Urinary tract infections (UTIs) and cystitis
Urinary tract infection (UTI) occurs when bacteria (often from the colon) gets into the urinary tract and causes an infection, irritating the delicate lining of the urethra causing inflammation and other unpleasant symptoms. Cystitis is the name of the infection when it travels upwards to the bladder.
The urethra, the bladder and the kidneys
Your urethra is connected to your bladder, which is then connected to your kidneys by skinny little spaghetti-sized tubes called the ureters. Your kidneys filter your blood, turn wastes into uric acid (the yellow colour), and then water it down to make urine, the same way you make cordial on a hot summer’s day.
The urine fills up your bladder, which eventually you can feel, and every so often you are compelled to let it out using your urethra to deliver it outside of your body. That is, you urinate.
Despite this being a pretty nifty way to get rid of wastes, your urethra can be prone to infections because it’s so close to the outside world, including your anus. Women are 50 times more likely than men to get UTIs for this reason.
UTIs need to be treated as soon as they come up because they can cause damage to your urethra, bladder and kidneys, with infection spreading up the tubes and beyond.
How did I get a UTI?
You don’t ‘catch’ a UTI usually, but messy sex can put germs from your (or someone else’s) anus into your urethra. This can happen when there are fingers, mouths, sex toys, vaginas and penises slipping and sliding all over the place. It doesn’t mean you’re dirty, or didn’t wash properly; it just means you are susceptible and the bug got in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Your susceptibility is the part that needs addressing, along with your sexual hygiene practices if they could use improvements. See the page on good vaginal health for more information on how to stay clean while you are getting dirty.
Symptoms of urinary tract infection
- Burning and stinging when urinating
- Urge to urinate, despite not much urine coming out
- Urinary frequency
- Can worsen to involve blood in the urine
- Infection can move up to kidneys
The burn and urge to urinate a lot comes from your acidic urine hitting your inflamed flesh, triggering the unpleasant and painful symptoms. This means that treatment is both for the symptoms and to kill the bacteria, and if applicable, remove any biofilms that may be present.
Biofilms tend to be present when you have recurrent UTIs.
Treating a UTI at home
Treating a UTI at home is relatively easy, but there are a few tricks to the trade. Anyon who has been unfortunate enough to suffer recurrent UTIs will have their go-to strategies the moment they feel an infection coming on, but if this is your first time, welcome to hell!
Learning how to cure your UTIs at home without antibiotics is invaluable, since frequent UTIs mean frequent visits to the doctor (which costs money) to get antibiotics (which cost you your good bacteria). These infections usually strike at inconvenient times and places – at night, and maybe when you are travelling away from home.
There are plenty of great options for non-antibiotic UTI treatments, so stock up, and get yourself set up to treat a UTI if it strikes.
Obviously if things feel like they are going haywire – severe pain, fever, kidney pain or blood in your urine, please go to your local emergency room or doctor. You will need to be checked to make sure you don’t have a kidney infection.
Learn more in Treating a UTI at home, where we detail your options, ranging from free reflexology to herbal medicines.
Stats and facts on UTIs:
- Women who get UTIs may have had many UTIs as a girl
- You get more UTIs if you are a sexually active 20 to 40-year-old, or are past menopause
- If you have had one UTI, you’ll probably get another one (biofilms)
- 15 per cent of all women have UTI issues at least once a year
- 2-4 per cent of women have high levels of bacteria in their urine, which might indicate an unrecognised UTI
- 30 per cent of you will have a UTI at some point in your life
The groups who get the most UTIs are babies, pregnant women and the elderly, though if you have a catheter, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, HIV/AIDS or ongoing urological issues, UTIs may be a feature.
Using Aunt Vadge’s UTI Tea – check your pH first
If you want to use Aunt Vadge’s UTI Tea, you’ll need to establish whether your urine is acidic or alkaline, because the herbs have different superpowers in different environments. A pH test is very easy to do and the tests are cheap from the pharmacy or online.
The bacteria that cause UTIs vary, although most are caused by E. coli.
Does it matter which bacteria is causing a UTI?
Yes, it does matter. The reason it matters is that each bacteria has its own characteristics, the same way an iPad differs in its functioning to a Samsung tablet – they do the same stuff outwardly, but inside they do things very differently.
These differences mean that each bacteria is susceptible to different treatments, so instead of wasting your time and money, it can help to either be tested by your doctor, or just use the clues that you have.
The antibiotics prescribed are also bacteria-dependent, as some bacteria are only susceptible to certain antibiotics or are antibiotic resistant.
So many bacteria can cause a urinary tract infection, so while there are some very common offenders, it could be a vast array of microbes causing your problems, which is why proper PCR testing and cultures should be performed so you can get the right treatment quickly.
Some common UTI-causing bacteria
- Citrobacter freundii
- Enterobacter aerogenes
- Enterobacter cloacae
- Enterococcus faecalis
- Escherichia coli (most UTIs)- see E. coli biofilms for more information on recurrent UTIs
- Klebsiella pneumoniae
- Proteus mirabilis
- Proteus vulgaris
- Pseudomonas aeruginosa
- Salmonella typhi
- Serratia marcescens
- Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA)
- Streptococcus agalactiae (Group B Strep)