According to a study in JAMA (the Journal of the American Medical Association), urinary tract infections (UTIs) account for more than 11 million physician visits annually. At best, UTIs cause discomfort and inconvenience; at worst they can lead to serious kidney infection. They occur more often in women, especially women who are sexually active and have lowered immunity from stress, recurrent vaginitis, or yeast infections.
Conventional treatment for a UTI involves antibiotics, but according to Andrew Rubman, ND, of the Southbury Clinic in Connecticut, antibiotics lead to a higher risk of becoming re-infected weeks later. Rubman doesn’t rule out antibiotics for severe, advanced UTIs, but he believes most UTIs can be caught in the early stages and treated much more safely and effectively with natural remedies.
Frederick Mindel, DC, CN, in New York City, says his UTI patients usually suffer from a variety of invading microbes, such as bacteria, viruses, yeast, molds, fungus, or parasites. “This means you have to hit the infection from more than one direction and look at the bigger picture by treating the underlying immune dysfunction that makes the body vulnerable to these infections in the first place.”
Among holistic treatments for UTI, cranberry has received the most thorough scrutiny. From the first day you suspect a UTI, drink three 8-ounce glasses of unsweetened cranberry juice daily, along with plenty of water to increase urine flow.
You can also take cranberry pills. Make sure your supplement contains whole cranberry extract and is free of fillers. Take as directed, or one to four 400 mg pills a day, depending on the severity of your symptoms, for two weeks.
Some studies, dating back to 2002, have shown that D-mannose, a naturally occurring simple sugar, in powdered form appears to offer relief from UTIs. Both cranberry pills and D-mannose are available in natural food stores.
Preventing a Relapse
If you’ve kicked one infection and want to stay UTI free, Rubman and Mindel recommend the following supplements:
Vitamin C: Acidifies urine and strengthens cell membranes against bacteria; 2,000 to 4,000 mg daily.
Selenium: Builds immunity and decreases inflammation; 1 to 2 mg per day.
Zinc: Increases your resistance to bacteria and builds immunity; 20 mg per day.
Vitamin A: Promotes healthy tissue and reduces inflammation; 10,000 to 20,000 IU per day.
Vitamin E: Strengthens cells and neutralizes free radicals. For optimum effectiveness, choose d-tocopherol, the natural form, as opposed to the synthetic form, dl-tocopherol; 400 to 600 IU daily.
Omega-3 fatty acids: Reduce inflammation and increase immunity; 500 mg per day with EHA and DPA fish oils.
Evening primrose oil: Reduces inflammation and tones mucus membranes; 500 to 1,000 mg per day.
Water: Increases the flow of urine to keep the system flushed; 1.5 to 2 liters a day, or enough so urine is consistently pale yellow and odor-free.
Mindel also suggests eliminating sugars from the diet (they feed the bacteria) and avoiding alcohol and caffeine (both can be dehydrating and irritate to the urinary tract). Eat dark green vegetables, asparagus, and red and blue fruits such as plums, blueberries, and raspberries, but avoid citrus fruits while fighting a UTI, as these actually lower urinary acidity and weaken the beneficial action of vitamin C and cranberry juice.