What is a urinary tract infection (UTI)? A Urinary Tract Infection (UTI) -- commonly known as a bladder infection, kidney infection, or cystitis -- is caused by bacteria that attach to the inside lining of the urinary system or tract.
In over 90% of all urinary tract infections, the culprit is the bacterium E. Coli, used by the body in the digestive system. When invaded by the offensive E. Coli bacteria, the tissues in the urinary system react similarly to how your sinuses react when you have a cold or allergies; they become swollen, inflamed and irritated. This irritation leads to a reduced urine flow, which causes discomfort and pain.
What is the urinary tract? When we speak of the "urinary tract" we are referring to the following:
Kidneys - they take liquid waste from the blood and form urine
Ureter - a tube or tubes that carry urine from the kidneys to the bladder
Bladder - the vessel that stores the urine until it can be passed from the body
Urethra - the tube that carries the urine from the bladder out of the body
What are the symptoms of a urinary tract infection? The symptoms of a UTI are many, but some of the most common include:
A frequent urge to urinate.
A reduced or restricted urine flow.
Pain or a "burning sensation" in the bladder area.
Discomfort or pressure above the pubic bone.
Cloudy, milky, or reddish urine.If you have these symptoms in conjunction with a fever, the infection may have spread to your kidneys.
What are the treatment options for a urinary tract infection? The treatment options fall into two separate categories basically defined as "antibiotic" and "naturopathic".
The antibiotic options include a myriad of prescription antibiotics that require a visit to the doctor's office. While antibiotics are typically effective in treating the UTI, many times they are not. And, unfortunately, the antibiotic option can cause side effects as detrimental as the UTI itself.
Because the antibiotics are not discriminating, they kill any and all bacteria despite their purpose. The human body utilizes over 1,000 species of "good bacteria" -- each with their own particular "job" to do. Killing the "good bacteria" can cause a variety of unwanted and unpleasant side effects such as diarrhea, constipation, nausea and yeast infections.
The naturopathic options include two principal options, cranberry and a simple sugar known as d-mannose.
The cranberry, or cranberry extract option, has been a staple of folk medicine for hundreds of years. Previously thought to inhibit the proliferation of bacteria in the urinary tract by affecting the pH of the urine, it is now known that cranberry instead interferes with the ability of the bacteria to adhere to the walls of the urinary tract. By doing so, the bacteria are literally flushed out of the system. Recently, however, scientists have discovered a naturopathic alternative to cranberry that is between ten and fifty times more effective.The more effective cranberry alternative is a simple sugar known as d-mannose.
D-mannose is a carbohydrate very similar in structure to glucose, yet it is not readily metabolized by our bodies like glucose. It is this fact that makes d-mannose such a fast-acting treatment.
When even a small amount of d-mannose is consumed, nearly all of it is removed from the bloodstream by the kidneys and deposited into the urine. Once in the urine it travels through the urinary tract until it meets up with E. Coli bacteria. Interestingly, the d-mannose is chemically attracted to the lectins that the bacteria uses to attach itself to the walls of the urinary tract.
Think of the lectins as the suction cups on the tentacles of an octopus. The octopus grabs onto an object with its tentacles, but holds on tightly by contracting the suction cups. Anything that interferes with the ability of the suction cups to grip a surface will greatly reduce the ability of the octopus to "hang on." In a similar way, the d-mannose occupies the lectins so that they are unable to hold on to the wall of the urinary tract and the bacteria are flushed right out of the body during urination. The bacteria are unable to colonize inside the body. No bacteria, no infection.
The treatment is safe, fast, effective and affordable. Best of all is the fact that there are no observed negative side effects when using d-mannose. D-mannose can be taken by the elderly as well as by children, as both age groups are susceptible to frequent urinary tract infections.
How can urinary tract infections be prevented? There are many simple things that can be done to prevent UTI. Wiping from front to back after a bowel movement can prevent bacterial contamination of the vagina for women. Using a bidet instead of toilet paper is also very effective. Showering before and after intercourse is very helpful, as well as urinating after intercourse. Drink plenty of water each day so that your body is able to produce plenty of urine. Urinate when you feel the urge to do so and attempt to empty the bladder completely. Finally, for those who experience frequent UTI, it is advisable to take a maintenance dosage of d-mannose in order to prevent UTI from occurring.