Sarah's Health Notes: Home Remedies For Cystitis
So you’re all gussied up in your LBD, and just popping to the loo before you go out…. Then it’s a real Ouch! moment, which you may recognise as a symptom of cystitis. A burning or stinging feeling when peeing (which you will probably feel you want to do often and urgently) is one of the key symptoms. One description is feeling like ‘peeing broken glass…’.
The name means inflammation of the bladder and it’s usually caused by an infection in urine. It comes under the umbrella category of urinary tract infections (UTI). Other symptoms may be discomfort in your abdomen (lower tummy), blood in urine, and feeling generally unwell and tired.
Cystitis is such a common problem among women that about 50% will suffer at least one episode in their lifetime. Some women have repeated bouts of cystitis, with several separate infections in a year.
Antibiotics are often prescribed and may be appropriate but they also have potential side effects such as candida, which is estimated to affect one in five women who take antibiotics for a UTI. Antibiotics may also upset the balance of bacteria in your gut, possibly increasing the likelihood of other infections.
Recently, a respected medical blog (Medical News Today) commented that it’s worthwhile seeing if you can get over an episode with non-drug remedies. (If you experience any complications, the problem does not resolve or already have a condition that affects your immune system, do consult your doctor.)
1. Drink plenty of still plain water. It helps flush out waste from the body and also speeds the transit of urine through the system, so it’s harder for bacteria to settle in and cause an infection.
2. Don’t delay going to the loo. This helps to prevent and treat UTIs for the same reason as drinking lots of water.
3. Consider cranberries. Cranberries are one of the best known and established natural treatments. Although research is not conclusive, cranberries contain useful compounds and may well help. Many people recommend drinking cranberry juice but fruit juices often contain fructose – or fruit sugar – which feeds the bad bugs in the intestines and bladder. Pharmacist Shabir Daya recommends taking a supplement called Cysticlean. He says: ‘Cranberries contain hippuric acid which displays bacteriostatic properties and this acid is also thought to prevent colonisation in the bladder walls. Additionally North American cranberries contain higher amount of a class of polyphenols called OPC’s [oligomeric proanthocyandins] known to help prevent colonisation of bacteria.’
4. And probiotics. Good bacteria can help keep the urinary tract healthy and free from bad bugs. Some research suggests that a group of probiotics called lactobacilli may help treat and prevent UTIs. As well as consuming fermented foods (eg natural bioyogurt and kefir, also kimchi and sauerkraut, see my feature here), a good supplement may help. Mega Probiotic ND contains eight strains and also a prebiotic. It’s free of potential allergens, added sugars, synthetic colours, flavourings and preservatives.
5. Vitamin C is another friend. Eat lots of vegetables (rather than sugar-rich fruit) and again consider a supplement. Pharmacist Shabir Daya recommends Lamberts Vitamin C 1000mg with BioFlavonoids.
6. Get into loo hygiene. Basically use different pieces of loo paper for front and back so you don't transfer bacteria.
7. Make love carefully. How can I put this delicately? Probably impossible so here goes… The act of sex can cause UTIs by importing bacteria. So… lots of washing before and after, ditto peeing, and ideally use a condom.
8. Hotties can help. Putting a hot water bottle on your lower back may help ease pain and discomfort.
9. Avoid alcohol, also caffeinated, carbonated and acidic drinks, such as orange juice as they can irritate the lining of the bladder. However, perhaps surprisingly, lemon juice becomes alkaline in the body so a squeeze of lemon in hot water may help.
And finally, it’s worth repeating that these home measures can hopefully help tide you over the holiday but do consult your doctor if the problem doesn't resolve.