Aaron Sta Maria
Written by Aaron Sta Maria

Reviewed by Dr Jessica Gunawan

Urinary Tract Infection: Quick Remedies for a Common Condition

A urinary tract infection is a common disease. Learn about the risk factors of this condition and treatment types to alleviate the symptoms.

Woman looking uncomfortable in the toilet

Urinary Tract Infection (UTI) is more common in women than in men, especially during pregnancy. UTI is a bacteria infection in the urinary tract system like the kidneys, bladder, ureter and urethra.

In this article, we will discuss the possible risk factors of UTI like sexual activities, menopause, blockages and lowered immune system as well as the types of UTI there are – cystitis, pyelonephritis, urethritis.

UTI is very common in children and adults, especially women. However, most people choose not to go to the doctor to treat their UTI because of the stigma surrounding UTI and sexual activities. 

Fortunately, there are plenty of home remedies using Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) that may help alleviate the symptoms and treat root causes, as well as prevention.

Urinary Tract Infection Causes

Woman opening a bottle of mineral water
A low water intake can cause a urinary tract infection.

The urinary tract, which plays a primary role in removing urine from our body, consists of a bladder, urethra, two kidneys, and two ureters. When exposed to certain risk factors, a urinary tract infection can occur.

Women are more prone to this infection due to a shorter urethra than men. The root cause of this infection is the presence of bacteria, which will travel up the urinary tract to your bladder and kidneys, resulting in an infection. According to the MyHEALTH Portal by the Ministry of Health Malaysia, the most common types of bacteria that cause urinary tract infections are Escherichia coli and Staphylococcus saprophyticus

Multiple elements can increase a person’s risk of infection. These include pregnancy, kidney stones, sexual intercourse, and urinary catheters. Inadequate water consumption, an enlarged prostate gland, improper care of the genital area, and a weakened immune system due to treatments like chemotherapy can also make you susceptible. 

According to TCM, damp-heat accumulation at the lower parts of the body and poor qi (vital energy) transformation by the kidney and bladder are the main causes of urinary tract infections. TCM physician Lim Sock Ling also mentions the four contributing factors of this bacterial infection:

  1. External dampness and heat at the genitals or other organs impacting the bladder system;
  2. Drinking too much alcohol and overindulgence in spicy and oily food;
  3. Poor emotional management which causes liver fire to impact the bladder;
  4. Excessive sexual intercourse, chronic health conditions, and over-exhaustion that weakens the immune system. Hence, it’s more prone to external pathogens resulting in higher risk of UTI.

Urinary Tract Infection Treatments 

Woman with bathrobe sitting on a toilet while playing with her mobile phone
Regular urination can help to prevent an infection.

Western medicine  

A general practitioner will usually prescribe a three-to-seven-day course of antibiotics after performing a urine test. To self-manage the pain from the infection, you can take paracetamol up to four times a day. While pregnant women can safely use antibiotics, always check with a healthcare professional before consuming any medication.

Call your healthcare provider immediately if you experience symptoms like fever, chills, or abdominal pains or still urinate with a burning feeling even after a course of antibiotics. For mild cases, cranberry juice may help to relieve the symptoms.

TCM herbal treatments  

In TCM, practitioners will properly diagnose the root cause of UTI. Then, they will prescribe herbal remedies that can help clear the heat and nourish fluid to promote urination. “For pregnant women, we don’t use herbs that are excessively bitter and cooling as it may not be safe for the foetus,” says physician Lim.

Depending on the diagnosis, there are several popular herbal remedies that may help alleviate the symptoms of UTI:

  • Zhi Bai Di Huang Wan: suitable for people who have yin deficiency. This remedy nourishes the yin, clears heat, and moistens dryness.
  • Dao Chi San: usually prescribed for people who have exuberance of heart-fire syndrome. It clears fire from the heart and nourishes dryness.
  • Jia Wei Wu Ling San: A remedy that clears heat and removes dampness for people who experience damp-heat condition at their lower region.

Acupuncture  

A randomised trial that compared the efficacy of acupuncture in treating a urinary tract infection showed that approximately 50% of women experienced the condition less frequently than women who didn’t receive treatment.

“Depending on the causes and acupuncture points used, acupuncture can help clear bladder or lower region heat. This treatment can also promote urination, relieve difficulty in urinating as well as strengthen the kidney, bladder, and spleen”, says physician Lim. However, she advises pregnant women to not get acupuncture treatment. Many acupoints are in the abdomen area and lower back region, which can cause contractions.

Lifestyle modifications 

Physician Lim recommends keeping yourself hydrated and not holding your urine to prevent infection. It’s advisable to wash or clean your genital area after urination or before sexual intercourse; also to empty your bladder before and after sexual intercourse. She suggests limiting spicy foods as well as sweet juices, alcohol, and caffeinated beverages. Wearing tight pants or strong-scented soap can also increase your risk of contracting UTI.

While a urinary tract infection can be easily treated, don’t delay getting treatment even if symptoms are mild. When left untreated, this infection may lead to kidney damage. Talk to a doctor or TCM practitioner to ensure you have a proper treatment regimen for this condition.

References

  1. NHS. 2020. Urinary tract infections (UTIs). [Accessed 16 November 2021] 
  2. MyHEALTH. 2012. Urinary Tract Infection. [Accessed 27 November 2021] 
  3. International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology. 2020. Acupuncture for recurrent urinary tract infection in women: a systematic review and meta-analysis. [Accessed 24 February 2022]

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