Typically the way a UTI is formed is through introduction of bacteria into the urethra. This is commonly caused by E.coli (found in the intestinal tract) and is easily spread to the vaginal area from wiping after urination or from sexual activity. This is why making sure to blot or wipe front to back after urination as well as use good hygiene during and after sex is important.
A UTI usually results from bacteria entering the urinary tract, which disrupts the normally healthy, balanced, sterile environment. The bacterium is typically E. coli that is produced in the gastrointestinal tract and travels to the colon where it exits from the anus. E. coli enters the urethra, the tube that connects the bladder to the outside of the body, causing an infection called urethritis.
Urethritis can be caused by Chlamydia and Mycoplasma (sexually transmitted organisms) so if your infection may be caused by either, both you and your partner would need to be treated by a physician with the appropriate medication and it is why it is advisable to consult with a physician about a UTI..
If untreated, urethritis moves up the urinary tract to the bladder (cystitis) and can continue to the kidneys (pyelonephritis). This can become a deadly infection known as sepsis which is when the bacteria moves from the kidneys and into the bloodstream. While most bladder infections are usually easily treated, they should be taken seriously especially in young children and those over the age of 60, those with a compromised immune system and those who are pregnant.
One of the reasons women tend to suffer from UTIs more than men is that the female urethra is very short and the opening is closer to the anus which lends itself to easy transmission of bacteria. Any contact with harmful bacteria can cause them which also includes improper cleaning of sex toys, oral sex (fellatio or Cunnilingus) and sexual intercourse.
Some other causes and risk factors of UTIs:
What many do not know is that you can get a UTI from simply eating and/or preparing meat. Salmonella, Campylobacter and E. coli are examples of bacteria that can cause urinary tract infections and it is bacteria like these that are found in meat from fecal matter and make its way up into the urine, bladder and kidneys. It is good to note that beef and pork were found to significantly be less likely to harbor bladder-infecting strains than chicken which was the biggest offender.
While cooking the meat helps to remove harmful bacteria the contact made from washing and preparing it causes it to get onto surface areas of your kitchen through what is known as cross-contamination. Proper cleaning is so important when handling meat because even if you do not eat chicken you can be exposed through poor handling in restaurants and other situations where the contamination has come into contact with your food. Bacteria from chicken feces (Salmonella and Campylobacter) often end up all over the kitchen on things such as cutting boards, utensils, fridge handle, cupboards and the oven handle doorknob.
Those who insist that they are very clean and use bleach may be disheartened to learn that in a study where people sprayed bleach on all kitchen surfaces and let it sit for 5 minutes they found that there were still Campylobacter and Salmonella on some of the utensils, dishcloth, the counter around the sink, and the cupboard. While the bleach helped, the point is that unless you keep your kitchen as clean as a biohazard lab, the only way to guarantee avoiding the bacteria is not to bring it in your home.
One good thing to note is that typically chicken bacteria only lasts about 10 days in peoples guts before good bacteria in our bodies can get rid of it. However, because most people tend to eat chicken more than once every ten days they may be constantly reintroducing these harmful bacteria into their system. For sushi lovers you may also find that you're at high risk for harmful bacteria exposure as well.
What makes this even worse is that chickens are often given antibiotics which make their bacteria an antibiotic resistance superbug. This means for a very serious and in some cases life threatening infection.
The good news is UTIs are very easy to treat and can be quickly healed if you seek medical care at the first sign of infection. The first step to take is to make an appointment with your doctor who will perform a simple urinalysis. If infection is found, you will be given a round of antibiotics specific to the bacterial combination in your urine. The commonly used antibiotics are: trimethoprim, cephalosporins, nitrofurantoin, or a fluoroquinolone (e.g. ciprofloxacin or levofloxacin). However, antibiotics disrupt the natural microflora in the body and cause women to be more at risk for gastrointestinal problems, yeast infections and increases in resistant strains of bacteria. This is why using natural means such as the suggestions below may be a better alternative.
In conjunction with antibiotics there are natural remedies and methods you can utilize to not only assist in overcoming the UTI but also to prevent future infections. If possible, confer with a holistic medical doctor, naturopath or holistic health professional before beginning a herbal treatment plan. As with all medicines, too much is not always better and can be dangerous and even life threatening.
Cranberries as well as Blueberries prevent bacteria from attaching to the lining of the urethra and bladder. This is why they are effective at keeping the urinary tract healthy. Cranberries in particular are effective remedy has been used for over a century to treat the urinary tract system, however, do not mistake drinking sugary cranberry juice from your supermarket the way to take cranberry as this will provide poor results. A less expensive and more effective way to take cranberry is to take it in the form of cranberry extract capsules. Doctors who recommend cranberry, typically recommend taking about 400 milligrams of cranberry extract twice a day and it has been found to be safe to take while pregnant. There are also Cranberry / D-mannose supplements that you can get take together. The two of these supplements are best taken as a prevention rather than just as a treatment.
Recent evidence suggests that proanthocyanins in the cranberry fruit prevents bacteria from sticking to the urinary tract walls. This is thought to assist the process of the urine washing away any harmful bacteria. A study published in 2002 showed significant effect of cranberry juice and tablets on the reduction of the urinary tract infections in 150 women. Currently, the NIH and NCCAH have begun further research of the health benefits of Cranberry.
If you are concerned about the amount of sugar in cranberry juice you can purchase unsweetened cranberry juice in health food stores or purchase capsules or tablets. However, it is recommended that you don't drink cranberry juice if you're taking the blood-thinning medication Warfarin. Possible interactions between cranberry juice and Warfarin can lead to bleeding.
This is a simple sugar that is naturally occurring and related to glucose and acts as a decoy inside your bladder by having the E. coli attach to it rather than the bladder wall, thus causing the bacteria to flush out when you urinate. Scientific studies have indicated that D-mannose helps to improve the health of bladder cells in general. Doctors who recommend D-mannose, typically recommend taking about 500 - 1,000 milligrams of cranberry extract twice a day and it has been found to be safe to take while pregnant.
Uva Ursi is a herb that contains the active component, arbutin, which appears to have antiseptic properties once it is broken down and excreted in the kidneys. This gentle herb also has soothing and strengthening properties. Individuals with liver disease or pregnant or nursing women should not take Uva Ursi. Uva Ursi is typically taken in capsule form. It is also available as a tea.
Do not take these herbs for more than several days as it is a natural antibiotic and can cause the same types of complications that a prescribed antibiotic can so just because it is natural does not mean it is not powerful or that it cannot have adverse side effects.
It is typically safe for adults to take for short-term use. However, it is important to note that it may cause nausea, vomiting and a greenish-brown discoloration of the urine. Be warned that high doses and/or long-term use can cause eye problems, respiratory issues, liver damage, convulsions, and death.
Doctors who recommend Uva Ursi indicate to take for no longer than 10 days using 2-4 grams daily for UTIs.
Pau d'arco is a tree that is used medicinally for it's bark and wood and acts as a natural antibiotic which is used to treat a variety of infections such as UTIs. Pau d'arco may cause severe nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, dizziness, and internal bleeding so it should be taken with caution and reviewed with your physician before taking it.
Another way to prevent bladder infections is through the use of barberry root bark (Berberis fenderi) or Oregon grape root bark (Mahonia aquifolium / Berberis aquifolium) by applying the tincture around the urethra after intercourse It is an inexpensive topical treatment that has been used as a preventative treatment for women who struggle with reoccurring UTIs. To apply such a tincture, use a clean cotton ball and dab at the opening of the urethra (where your urine comes out) after intercourse. You can also apply it 2-3 times per week just as a preventative.
and Juniper Berry
Goldenseal is a root that possesses natural antimicrobial properties and assists in eliminating harmful bacteria in your system. Goldenseal contains berberine, an alkaloid which is believed to prevent urinary tract infections by stopping harmful bacteria sticking to the wall of the urinary bladder. Goldenseal can be taken in a capsule form or drink it as a tea. Juniper Berry has antiseptic properties and is most effective if taken as a whole berry instead of a tea. You can find juniper berry at your local health food store.
Also see our article on using juniper berries for urinary tract infections.
Other Healing Herbs That can be Used in Combination as a Tea
Obviously it's better to prevent infections all together. Here are some preventative tips to minimize the risk of future UTIs below.
Prevention and Ways to Reduce Risk