Q: I’ve been suffering with chronic, recurrent UTIs. Are there any natural therapies that can decrease the frequency of these infections?
A: Urinary tract infections (UTIs), bacterial infections involving the urinary tract, affect about 500,000 Canadian women each year. The majority are caused by E. coli bacteria, which have the ability to adhere to the mucosa of the urinary tract, forming biofilms and causing an inflammatory response.
Growing evidence supports the prophylactic use of probiotics for preventing recurrent UTIs, specifically species of Lactobacilli. One such study compared oral supplementation of L. rhamnosus and L. reuteri versus prophylactic antibiotic treatment in postmenopausal women. The study found a reduction in symptomatic UTIs in both treatment groups. However, after 12 months of antibiotic use, urinary E. coli were found to be antibiotic resistant while this occurrence wasn’t seen with probiotic supplementation.
Furthermore, in vitro studies found Lactobacilli strains such as L. acidophilus, L. fermentum, L. plantarum, and L. delbrueckii to specifically inhibit the growth of uropathogenic E. coli.
Cranberries contain proanthocyanidins (PACs), phytochemicals that have microbial anti-adhesion properties. PACs from cranberry powder inhibit uropathogenic E. coli from attaching to the lining of urinary tract cell walls. Studies using various cranberry extracts have shown a significant reduction in the incidence of UTIs affecting women.
Vitamin D plays an important role in the antimicrobial response by activating the immune system. Deficiencies of vitamin D have been linked to immune system dysregulation, which can cause increased infections and immune disorders. When it comes to urinary health, women with low serum levels of vitamin D have a higher incidence of recurrent UTIs.
Natural approaches such as probiotics, cranberry, and vitamin D may therefore play a role in preventing recurrent UTIs. Always consult your health care practitioner for advice and treatment suggestions.