Nicola Parker, of Health and Herbs, Morecambe, writes about beating cystitis.
When I was younger, I used to suffer a lot with urinary infections like cystitis.
I would get one, take antibiotics for it, then a few months later I’d get another.
They were horrendous and I had no idea how to help myself, other than by going back to the GP.
The moment I felt the initial tingle of pain, I’d be flooded with fear as I’d remember all the tears shed in the bathroom during the last infection.
The frustration of always needing to pass water but only being able to pass tiny, painful amounts, left me feeling helpless. Especially if I couldn’t get in to see a GP or if the infection started in the middle of the night.
Looking back, I can’t believe some of the advice that I was given at the time.
While some of it was helpful, I cringe to think of some of the things I tried.
In my desperate attempt to help myself I’d try anything anyone suggested.
One person actually told me to drink alcohol because as a diuretic it would help me go to the loo. These days, I’d reprimand anyone offering such uninformed and detrimental advice.
Since entering the natural medicine industry, surrounded by the right advice, I’ve suffered one single water infection.
It was about eight years ago and it was resolved rapidly without repeating.
So today I want to debunk all the myths surrounding water infections and share with you the advice that turned my bladder health around.
Firstly, put down the cranberry juice. I know, it’s the one piece of advice that everyone feels they can rely on, right? Well it’s wrong. The truth is that cranberry can help prevent bacteria from sticking to the walls of the bladder, so that you flush the infection out faster. That information is correct. The problem comes when we buy supermarket cranberry juice, which contains an enormous amount of sugar and very little actual cranberry. Cranberry juice is extremely tart and most people dislike the taste, but most health food shops will sell pure cranberry juice if you want it.
Alternatively, take cranberry as a tablet, for the medicinal benefits without the tart flavour.
The reason sugary cranberry juice is so bad is that sugar aggravates inflammation, which can make the pain worse.
It also changes your internal environment to favour infection causing bacteria over infection fighting bacteria.
We have a multitude of bacteria within us that look after our immune system and help prevent infections taking root.
When you include a sudden influx of sugar in your diet, you disrupt this bacterial balance and it can make it harder for your body to fight the infection off.
This is especially important for those of you who suffer from repeat infections and/or antibiotic use.
Antibiotics destroy many of these defensive bacteria, leaving us weak after treatment and prone to another infection.
You can combat this by taking a high dose probiotic, which replaces the good bacteria to end the cycle of repeated weakness and infections.
For bladder infections, I use a strain called Rhamnosus, which I find particularly helpful for that area.
My next advice is to consider using Bearberry instead of cranberry.
Bearberry acts as a bladder antiseptic, making it more powerful that cranberry and more suitable for treating infections. It has been shown to act against a number of infectious microbes, including e.coli - one of the leading causes of urine infections.
I regularly recommend Bearberry over cranberry in my own shop and clinic as it can provide relief in as little as 48 hours.
If your infection goes on longer than that, visit your GP as you may need antibiotics. Bearberry alongside Rhamnosus were the key to my own recovery, so I recommend them with the kind of confidence that only comes with personal experience.
If you feel like you’re alone in your battle against recurrent cystitis, you’re not.
It’s an extremely common problem. Drink water, drink pure (unsweetened!) cranberry juice and cut out all sugar to support any treatment you’re undergoing.
Beyond that and simple hygiene steps, check with your GP or local herbalist for specific lifestyle advice on avoiding infections.
With the correct advice, breaking the cycle is easier than you think.