reported as the most common type of bacterial infection in primary care- causing between 1 – 3% of all doctor visits.

Cystitis involves the lower urinary tract and typical signs/symptoms include:

  • A painful stinging or burning sensation during urination
  • The need to urinate more frequently
  • Cloudy, red, pink or dark-coloured urine
  • Discomfort or pressure in the lower abdomen
  • Urine with a strong odour
  • Pain in the pelvic area (women) or rectum (men)
  • Fever

What causes a UTI?

The vast majority-80% of UTI’s are caused by bacteria-mainly E coli adhering to the bladder wall and setting up an infection.

Why are UTI’s more common in women than men?

Uncomplicated UTIs affect both sexes and all ages but the majority occur in women and the frequency of infection increases markedly with age. Many women report their first problem at the menopause. E coli is resident in the perineal and anal region. It seems that the reason why women have more UTI’s than men is due to the shortness of the urethra, facilitating the invasion of the urinary bladder through this “tube”. E coli are therefore able to adhere to the bladder wall and an infection occurs

At menopause, cystitis can come as a surprise to many women. But it can be a  consequence of natural changes in the lining of the bladder as well as reduced pelvic floor muscle tone leading to a change of the urethral position. Add a new relationship to the mix – increasingly common for women over 50 – and you find up to 50% of women will experience cystitis during the menopause and for the first time. Many of these go on to develop a chronic problem that can make daily life a misery.

What is the first thing somebody should do if they are suffering with symptoms of a UTI?

Should they go to the doctor straight away?

Mild uncomplicated cystitis usually clears up within a few days. You can treat it at home by drinking plenty of water, and this can have positive results, and also taking painkillers such as paracetamol or ibuprofen.

Cranberry juice has long been considered as a potential help, but the high natural sugar content is a concern.

If fever and pain is present a visit to the doctor is advised. They may prescribe an antibiotic if deemed necessary.

Recurring UTI’s can be a common problem. What should you do if you find that it’s having an effect on your quality of life?

Keeping well hydrated, good hygiene, weight control- and improving health in general will help fight off potential re infection. However, recurrent infections may have damaged the bladder wall making it easier for e coli to adhere to the bladder wall.

What causes it and who is more susceptible?

There are several risk factors but each person is different. The most usual ones are: previous UTI’s, lack of appropriate hygiene, family history of UTI’s, lack of physical activity, sedentary lifestyle, obesity and sexual activity. It should also be said that often there does not seem to be an obvious trigger.

Is there anything people can do to reduce the chances of reoccurence?

Dr Gras-Technical Director Cysticlean 240mg PAC® recommends keeping fit and active, if working at a desk taking 2-5 breaks to walk around at least every 2 hours, and not delaying loo breaks! Good hygienic measures- and as your Mother taught you always ‘front to back’! This helps to ensure bacteria is not moved to the uthethra. If sexual activity is a trigger be sure to empty your bladder soon after.

Up to a third of cystitis sufferers will go on to develop recurrent problems with 3 or more infections a year. For these people preventative action is a priority as its severely life affecting and distressing.

A good healthy immune system supported with a healthy diet is essential to fight off infections.

Cotton underwear and avoid tight fitting clothes.

It is best to avoid the use of antibiotics in all but the most severe cases. Continuous use can accelerate the appearance of bacterial resistance to the most frequently-used antibiotics, a major concern for public health.

Nutritionally, what should people bear in mind in terms of foods that can exacerbate a UTI? And on the other side, what foods can help?

There is no scientific evidence to suggest that any kind of food can exacerbate a UTI although there is some suggestion that sugar may encourage infections. Any foods high in Vitamins -especially Vitamin C will help support the immune system. Food containing probiotics may also help ward off infections.

Is there a natural approach that might help?

Recurring UTI’s can be a problem. What should you do if you find that it’s having an effect on your quality of life?

The most common prescribed treatment for prevention is antibiotics for up to three months, or sometimes even more. However, it has been found that repeated doses of antibiotics to control recurrence, although usually effective initially, can encourage the bacteria to become antibiotic resistant.

Stopping the adhesion of the e coli and dislodging it from the bladder wall is the key to successful prevention.

Evidence suggests that substances known as proanthocyanidins, which are found in cranberries, may interfere with the adhesion of bacteria (particularly E. coli) to the walls of the urinary tract.

PAC’s have the ability to block the ‘receptors’ existing on the bladder walls improving the bladder’s ability to flush away the bacteria and hence prevent infections.

Cranberry juices and extracts vary widely in their chemical composition and thus their effectiveness.

So, it’s important to choose a product from a company that invests in research and development to ensure their product is proven to have an anti-adhesive effect on e coli.