Recently I’ve been seeing a surprising number of women with chronic or recurrent urinary tract infections and I wanted to share some observations that might help prevent other women from having to deal with similar issues. For many of these women, the symptoms resolve only when dealt with on a physical, mental, and emotional level. They are a great lesson to us as patients and as doctors in truly addressing the whole person. Here is a sample of observations on all three levels that may help with prevention.
· Sweets and simple carbohydrates (including just too much fruit or juice) raise the blood sugar and suppress the immune system leaving you susceptible to infection.
· Repeated antibiotics (for past urinary tract infections or other issues) destroy the good bacteria in the digestive tract, which interferes with immune function leads to leaky barriers in the urinary tract as well as the digestive tract and can cause increased inflammation of tissue, making it more susceptible to infection
· Repeated infections generally lead to angry tissue throughout the urinary tract. This tissue is easily irritated and patients may experience symptoms even without an actual infection. Breaking the antibiotic cycle is very important in getting rid of chronic infections.
· When we don’t drink much water, we don’t flush bacteria out of the urinary tract as well or as often. Staying well hydrated is the best prevention.
· Many of these infections occur after sexual activity. Urination within a few minutes following sexual activity is an important prevention for urinary tract infections.
Mental: Too much intellectual activity or analytical thought can disconnect us from our bodies and cause an imbalance. Exercise, especially involving the pelvis, is a great way to shift out of the head and into the body. Consider dancing, hula-hoop, or yoga, but any physical activity is good.
Emotional: Please note that I am not implying that urinary tract infections are purely emotional issues, rather that there is an emotional component to most physical illness and these emotional patterns come up often in people who are prone to urinary tract infections.
· Every organ and area of our body is associated with a primary emotion. The pelvis in general is about safety. Any issues about safety, particularly as they relate to intimacy, will often manifest in the form of discomfort or disease in the pelvis. All patients with frequent urinary tract infections should carefully consider where they might feel unsafe.
· Bladder emotions: the bladder is often associated with fear and shame. These emotions are often important to work through for people struggling with bladder related issues.
When I look at my patients from all these perspectives, I find that there are many tools for addressing the underlying cause of chronic bladder and kidney infections. Through dietary changes, herbs, counseling, homeopathic support, and hands on medicine, we are able to support the whole person, creating the environment for a healthy bladder.