Author: Sherry L. Granader, Nutritionist
A urinary tract infection can affect not only the bladder but also the kidneys and urethra, where urine is carried out of the body. It can be painful, cause a burning sensation and create frequent urges to urinate with very little urine produced. They can be the result of an illness, injury or aging that can make it harder for the kidneys to filter wastes from the body. Bacteria in the digestive tract can also cause urinary tract infections. Doctors commonly prescribe antibiotics or other medications to resolve the problem but dietary changes may also help relieve symptoms and prevent them from occurring.
Protein sources – red meat should be limited or avoided due to its high acid and fat content. Also, the sauces or condiments used to accompany meats like ketchup or steak sauce can irritate the bladder due to the vinegar, sweeteners and tomato added. Hard and aged cheeses are higher in acid than soft cheeses and should be avoided.
Choose low acid fruits – like papaya, apricots, pears and watermelon. They do not tend to irritate the bladder like apples, grapes and pineapples can due to their high acid content. Citrus fruits should be avoided as they can trigger urinary tract problems.
Avoid high acid beverages – like coffee, colas and other caffeinated, carbonated beverages to avoid bladder irritation.
Stay away from sweetened fruit juices – they irritate the urinary tract.
Water, water, water – is necessary for every process in the body and should be consumed throughout the day.
Unsweetened cranberry or blueberry juices – have been shown to contain substances that stop bacteria from binding to the bladder wall and tissues, reducing the risk of urinary tract infections.
Other foods that can irritate the bladder include spicy foods and those sweetened with artificial sweeteners. If you are at risk for developing urinary tract infections, experiment with different foods to figure out which ones can be tolerated.
There are a number of herbs that can bring relief and speed up the healing process. They include:
Goldenseal and Oregon grape – both contain berberine and other alkaloids that stimulate the immune system and kill bacteria.
Cranberry capsules – instead of drinking juice, cranberry extract is available in capsule form that works well to prevent UTIs.
Uva ursi – helps kill bacteria and is widely used in Europe to treat UTIs; however, it cannot be used if pregnant.
Hydrangea, parsley and dandelion – all act as diuretics to encourage urine flow.
Marshmallow – soothes inflamed areas and enhances the immune system to fight unwanted bacteria.
Mullein – reduces urinary tract inflammation.
Nasturtium – the leaves, flowers and seeds of this herb contain natural antibiotics that may be helpful in preventing UTIs.
Vitamin A – found in fresh, organic produce is an excellent way to prevent UTIs. Beta carotene in plants helps maintain the integrity of cells, making them more resistant to unfriendly bacteria.
Vitamin C – acidifies urine. The bacteria that cause UTIs do not survive well under acidic conditions. At least 5,000mg are needed to make a difference.
Keep in mind that herbal remedies will often make one feel better; however, it is important to seek medical care if the symptoms do not disappear rather quickly. A urinalysis can reveal whether all the offending bacteria have been eliminated from the urinary tract. If blood is seen in the urine, seek medical attention immediately.