For anyone having to live with chronic UTI’s, a disruption to quality of life doesn’t describe the half of it. Symptoms of a UTI can be unbearable. The constant feeling of having a full bladder and having to urinate constantly even when only a dribble is released causes irritation and frustration like no other. Burning pain which can end up feeling like you are passing razor blades is a constant reminder of the infection that lies within. Sometimes back and pain in the abdomen appear alongside a more obvious cloudiness and smell to the urine that flows.
Urinary tract Infections are to be taken very seriously as if not treated, a kidney infection can quickly manifest which are life threatening and for this reason being on the look out for nausea, fever and pain is critical.
Many of the women that I provide naturopathic treatment for chronic & recuring UTI are often at the end of their tether. Many are in a cycle of antibiotics, UTI, antibiotics, UTI and the journey goes on, and on and on. Many have unresolved gut and vaginal symptoms also. Many can’t have intercourse without fear of a flare or reinfection.
UTI’s range from uncomplicated to complicated where issues arise from some kind of dysfunction of the bladder or from health conditions that are neurological or diabetes, as an example.
The Urinary Microbiome (Urobiome)
Yes, that is correct. Just like the gut and the vagina – the urinary tract also has a colony of healthy bacteria. Whilst traditionally it was thought that the urinary tract was sterile, this has been turned on its head and recent science confirms that bacteria do play an important role. Whilst it is less diverse with less numbers than let’s say the gut or the vagina, certain bacteria are thought to play a protective role such as Lactobacillus crispatus.
It appears that some species overlap between the gut, vagina and urinary tract. This is the reason some cases require advanced testing where I investigates the vaginal microbiome combined with urinary tract microbiome and assess gut symptoms as species from faeces around the anus act as a reservoir for UTI infection. A shift in the urinary tract microbiome plays a huge role in my naturopathic treatment plan and understanding which pathogens are at play, where they come from, and which bacteria are missing are all important to know.
Often problematic species in the urinary tract may come from the vagina which is why strategies for partners and around sexual intercourse are important for prevention as problematic microbes can be relocated from one area to another. Women with Bacterial Vaginosis for example have an increased risk for UTI.
What is also known is that there are some species that may cause problems that are not monitored for in conventional testing. Negative urine cultures are something I see often even though symptoms clearly exist. Often a diagnosis of Overactive Bladder or Interstitial Cystitis is given in these cases. Simply put, new theories suggest that many UTI cases are caused not only by species that are not yet identified but by biofilm-like communities. What are these communities I hear you ask? They are a community of species that stick to the bladder cells and then can invade inside the cell where they form colonies. In a way, they can hide, be undetected and avoid antibiotic treatment as they are protected by the bladder wall.
We have all heard of EColi which is a gram-negative bacterium and it is certainly a main culprit in many cases. Some of the less common UTI culprits include both gram negative and positive species and it is important to rule out these species via advanced vaginal & bladder testing as they may not yet be detected on routine culture testing.
Some of the risks
This is where a comprehensive naturopathic investigation is required as there can be many factors at play or a “perfect storm” that may include extensive antibiotic use & antibiotic resistance, the gut microbiome, vaginal dysbiosis as mentioned above, food sensitivities, immune dysfunction and hormonal factors such as in prime fertile years, post-menopausal and when on the oral contraceptive pill. Sexual intercourse is a huge risk factor, and this is due to a number of triggers.
A comprehensive and methodical approach needs to be taken with both chronic Urinary tract and vaginal conditions. Of course, symptom relief is key, and this is often in the form of oral and intra vaginal options, specific probiotics, prebiotics, and herbs depending on species identified and history of the condition. Often antiseptic and soothing herbal teas are prescribed in combination with advanced testing so as long-term strategies can be put into place, one step at a time.
Restoring healthy bacteria, reducing inflammation, restoring the integrity of the urinary tract itself, restoring hormonal imbalance and nutrient deficiencies are all important. Supporting strategies for partners also plays an important role in some cases.
Education is a huge component of naturopathic medicine, and this is always provided on a case-by-case basis.
If you have been challenged with chronic Urinary tract Infections or symptoms and would like to investigate more from a naturopathic treatment process, please contact me for a complimentary fact finding call or book an initial naturopathic consultation here.