Dear Chronic UTI Sufferer

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*A nice lady emailed me a question about UTIs recently, but a lame update from WordPress caused a bug where I didn’t receive her email address.  I decided to answer her question here in an attempt to get her to see my answer and also to help others who may have the same issue!*

Question:

“In the last few years I have gotten the infection every few months, and after having so many side effects taking oral antibiotics I have been hospitalized up to 5 days to have them be administered intravenously twice in the past 6 months, and given by injection only 3 weeks ago.
My question is: what did all of this do to my body, and will this D-mannose really work for me? I have already sent for it being at the point of trying anything.  I’m 80 years old, bad enough being at this age, but does this make me more prone to the infection?”

Dear Nice Lady Whose Email Address I Didn’t Get,

Thank you so much for writing to me!  First let me say that I am so sorry for what you’ve been through.  As someone who has experienced UTIs in the past, I can understand what an emotionally draining, frustrating, and extremely painful experience it can be.

I would love to help, but let me first say that I am not a doctor and have done all this investigation on my own.  Anything you decide to try is of your own accord and should be discussed with your doctor.

Ok, that being said, here are my thoughts!

Will D-Mannose Help?

D-Mannose will only help if the cause of your UTIs is e.Coli bacteria specifically.  It will help attract the e.Coli and flush it out of your system.  So if you haven’t already, make sure that your urine tested positive, not just for a UTI, but specifically for e.Coli being present.  Often, doctors will test your urine for leukocytes and nitrite, but won’t bother testing to see what bacteria is actually causing the infection before prescribing antibiotics.

If you have verified e.Coli is causing your issues, go ahead and try taking D-Mannose!  However, I don’t think you should take it daily for long periods of time, and instead take it the SECOND you start feeling symptoms until the symptoms subside.  However, this is simply a temporary band-aid for a larger problem, which could be the fact that you’ve lost beneficial gut bacteria from all the antibiotic use, developed IBS and/or Interstitial Cystitis, and/or are eating foods that are causing inflammation.  I’d suggest keeping D-Mannose around in case of a flare-up, but also work on your diet and getting good bacteria back in your body (more on that below).

Sometimes we have problems digesting certain foods, which could cause UTI/IC symptoms.  Perhaps keep a food journal to keep track of how you feel after you eat meals. A few examples of symptoms to track could be: Gas, bloating, constipation, diarrhea, headaches, bladder pain, fatigue, etc.

Does Age Play a Factor?

Age can definitely influence how often you get UTIs for a couple reasons:

  1.  Lack of estrogen post-menopause may allow the bacteria that causes UTIs to grow more easily in the vagina and urethra.
  2. Our immune systems change/decline as we age.
  3. Older adults tend to be on types of medications that may affect the bladder/urine habits. Lastly, they are more likely to have bladder/bowel incontinence which can lead to increased chances of contamination of the urethra.

However,  I feel that we can fight/lessen these obstacles by doing what we can to boost our immune systems.  Again, good bacteria is what makes up most of our immune system so let’s get some back in you!  I’d also suggest getting outside in the sunshine for at least 10-15 minutes per day, going for a walk, working in the garden, etc. Vitamin D supports the immune system and you can get that naturally from the sun. 🙂 If that’s not possible for whatever reason, consider adding a Vitamin D supplement to your routine.

Your Antibiotic Use

While antibiotics have saved millions and was one of the best discoveries in the history of medicine, they also have long-term, detrimental side-effects we’ve only recently been discovering.  For instance, antibiotics can cause you to be more susceptible to infections.  While antibiotics kill bad bacteria, they also kill the GOOD bacteria that lives inside of us.

Without going into too much lengthy detail, we have good bacteria that works nonstop to  keep us healthy and protected from foreign invaders.  So when you kill the poor little guys and gals, and don’t add more good bacteria back in, the bad bacteria (such as e.Coli that causes UTIs 90% of the time) are allowed to thrive and takeover.  It’s similar to what would occur if we removed all the police enforcement from a town… Crime would grow at an exponential rate!

So given that you’ve been through multiple rounds of antibiotics, multiple times, and in large amounts, it seems like the overwhelming slaughter of your good bacteria could be contributing to you getting UTIs more frequently.  This could also contribute to other issues such as recurring yeast infections, IBS, weight gain, auto-immune problems, food intolerance, etc.

What to Do

Most importantly, you need to add good probiotics into your body.  You can do this a couple ways:

  1. With supplements: Make sure that whatever you purchase has capsules that are enteric coated to make it past your stomach acid and into your small intestine.  A couple brands I trust are: Jarrow, Renew Life, or Now Foods.  Specifically for someone like you, who’s taking many rounds of antibiotics, I’d suggest a supplement that contains the Lactobacillus brevis because there’s evidence that some of these strains are antibiotic resistant: Dr. Mercola’s Probiotic has this strain.
  2. Like I say in my post on probiotics, food is the BEST way to get probiotics in you and it’s cheaper!  For instance, a one month supply of high potency probiotics can cost anywhere between $20-$150 dollars.  Where instead, you can make a jar of sauerkraut for just the cost of a cabbage (usually less than a dollar).  AND, while one probiotic pill may have 50 billion strains of good bacteria, one 1/2 cup of sauerkraut (contains L. brevis mentioned earlier) can have TRILLIONS of good bacteria.  It’s really up to you to choose, but I feel that getting probiotics from foods is cheaper, safer, and more guaranteed.

Foods high in good probiotics are sauerkraut, kimchi, kefir, beet kvass, pickles, kombucha, and yogurt (to name a few). You can make any of these items yourself (I’ll write posts in the future about how to do it) or you can purchase in the store.

*Note: Try to eat probiotic-rich foods with a meal that has fat or dairy in it.  This helps the bacteria survive the stomach acid and make it to your small intestine.  This is why I feel like yogurt and kefir are some of the best probiotic foods because they’re comprised of fat and are dairy!

  1.  Once you’ve started adding the good bacteria, next step is to feed them with prebiotics. In my post I list the types of prebiotic foods you can eat. This should be pretty easy considering so many dishes include onions and garlic!  Who doesn’t love that combo?  Crazy people, that’s who.
  1.  Another possible killer of good bacteria are many types of processed foods.  An example of this can be found in my post about emulsifiers,  so you’ll want to limit these types of foods.

What Else to Consider

After years of damage to your bladder, you may have developed Interstitial Cystitis, which is chronic inflammation of the bladder.  Basically this means that the inner lining of your bladder, which usually keeps your highly acidic urine from hurting your delicate tissue, has been compromised and broken down.  People who suffer from IC usually think they have a UTI when they don’t (basically the same symptoms), and end up taking antibiotics that don’t help the situation.

If this is the case, you can manage your symptoms through diet and give your bladder what it needs to heal.  Here are a couple websites I suggest you look at:

ichelp.org

healinginterstitialcystitis.com

There’s also a yahoo group that has a ton of info, though they do require you join the group to have access to the info: Living with Interstitial Cystitis.

You obviously don’t have to do all of these things (I know it can be overwhelming), and instead might want to pick one suggestion that’s easiest for you and start with that. You can build up to more changes slowly over time.

I hope you feel better soon and thank you for reading my blog!

-Lana