Urinary tract infections. Ouch! The burning, discomfort, and persistence of UTI’s is something no one can forget. Unfortunately, many of us have been there. If you’re a member of the UTI club, you know what a nightmare it can be to get rid of them- once and for all.
A UTI is any infection that occurs along the urinary tract. It could be lower, in the bladder, and even travel up to the kidneys. An estimated 1 in 5 young adult females will get a UTI annually. While about 60% of women will experience at least one in their lifetime
Be Kind to Your Bacteria
One of the go to strategies for tackling UTI’s in allopathic medicine is through the use of antibiotics. As more and more research comes out about antibiotic resistance, especially regarding strains like E. coli, the primary culprit of UTIs, people are turning away from pharmaceuticals to treat many infections.
Antibiotics can also have a negative effect on the human microbiome, interfering with the delicate balance of vaginal flora. Which is essentially the ecosystem of your vagina. When this ecosystem is thrown off, infections are more likely to occur in the area.
Instead of antibiotics, try probiotics, in your vagina that is. Probiotic suppositories have been shown to decrease rates of recurrent UTIs by about 50%. If this is something you’re comfortable doing, it’s worth a shot!
If suppositories aren’t your thing, including more probiotic rich foods in your diet like sauerkraut, miso, and kefir can help to maintain your gut health, and increase your body’s ability to fight infection.
Turning to Nature
D-Mannose is commonly turned to for UTIs. This simple sugar is made naturally in the body, as well as in certain plants like cranberries (sound familiar?), apples, and broccoli. It’s often ingested as a supplement either by itself or combined with other plant-based ingredients that support a healthy urinary tract.
Although the jury is still out, scientists believe it to work by stopping E.coli bacteria from being able to latch on to the urinary tract where they can cause infection.
Speaking of plant-based, nature has a lot more options to help treat you and your urinary tract. Plants are chalk full of wonderful healing qualities. Many of them have antimicrobial, antiviral, anti-inflammatory, and diuretic properties. Vitamin C is also your friend here, as it has an antimicrobial effect on three of the most common UTI causing bacteria.
Like many medicines, different herbs work for different people, so you may have to try a few out to find the right fit for you.
Some good ones to turn to are…
- Marshmallow Root: Has the potential to treat UTIs with its antibacterial properties. It also serves as a diuretic to help flush out any infection in the kidneys.
- Yarrow Root: Has similar properties, and can be combined with Marshmallow and made into an herbal infusion.
As with anything, do your own research, and seek consultation from an herbalist or natural medicine practitioner who can help guide you in the right direction.
No Panties, No Problem!
Outside of watching what you put in your body, you may want to be aware of what you put on it as well. Certain products like lubes, soaps, and sprays can throw off your vaginal pH levels. This makes a cozy environment in your urinary tract for infection-causing bacteria to thrive.
Going commando, or switching from thongs to fuller coverage underwear can also help prevent recurrent UTIs. Thongs can make it easier for UTI causing bacteria in the rectum to spread up towards the urinary tract. Especially if you are active or are working out in them.
The same logic can be applied to period products. Pads can make it easier for bacteria to crawl into the urinary tract. If you tend to get UTI’s after your period, try switching to a menstrual cup
You may be tired of hearing this, but always pee after sex! Your urine acts as a natural cleaning system for the urinary tract, washing away any potentially hazardous bacteria before it can fester and lead to infection.
It may go without saying, but stay hydrated. Not only is hydration necessary for a healthy immune system, it keeps the urinary system and kidneys moving, and helps to flush out unwanted intruders.
Here’s the disclaimer: If you have a UTI that won’t go away, that seems to keep coming back, or that comes with a fever and/or low back pain (a possible indicator of a kidney infection)- seek medical help. Kidney infections are a painful nuisance, and can lead to serious health issues. They are time-sensitive, so the sooner you get treatment, the better.
Natasha (she/they) is a full spectrum doula, reproductive health content creator, and sexual wellness consultant. Her work focuses on deconstructing the shame, stigma, and barriers people carry around birth, sex, and beyond, to help people navigate through their lives with more pleasure, softness, and sensuality. You can connect with Natasha on IG @spectrumoflovedoula.