Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Natural Support for Bladder Infections

Interstitial Cystitis (IC) and Urinary Tract Infections (UTI’s) are two very different conditions experienced by women.  Two questions that women often ask are ‘what is the difference?’ and ‘are there effective natural solutions to help?’

So let’s firstly explore the difference between Interstitial cystitis (IC) and non complex Urinary Tract Infections (UTI’s).

Interstitial Cystitis is a complex condition of the bladder, caused by the protective bladder lining breaking down.  This may be due to infection, inflammation, hormones or autoimmune conditions.  With IC symptoms often worse during ovulation and under stress, a ‘neurohormonal' and immune connection is likely for many women [1-6].  

Urinary tract Infections however, are infections of the urinary tract.  Bacteria that live in the digestive tract, in the vagina, or around the urethra are the most common cause of UTIs.  Research also supports the influence of hormones such as estrogen associated with reproductive disorders (Poly Cystic Ovarian Disorder, or Endometriosis for example)  enhancing the growth of many bacteria associated with recurrent UTI’s [5].

Although symptoms like bladder pain and urinary symptoms, such as frequent voiding (feeling like you want to go to the toilet a lot) and urgency are common to both conditions, IC is vastly different with patients describing pain as intolerable. 

So what natural options are available?

Both IC and UTI’s may improve with medical treatment but unfortunately infection associated with both of these may be resistant to traditional antibiotic treatment which means symptoms may recur with time. 

Improving bladder and the health of the urinary tract is achievable in two easy steps.

Step 1 Identify the underlying cause 
Step 2 Implement a targeted treatment strategy to address the cause 

You can also start today by making small changes such as giving up coffee and alcohol and consuming a more alkaline diet.  Infact, adapting your diet and lifestyle according to your hormonal profile, can make the world of difference. 

Finally, the choice of traditional herbal medicine for IC and UTI’s depends upon the underlying contributing factors to the condition, such as hormones, auto-immunity,  central nervous system excitability, bacterial infection, inflammation or digestive weakness . So if you have tried over the counter remedies such as cranberry and still experience symptoms, a personalized herbal tonic by a qualified medical herbalist is best. 

These conditions are complex and require an individualized treatment approach.  It is recommended that you seek the expertise of a qualified health practitioner and if symptoms persist seek medical advice.

Narelle Stegehuis, is a practicing naturopath with over 30,000 hrs of in-clinic experience specializing in the natural treatment of women's health and hormonal imbalances. She is both an accomplished writer, editor and recipient of the Australian Naturopathic Excellence Award. 
To find out more, visit www.massattack.com.au


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2.            Montag, S. and R. Moldwin, Minimally Invasive Therapy for Interstitial Cystitis/Painful Bladder Syndrome, in Smith's Textbook of Endourology2012, Wiley-Blackwell. p. 1640-1649.
3.            Hsieh, C.-H., et al., Treatment of interstitial cystitis with hydrodistention and bladder training. International Urogynecology Journal, 2008. 19(10): p. 1379-1384.
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