Chronic Urinary Tract Infection
A Glimmer of Hope for Those Battling Recurrent UTI
by Sreeja V., Jan 16 2020
Listen to the Stories
A urinary tract infection (UTI), as those who have suffered from it will agree, can be a nightmare. The infection is caused by bacteria that travel up the urinary passage and into the bladder, and if left untreated, into the kidneys. Our storytellers share their battle with chronic UTI and how difficult it can be to treat. Their stories illuminate the effectiveness of cranberry supplements and what else you can do when cranberry alone is not enough and antibiotics are not effective.
UTIs can affect any part of the urinary system—kidneys, ureter, bladder, or urethra. When the kidneys are infected, it is known as acute pyelonephritis and causes pain on the upper back and side, high fever, nausea, vomiting, and chills. Cystitis is an infection of the bladder with typical symptoms that include pelvic pressure, discomfort in the lower abdomen, frequent urination, and if severe, blood in the urine. Urethritis is an infection of the urethra, causing discharge and a burning sensation while urinating1. Cystitis and urethritis are the most common, affecting millions of women around the world. This is possibly because the urethra is shorter in women, helping bacteria travel easily into the bladder. Other possible factors could be the use of birth control, menopause, genetic factors or a suppressed immune system brought on by diabetes.
Why Is UTI So Difficult to Treat?
The line of treatment that doctors would use in the case of recurrent UTI is antibiotics2. But prolonged and repeated use of antibiotics can cause long-term alteration of the normal microbiota in the vagina and intestine3. In other words, extended use of antibiotics can kill all the good bacteria. To further complicate things, the emergence of multi-drug resistant bacteria requires targeted therapy, requiring the patient to undergo several rounds of antibiotic administration until the one that works is eventually found. Given this scenario, it is understandable that those affected by chronic UTI are on a perennial search for a reliable alternative that can prevent the problem from occurring in the first place.
Can Cranberry Help?
Our 27-year-old New York-based storyteller was doing exactly that. She distinctly remembers the first time she had a UTI when she was a freshman in college. She began experiencing a nagging discomfort that soon transformed into pain. She discovered it was a UTI after meeting with a gynecologist. She would then get an infection at least two or three times a year. She began isolating herself, often staying home so she could use the bathroom frequently. She became aloof, not wanting to discuss her condition with others. The episodes recurred until she reached a breaking point. While on vacation with her partner on a remote island off of the state of Washington, they were enjoying their time together in a beautiful cabin in the forest when a UTI struck again. On the long flight back home, the infection left her helpless and miserable as she made repeated trips to the toilet on the plane in front of a captive audience.
Tired of making frequent trips to urgent care to receive more antibiotics, she began researching cures. She came across a post on a message board by a woman her age about how extra intense cranberry supplements helped her overcome chronic UTI. There are two theories on how cranberry helps. One is that it makes urine acidic so, bacteria such as E. coli can’t survive. The second supposes that components in cranberry make it difficult for bacteria to cling onto the walls of the urinary tract4. She went on the supplement immediately and finally breathed a sigh of relief. Now more than a year later, she continues to take the supplement every day, and she hasn’t had a UTI since.
When Cranberry Alone Is Not Enough
It took more than just cranberry for our 47-year-old storyteller from South India to battle UTI. While she had a few health issues and an early menopause, it was chronic UTI that made life most difficult. After a few years, the infections became recurrent, leading to frequent doctor visits, umpteen urine cultures and medication. She would be fine for about five to six months, and then have another bout. When she turned 45, she began having infections every month. She would finish a course of antibiotics and within the next four or five days, it would manifest again. Her doctors got her to do an invasive test to rule out any blocks in the urinary passage that could possibly be causing the infection and found there weren’t any. She paid more attention to hygiene, avoided wearing tight-fitting clothes and started taking cranberry tablets. But the UTI came back with even greater intensity.
She had to deal with unbearable pain and bleeding in the first 24 hours of the infection. She stayed close to a bathroom at all times, restricting her movements outside of home. Her doctor put her on a six-month course of a bactericidal antibiotic for UTI, twice a day. After six months, her doctor decided to taper the dose to one tablet a day and she stayed on it for a year. At the end of it, she thought it was time to stop the medication and her doctor agreed. What happened was unbelievable. The UTI resurfaced with the same intensity. None of her symptoms had changed.
She went back to her urologist and gastroenterologist, sat them down and told them she wanted to work on completely changing her diet. When they evaluated her, she soon realized that her sugar intake was very high. She loved desserts and would binge on them, especially while she was traveling. This had probably caused an imbalance in her gut. The good bacteria simply couldn’t survive her overwhelming sugar intake. Her early menopause had also contributed to the problem by making her anal and vaginal lining thin, helping bacteria penetrate into the urinary passage. Instead of starting another course of antibiotics, she chose to go off sugar completely, drink a lot of water, take probiotics and continue with her cranberry supplements. To her joy and surprise, her current bout of UTI that had resurfaced after stopping a year long course of antibiotics disappeared on its own. She also took to Bach flower remedies to help her cope with panic attacks related to the fear of getting another infection though she hasn’t had any for a long time now.
Today both our storytellers are leading UTI-free lives, a testimony to how healthy intake, hydration, and cranberry supplements can help cure chronic urinary tract infection. Listen to them tell their stories here.