Women’s health is a critical pillar of our public health system. Indeed, the complex female anatomy also enables various conditions that we certainly do not see in their masculine counterparts. Such is the case of cervical dysplasia and the elevated frequency of urinary tract infections. However, these conditions are constantly associated with antecedents, triggers, and mediators that can overlap, leading to a complex assessment and holistic treatment that can be treated with a functional medicine approach.
What is a UTI:
Around 50% of the women population will suffer from a urinary tract infection throughout her life, and in fact, 30-40%of these patients will have a recurring condition after treatment. Furthermore, urinary tract infections can affect everyone but are ten times more common in the female population when compared to men. Indeed, between the female population, those pregnant, young, and peri or post-menopausal women will be the most affected by UTIs, accounting for up to 7 million office visits. Furthermore, elderly patients, infants, diabetic patients, and spinal cord injury are also susceptible to urinary tract infections.
According to literature, a urinary tract infection is a bacterial infection of the bladder and associated structure. However, there are several categories of UTI depending on the severity of the case.
- An uncomplicated urinary tract infection affects patients in such a way that the bacterial infection is present. Still, this condition is uncomplicated since the patients have no structural abnormality, comorbidity, diabetes, pregnancy, or immunocompromised state.
- The bacterial strains commonly present in a UTI are gram-negative bacilli like E. Coli, Klebsiella pneumonia, Proteus mirabilis, and Enterobacter aerogenes. On the other hand, around 10-15%is due to gram-positive bacteria Staphylococcus saprophyticus.
The common UTI symptoms are:
- Pain or burning sensation.
- The urgency to urinate, more than usual.
- Blood or pus in the urine.
- Cramps or pain in the lower abdomen.
- Chills or fever.
- Strong smell in the urine.
- Pain during sexual intercourse.
- Nausea, vomiting, malaise.
In addition, a UTI can have multiple causes such as:
- New sex partner or having multiple sex partners.
- Frequent or intense intercourse.
- The constant use of antibiotics or irritating contraceptives.
- The use of irritating products.
Treating UTIs with a Functional Medicine approach:
The most common way to treat a urinary tract infection is with antibiotics, typically recommended for ten days. Nevertheless, different bacterial strains can cause this infection, and some of them can create antibiotic resistance leading to further complications.
Furthermore, some foods have proven to be beneficial in the treatment of urinary tract infections. Indeed, several nutrients, specifically antioxidants, and natural antimicrobial agents, can be used in the UTI’s treatment of those special populations, such as pregnant women.
- Cranberries and blueberries: These fruits are powerful anti-adhesion agents. Indeed, cranberry consumption functions as an effective prophylactic, decreasing the severity and occurrence of UTIs. In addition, the polyphenols found in cranberries can suppress the inflammatory cascades caused by the immunologic response to the pathogenic bacteria.
Current literature suggests that eating fresh or dried cranberries can be useful to impede or suppress the infection. In addition, cranberry juice can also be used as a prophylactic method. Nevertheless, the expert opinion differs due to the high sugar content in juices. In fact, experts recommend the intake of cranberry and polyphenols supplementation in capsules. How to pick the right supplement for you? Here is a quick guide that will help you determine what is the best supplement for you.
There’s a current antibiotic resistance going on worldwide, and this is the main reason why most patients seek a better option to treat their conditions. The current UTI treatment needs to eliminate the bacterial strain causing this reaction and prevent new infections. Consequently, the functional medicine approach includes powerful polyphenols that decrease the inflammatory cascades triggered by the immune response to the pathogenic bacteria. Furthermore, these polyphenols enable prophylactic protection that inhibits bacterial adherence.- Ana Paola Rodriguez Arciniega, MS
Bono, Michael J. and Wanda C. Reygaert. “Urinary Tract Infection.” StatPearls, StatPearls Publishing, 23 June 2021.
González de Llano, Dolores et al. “Cranberry Polyphenols and Prevention against Urinary Tract Infections: Relevant Considerations.” Molecules (Basel, Switzerland) vol. 25,15 3523. 1 Aug. 2020, doi:10.3390/molecules25153523
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