Addressing Bladder Infections
Bladder infections are one of the most common health challenges by girls and women of all ages. They are rare in males because the urethra, the tube that empties the bladder, is longer than in females. Because they only need to travel a short distance bacteria enter the female bladder regularly. Under normal circumstances they are washed back out before they can attach themselves to the bladder wall and cause an infection. If an individual does not urinate frequently, which typically occurs when traveling or when attending a function where the restrooms appear to be unsanitary, an infection commonly results. Infections are also more likely to occur following intercourse, when bacteria can be pushed toward the bladder opening, or after a bubble bath during which bacteria can easily be carried into the bladder.
Symptoms of a bladder infection include a need to urinate more frequently, urgency (an inability to delay urination), and burning with urination. Daytime accidents or a return of bedwetting after having achieved nighttime dryness can be clues to the presence of a bladder infection in young children. At times a strong odor suggests that an infection is present.
Preventive measures include drinking enough water to keep your urine pale (when the urine is not concentrated bacteria find it more difficult to reach the bladder wall), emptying every 2 to 3 hours while awake, emptying after sexual activity, avoiding bubble baths, getting out of a wet swimsuit promptly after swimming, and by wiping front to back carrying bacteria away from rather than toward the bladder opening.
During an infection the lining of the bladder becomes irritated. This makes it more sticky and easier for bacteria to attach, leading to another infection. Cranberries contain a substance that coats the bladder lining and lessens the likelihood of a second infection. Cranberry juice or cranberry extract capsules can be used.
Over 90 % of bladder infections are caused by a bacterium called E-coli. A simple sugar, D-Mannose is often effective in clearing them. D-mannose attaches to E-coli bacteria making it impossible for them to attach to the bladder wall. One-half teaspoon every 3 4 hours for five days is usually adequate to clear an infection. One-half teaspoon daily can be quite effective in preventing bladder infections, as can taking ½ teaspoon before or after sexual activity. D-mannose has no known side effects.
Uva ursi, or bearberry, is also quite effective in clearing bladder infections. Two capsules are taken twice daily for seven to ten days. Since it is most effective when the urine is alkaline, acidic foods should be avoided during treatment. Uva ursi should not be taken for prevention, as continuous use may result in liver toxicity. It is not approved for use in children or in pregnancy. It should be used with caution if a history of hypertension or liver disease is present.
If symptoms persist for longer than 48 hours in spite of using D-Mannose or herbal remedies an antibiotic will usually be needed to clear the infection. A culture of the urine may be required to determine the type of bacteria that is present and the appropriate antibiotic to be used.
Taking the precautions mentioned above will prevent most bladder infections. Recognizing the symptoms of an infection and addressing them promptly will generally result in a quick recovery. When this does not occur consult with your physician who will be able to determine the appropriate treatment.
Dr. Dale Peterson is a graduate of the University of Minnesota College of Medicine. He completed his residency in FamilyMedicine at the University of Oklahoma. He is a past president of the Oklahoma Academy of Family Physicians. He had a full-time family practice in Edmond, Oklahoma, for over 20 years and was a Chief of Staff of the Edmond Hospital. He was active in teachingfor many years as a Clinical Professor of Family Medicine through the Oklahoma University Health Sciences Center.
Dr. Peterson left his full-time family practice in 1999 to consult with individuals who are seeking ways to restore and maintain their health through improved nutrition and other lifestyle changes. He founded the Wellness Clubs of America to give people access to credible information on supporting and maintaining their health. His monthly wellness letter, Health by Design, and his Health by Design E-Newsletter provide helpful information to individuals interested in preventing and conquering health challenges. He is the author of Building Health by Design: Adding Life to Your Years and Years to Your Life .
Dr. Peterson speaks regularly on subjects related to health and nutrition. He hosted a weekly radio program,Your Health Matters, on KTOK in Oklahoma City for five years. For the past nine years he has addressed questions from across the nation on his Your Health Matters weekly teleconference.He offers a free video LifeXtension course at www.drdalepeterson.com.