Tuesday, May 13, 2003

UTI (AKA bladder/urinary tract infection; cystitis; "honeymoon" cystitis)

*This advice is not meant to substitute for the care of a physician* ...should you be among the lucky few who still have health insurance in the first place....>sigh<
Of all remedies I have compiled, this is by far the most often requested and used by others, apparently with success.

If you've had one before, the symptoms are unmistakable. The medical description of "burning upon urination" doesn't do justice to how it actually feels, and also doesn't mention that a) instead of peeing (and burning) a few times a day, you are suddenly hitting the restrooms several times an hour, and b) that agonizing "burning" doesn't stop in between, either! (It's one of those things that pretty much takes up all your attention.)

You may also experience lower abdominal pressure or pain, changes in odor or color of urine, and various other symptoms. (If you really don't know, go look up the symptoms on Google and then come back here for the remedy.) The first time I had this kind of infection, I didn't know what it was and ended up at the ER only a couple days later, passing a lot of blood and passing out.

Why did you get this? Main reason: you are run down or your body is chronically stressed for some reason, maybe pregnancy. Secondary reason (if you are a woman, which is more common), there is a much shorter distance from the outside world of bacteria to our tender little bladders than there is for men, if you think about our different anatomies. Tight pants, synthetic-fiber panties, thongs, all that stuff contributes, too.

The important thing with a UTI is to immediately treat it. That means if you have symptoms in the afternoon, none of this "I'll see if it's better in the morning" business whereby you fool yourself into imagining it may remit on its own. You go that night and get the stuff. If you have symptoms in the morning and you are at work, do not wait until the end of the day to take care of it. You have to go out on your lunch break and get the stuff and start treating it right there at work that afternoon. Do not wait to treat this!!

Going to the store may seem like a hardship because chances are, you are exhausted and overworked and have way too much to do. Well, that's how you got the thing in the first place. So now you have to earnestly help your body out of the trouble you got it into by neglecting it. Leaving a UTI untreated is dangerous business: a bladder infection is bad enough of itself, but it can crawl up into your kidneys just like that, and then into your liver. Nobody likes nephritis or hepatitis. So to use an adversarial metaphor, you hit it right away, and you hit it hard! You hear me?! Alright, then. Here's the deal.

This is a three-day treatment (three full 24-hour days), beginning (of course) the day you first notice symptoms. If you do not show marked improvement by the middle of the next day, then you make an appointment to see your physician (or campus clinic, Planned Parenthood, Redi-care, whatever) ASAP. (Otherwise you may end up in the ER anyway, which costs a heck of a lot more than those things.)

I prefer to use a combination of allopathic (western medical) components and naturopathic (traditional) components. So far, I have never had this not work (i.e. ended up at the doctor) since I started using it, even if I omit the allopathic components. Typically my symptoms remit by the first morning.

The naturopathic elements may be in the form of teas, juices, capsules, or (if you're lucky) fresh leaves. If they are not to be used in teas, then make sure you are also drinking three or four glasses/cups of fluid at each administration (preferably water or juice).

Allopathic over-the-counter components:

• Cystex (methenamine & sodium salicylate) antibacterial
• Azo brand UTI test strips
• Vagisil (for external symptoms)

Naturopathic components:

• Emergen-C fizzing vitamin C drink packets (approx 1000mg each)
• Dandelion root
• Burdock root
• Nettle leaves
• Echinacea
• Cranberry (unsweetened juice if at all possible)
• Tea tree oil soap (for external use)

• (optional: live-culture plain yogurt, chickweed )

Typically, I go by the following schedule:

• 4X daily: Cystex, dandelion, burdock, nettle, echinacea, cranberry. Since many of these come in tea or juice form, I drink the teas/juices and use them to wash down whatever's in capsule form. At least three glasses or cups of fluid should be included each "dose." Keep flushing your system out!

• Morning and evening: wash externally with tea tree oil soap, use Vagisil if desired to relieve any external itching. (You can also apply plain yogurt or buttermilk externally to help your bacteria balance. Eating yogurt or buttermilk is not a bad idea, either.) Then put on clean, loose-fitting cotton panties.

• Morning of the day after you first notice symptoms: start using the UTI test strips. I prefer Azo, which seems to detect the infection despite all the vitamin C (which can mask results in UTI test strips). Test for several mornings thereafter.

• Increase sleep! This is important for fighting off any infection. Don't tell yourself you can do without. This is not the time to push it.

• Sorry, but no sex of any kind for a couple of days. (This is often one of the main vectors for the bacteria in the first place.) Less tissue irritation is the goal here.

If you don’t get any results on the test strips the first morning, that’s great—now keep up the treatment for the full three days. If you had symptoms, something is going on with your bladder, and it’s better to nip it in the bud then let it get out of hand. It is also possible you flushed out the main infection in the first day, but if you stop treating it, it could grow back quickly. It is further possible that you are getting a false negative due to the vitamin C (also in fruit juices), so don’t get too overoptimistic and bail. Stick with it!

Chevallier, A. (1996). The encyclopedia of medicinal plants. London: Dorling Kindersley Limited.

Duke, J. A. (1997). The green pharmacy. New York: St. Martin.

Weed, S. S. (1986). Wise woman herbal for the childbearing year. Woodstock, NY: Ash Tree.

Weed, S. S. (1989). Wise woman herbal healing wise. Woodstock, NY: Ash Tree.

Weil, A. (1995). Spontaneous healing. New York: Fawcett Columbine.

White, L. and Foster, S. (2002). The herbal drugstore. New York: Penguin


Andrew said...

Wow! What an informative post! Now that you've finished your thesis, it's apparent you're going through footnote withdrawal.

There are a couple reasons I'm glad I'm male. One of them is the (relatively) long urethra. Helps keep the bugs out.

liz said...

Them ain't footnotes, mister--them's references.

I left out the two footnotes I had written.