Although people often refer to a UTI as a bladder infection, any part of the urinary system, including the kidneys, can become infected. The most common infection, however, is in the bladder and urethra and accounts for 8.3 million doctor visits each year. A UTI is more likely to affect someone with female anatomy than a person with male anatomy due to the proximity of the urethra. At our center, we see many patients who suffer from repeated chronic urinary tract infections.
The main symptoms of a UTI are a burning sensation when urinating, frequent and urgent urination with a reduced amount of urine, blood in the urine, strong-smelling urine, or cloudy urine.
A number of factors can predispose you to a UTI. These include:
- Not drinking enough water.
- Certain types of birth control. Specifically using the diaphragm.
- Being sexually active, especially with a new partner.
- A diet high in carbohydrates and low in protein
- A history of kidney stones.
- Any illness that impairs the immune system, such as diabetes.
In western medicine, UTIs are treated with antibiotics. It’s important to consult your doctor about a UTI because an untreated infection can lead to pyelonephritis (a kidney infection) which in turn can damage your kidneys.
In Chinese medicine, an acute kidney infection is usually attributed to damp-heat. We use the formula Ba Zheng San (Dianthus Formula) which works very well if taken at the first sign of infection. If the UTI is painful I often substitute a formula called Long Dan Xie Gan Tang (Gentiana Combination). Chronic UTIs can have a number of causes in Chinese medicine but the most common is Kidney Yin Deficiency. For this, I use a variation of the formula Zhi Bai Di Huang Wan (Anemarrhena, Phellodendron & Rehmannia Formula).
Here is the advice we give our Yinova patients about treating a UTI
- Consult your doctor if symptoms persist or worsen.
- Take an herbal formula such as those described above at the first sign of a UTI. Ask us for advice when picking the right formula for your condition.
- Come on in for an acupuncture treatment. Acute UTI’s often respond very well to acupuncture and herbs in combination. The most important points we use are Liver 8 which is just above the knee on the inner leg and Spleen 9 which is just below the knee on the inner calf. Both these points are usually tender when someone is suffering from a UTI.
- Drink plenty of water.
- Avoid coffee, tea, and alcohol.
- If possible avoid sexual intercourse.
- If you do have sexual intercourse, try to empty your bladder as soon as possible.
- Cranberry juice may have infection-fighting properties. (However, don’t drink cranberry juice if you’re taking the blood-thinning medication warfarin as this can cause bleeding)
- Wear cotton underwear to help air circulate.
- Limit carbohydrates.
- After urinating wipe from front to back to avoid spreading germs from the anus to the urethra.
- Avoid vaginal deodorants, douches, and sexual lubricants.