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What a relief!

Urinary issues such as cystitis, thrush and candida can be a real pain, but you can get real relief from natural products and our expert tips

As many as 40-50% of women have at least one Urinary Tract Infection (UTI) during their lifetime, and 20-30% suffer from recurrent UTIs (two infections in six months, or more than three infections a year).

“Cystitis and urinary tract infections (UTIs) can be debilitating conditions that, if not managed effectively, may develop into a kidney infection,” says Grace Kinirons, a nutritional therapist with health store Nuts and Grains in Mullingar, Co Westmeath. “The cells of our urinary tract have their own immune defences and beneficial bacteria, and anything that compromises that may trigger an infection.”

“A urinary tract infection is inflammation which occurs in the urethra, bladder or kidneys,” says Sian Eustace of health store Healing Harvest, Kinvara, Co Galway. “There can be a number of causes and women are more prone to UTIs than men, as it is anatomically easier to transfer microbes into the female urinary tract.”

Help for cystitis and UTIs

“If you are prone to UTIs, you will probably notice the early signs and can try to act fast enough to head it off before it takes hold,” says Sian Eustace. “If symptoms don't clear though, it may be necessary to visit your primary healthcare provider. Make sure to drink plenty of water; avoid alcohol or sugary drinks; do not hold on when you feel the urge to urinate; make sure to wipe from the front to the back; go to the toilet after sexual intercourse; take cranberry as a supplement or a juice (one without added sugar). Cranberry discourages bacteria from being able to form on the walls of the urinary tract.”

“Introducing a wide range of pre and probiotic foods and drinks will support the health of the gut, vagina and urinary tract,” says Grace Kinirons. “Increase your intake of foods and drinks containing proanthocyanadins. These are found naturally in red, purple and blue fruits and vegetables. Research has shown that they can prevent the attachment of microbes to the cells in our urinary tract and prevent infection.”

Other helpers for UTIs:

Cantharis – for easing the burning sensation when urinating.

Dandelion herbal teas – help to support the urinary tract.

Goldenrod tea – has important anti-inflammatory, anti-spasmodic and antiseptic actions.

Candida and thrush

“Candida albicans is a fungal infection which naturally occurs in all our bodies, when out of balance it can cause thrush,” Sian Eustace. “Thrush loves warm, moist conditions, and when the balance of beneficial flora is depleted. This can be caused by prolonged or heavy use of antibiotics, not well controlled diabetes, a weakened immune system, hormonal imbalances, taking the contraceptive Pill or HRT, during pregnancy, in people with a diet high in refined carbohydrates, a high intake of alcohol or with a high level of stress.”

“Normally our good bacteria, digestive and immune system work together to keep candida growth controlled,” says Grace Kinirons. “Sexual intimacy increases the risk of translocation of the bacteria from the bowel to the vagina and urethra and dehydration leads to not flushing out any bad bacteria present in the urinary tract.”

Help for candida and thrush

“Remove the conditions for optimal candida growth,” says Sian Eustace. “In vaginal thrush, make sure to wipe well and wear cotton underwear. Take a probiotic supplement, eat fermented foods or both; use antifungal supplements or foods. Cut out refined sugar and simple carbohydrates, alcohol and foods which can contain moulds, such as certain nuts.”

“Anti-fungal herbs such as oregano, thyme, garlic and clove, grapefruit seed extract, and digestive enzymes can help with thrush,” says Grace Kinirons.

Can probiotics help?

“There are specific strains of bacteria that are found in the vaginal and urinary tract microbiome,” says Grace Kinirons. “These include the Lactobacillus family, particularly acidophilus, gasseri, rhamnosus, reuteri, and plantarum with some Bifidobacterium species. These good bacteria produce lactic acid and hydrogen peroxide that kills bad bacteria and prevents opportunistic yeast overgrowth.”

“Probiotics can be very useful to rebalance the natural flora throughout the body,” says Sian Eustace. “For thrush, probiotic pessaries are available for internal use. If the irritation is more external, an alternative is to apply natural live yoghurt to a sanitary pad.”

John Baldwin, Health Consultant with Health Reach

“D-Mannose is a type of sugar found in a number of fruits (including cranberries, black and redcurrants, and peaches). It is a food supplement normally supplied in capsule form and taken with water. Research has shown that D-Mannose inhibits the bacteria that causes infection from adhering to the walls of the urinary tract.

“A clinical study published in the world-renowned British Journal of Urology International (BJUI), the official journal for the Irish Society of Urology, shows that D-Mannose is effective in the prevention of recurrent UTI.

“The study assessed 308 women with acute and recurrent UTIs over a period of six months. The patients were randomly allocated to three equal groups. The study showed that the group taking D-Mannose had the lowest recurrence of UTI and were four times less likely to contract UTI compared to the group that did not take any preventative treatment.

“Another study published in the European Review for Medical and Pharmacological Sciences in 2016 found that treatment with D-Mannose reduced symptoms of urinary tract infections and helped prevent recurrence.”

D Mannose capsules are available in independent health stores in Ireland.

Disclaimer – Most UTIs shouldn’t last more than ten days. If they do, you should consult a healthcare practitioner.

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