Cystitis is an infection of the bladder usually caused by a bacterial infection and is the most common urinary tract infection (UTI) among women.
The kidneys filter blood to remove waste, resulting in urine. Uretas are the tubes which carry urine from the kidneys to the bladder where it exits the body through the urethra. In female anatomy, the uretas are short, meaning less distance for bacteria from outside of the body to travel to reach our bladders and cause problems.
Symptoms of cystitis can be uncomfortable, painful and make it difficult to concentrate on day to day tasks. These can include: burning, a feeling of needing to pass urine often, even when the bladder is empty, pelvic and abdominal discomfort, blood in the urine and sometimes a low grade fever. If left untreated, the infection can spread to the kidneys which can be very damaging.
UTIs are rare in healthy men, so may be an indicator of an underlying disease. In children, unusual episodes of wetting in the daytime may also be a sign of a UTI.
So what can we do for prevention and how can nutrition help if we do end up affected?
In order to prevent cystitis, we need to understand the risk factors for developing it in the first place. As we have already discussed, there are some structural factors at play, but there are still ways we can support ourselves.
Hygiene: this is especially important when engaging in sexual activity or using tampons or mooncups. On the other hand, douching and overwashing the vaginal area can also upset our natural balance. Other habits like incomplete emptying of the bladder can also be a risk factor.
Hydration: this is key to maintain the flow of urine through the system and encourage the removal of bacteria. Aim for 2-3 litres of water or herbal tea a day, avoiding sugary drinks, alcohol and caffeine.
Immune system: this can play an important role for the prevention of any kind of infection, which is why nurturing our immune system is so important for everyday health. Immunosuppressant medication or recent antibiotic use may reduce our immune system activity. Concentrate on nutrients to support our immune system including: vitamin D, beta glucans, vitamin D, zinc.
Probiotics: It may seem counter-intuitive, but taking a pro-biotic will support the growth of good bacteria throughout the body and re-balance the microflora. It’s also key to remember that a huge amount of our immune cells are in the gut, so by nourishing the gut, we also support our immunity.
Nutrition: eliminate ultra-processed, sugary food and drinks including caffeine and alcohol. Instead, concentrate on nourishing your body with anti-inflammatory foods rich in antioxidants, think about eating a rainbow of fruit and Veg and plenty of omega 3 rich food like oily fish, nuts, seeds and avocado.
Cranberry: you may be familiar with the old remedy of cranberry juice to treat cystitis. Cranberries do indeed have useful anti adhesion properties which make it harder for the bacteria, usually E.Coli, to cling onto the bladder wall. These properties are thought to come from the proanthocyanins and fructose of the berries. However beware that this will only be effective in pure, high strength doses, with sugary supermarket cranberry juice likely to contribute to the problem.
D-Mannose: a simple sugar found in a number of natural food sources. This acts in a similar way to cranberry by preventing the bacteria from clinging to the bladder wall
Please note that the information contained within this website does not and should not replace medical advice, and is not intended to treat or diagnose. We always recommend you consult with your doctor. Our Nutritional Therapy team is highly trained and we offer one to one Nutritional Therapy Consultations, which are designed to be complementary to any medical treatment from a functional medicine approach, as well as offering a preventative & optimal health focus.