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Naturopathic Treatment for Urinary Tract Infection

Given the prevalence of UTIs in women, Dr. Marianne Marchese shares some safe, natural remedies

Marianne Marchese, ND

Ten to 20 percent of all women suffer from a urinary discomfort or infection at least once a year, including acute uncomplicated cystitis and recurrent cystitis, two important categories of urinary tract infections (UTIs) in adults.

Sexual intercourse, diaphragm use and spermicide, possibly used alone, delayed post-coital urination and a history of a recent UTI, all increase the risk of infection.

These problems can usually be differentiated on the basis of symptoms, a physical exam and urinalysis or other tests.

For most bladder infections, a naturopathic approach is usually very effective and the infection resolves quickly and without recurrence or complications. The primary goals are to enhance internal defenses against the infection by providing immune support; restore vaginal microflora; promote a proper pH; and prevent bacteria from adhering to the bladder epithelium.

Increasing the urinary flow is important and easily accomplished by increasing the quantity of liquids. Water and herbal teas related to the treatment goals are the most logical choices. Sixty-four ounces is the common recommendation.

No natural approach to cystitis would be complete without a mention of cranberry. Cranberry juice has been frequently used as a home remedy by women for decades. Studies have shown that cranberries and cranberry juice are effective in women with active UTIs. In one study, 16 ounces of cranberry juice daily was effective in 73 percent of individuals with an active infection. Many people still think that the action of cranberry juice is due to acidifying the urine, but more recent studies have shown that the juice reduces the ability of E. coli to adhere to the lining of the bladder and urethra.

One of the most useful herbs for bladder infection is uva ursi (arctostaphylos uva ursi), also known as bearberry or upland cranberry. The antiseptic, antibacterial and astringent activity of uva ursi is largely due to its arbutin content. Uva ursi is especially active against E. coli, as well as having diuretic properties. Uva ursi has also been used with recurrent bladder infections and was very effective in a double-blind study of 57 women. After one year, five of 27 women had a recurrence in the placebo group, while none of 30 women had a recurrence in the uva ursi group.

Pipsissewa, a Native-American remedy of the Pacific Northwest, is another traditional remedy for UTIs, and its mildly antimicrobial effects have also been attributed to its arbutin content. Other naturopathic remedies include the use of D-Manose, buchu leaf and homeopathy. There are more than 20 different homeopathic remedies for UTIs, and they need to be individualized to the woman's symptoms. The most common homeopathic UTI remedy is staphysagria.

Naturopathic treatments for urinary tract infections in women are very safe and effective once other causes of UTI symptoms are ruled out. If treated early and appropriately, a UTI resolves quickly and without complications.

Dr. Marianne Marchese, ND, is the author of 8 Weeks to Women's Wellness, maintains a private practice in Phoenix, and teaches gynecology at Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine. For more information, call Longevity Medical Health Center at 602-493-2273, or visit 4WeCare.com and DrMarchese.com.