Posted on by Margo Gladding
If you have ever had a urinary tract infection (UTI), then you are familiar with its uncomfortable symptoms of frequent, urgent, and painful urination. But did you know that UTIs are not the only reason for these symptoms? Interstitial cystitis (IC) can resemble a UTI and also cause bladder pressure, urinary frequency and urgency, as well as painful urination. However, while both a UTI and IC can have very similar symptoms, they have different causes and therefore different ways to address them.
A urinary tract infection (also called bladder infection) is a common condition caused by bacteria (often E. coli) getting into the urethra and traveling to the bladder and causing acute inflammation and infection. With a UTI, a urine culture will show the presence of bacteria. Interstitial cystitis on the other hand, is not an infection at all, but rather a chronic inflammatory condition of the bladder mucosal lining. For women that have IC, there is no identifiable pathogenic bacteria found.
Urinary Tract Infections
Some of the risk factors for developing a UTI, include sexual activity, the use of oral contraceptives (including diaphragms and spermicides), dehydration, history of antibiotic use, pregnancy, as well as declining estrogen during menopause. Typically, urinary tract infections are treated with antibiotics. However, herbal and nutritional supplements can also be very effective at addressing bladder infections. They can help to reduce pathogenic bacteria, soothe irritation and inflammation, relax spasms, boost immunity, and help to balance microbiome health. Lifestyle changes can also be very beneficial.
Support for a UTI
Helpful support for a UTI includes:
- Cutting out sugar (including honey, maple syrup, and other natural sweeteners) for at least a week.
- Drinking plenty of water daily.
- Eat antioxidant rich foods, such as blueberries, pomegranates, and cranberries.
- Wearing loose-fitting, breathable clothing.
- Voiding at the first urge to urinate.
- Wiping from front to back, especially after a bowel movement.
- Avoiding scented feminine hygiene products and soap containing chemicals.
- Taking a probiotic supplement specific to urinary health.
- Supplementing with vitamin C and echinacea to support immune health.
- Taking a fast-acting urinary support formula, such as U.T. Vibrance.
Interstitial cystitis, which tends to occur in young and middle-aged women, is a painful chronic condition with the precise causes not clearly understood. Possible etiologies include bladder epithelial permeability (which allows toxins and irritants to enter local tissue), mast-cell activation, genetics, autoimmunity, and nerve hypersensitivity disorders. Research suggests that abnormalities in the connective tissue matrix necessary to regenerate the bladder mucosa is impaired. Triggers such as stress, caffeine, artificial sweeteners, and spicy and other certain foods can cause a flare up in symptoms, but are not believed to cause IC.
Unfortunately, there is no cure for interstitial cystitis, and it be difficult to address with conventional treatment. Taking an individualized approach that includes diet and lifestyle recommendations as well as supplementing with specific herbs and nutrients can best help women manage their pain and reduce the number of flare ups.
Support for IC
Helpful support for IC includes:
- Making diet modifications to eliminate foods that exacerbate symptoms (often acidic foods, nightshade vegetables, diet sodas, and alcohol).
- Drinking plenty of water.
- Managing stress.
- Taking herbs that have demulcent, anti-inflammatory, spasmolytic, astringent, bladder tonifying, as well as pain-relieving properties.
- Doing gentle exercises (such as tai chi, Pilates, and yoga) to help ensure good blood flow to the pelvis and help build strong muscles around the bladder.
- Taking nutrients that support the bladder’s mucosal lining, such as hyaluronic acid, chondroitin sulfate, MSM, and aloe vera.
- Supplementing with quercetin, a natural bioflavonoid, that has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties and helps to inhibit histamine release from mast cells.
- Supporting microbiome health by taking a comprehensive probiotic formula.
- Seeking support from professionals such as a physical therapist, pelvic floor specialist, and/or acupuncturist.
- Addressing possible nutrient deficiencies (including B vitamins, magnesium, etc.).
- Taking l-arginine for nitric oxide production has been shown to improve symptoms.
- Promoting free radical scavaging by taking nutrients such as NAC.
- Alkalizing the urine by supplementing with potassium citrate to help with pain.
If you are experiencing bladder pain and uncomfortable urinary symptoms, it is very important that you visit a health care professional to obtain an accurate diagnosis. Untreated UTIs can become dangerous if the infection spreads from the bladder to the kidneys and/or blood.Village Green Apothecary’s team of nutrition experts are available to answer your questions and provide personalized diet, lifestyle, and supplement recommendations to help you optimize your health.
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