By Dr. Nicole Sundene, NMD and Rob Newbound, RN
Bladder Problems and bladder pain, frequent urination, and UTI's or Urinary Tract Infections always flare up badly in the fall in my Women's Health practice. This is why after twenty five years running urinalysis tests on women, I always label October as "Bladder Infection Month."
Why do more bladder problems and infections happen in the fall?
From a Chinese Medicine perspective bladder problems occur when we are moving from a time of high heat to lower temperature and women drink less water than they were drinking during the summer months. Keeping the bladder and kidneys hydrated and flushed out with the correct amount of water can prevent bladder problems from seasonal changes. Most women need around 60-80 oz of water daily plus 8 oz per "vice" or serving of caffeine, alcohol, or 15 minutes of exercise.
Drinking too much water can irritate the kidneys and make bladder problems seem worse. In this scenario I hear women say "The water runs right through me," indicating to me it is more likely the early warning signs of a kidney problem and less of a bladder problem. Especially since I usually see women for bladder problems after they have already been worked up by a Urologist, had a cystoscopy which is a microscopic camera the doctor uses to examine the lining of your bladder and take a biopsy of it to determine if the bladder is inflamed and bleeding. Working closely with a Urologist helps me understand the exact diagnosis, as well as if it will be a condition I am confident I can resolve with Naturopathic Medicine.
All women with recurrent bladder problems should first visit a Urologist to insure nothing serious like bladder cancer is going on, and that this is a "Irritable Bladder," or "Overactive Bladder," or "Interstitial Cystitis," or Recurrent UTI problem for me to manage.
Bladder problems in Women's Health are all about prevention. So today I am sharing my #1 Naturopathic herbal bladder tip to keep your bladder healthy. Keep in mind, if you have interstitial cystitis, a common bladder problem referred to as "Irritable Bladder" the tannins in cranberry and blueberry fruit I am discussing today may actually inflame your bladder! So not every herb is good for every bladder situation. This is why working with a skilled Women's Health Bladder Specialist (such as myself 😉 that understands the proper use of herbal medicine and Natural remedies for the bladder. I also do not recommend combing any medications with bladder herbs without first discussing them with a Naturopathic Doctor as that can be dangerous since many bladder herbs and bladder formulas contain demulcent herbs that can block the absorption of medications. Causing the medication to not work. So we don't want to fix your bladder problem, only to cause your High Blood Pressure pill to stop working!
The other issue with herbs for bladder problems, is that some of them actually interfere with each other! This almost never happens in herbal medicine, but pH is critical for proper bladder health. Many herbs that are helpful for bladder problems work by altering the pH of the urine, causing it to become more acidic, like cranberry, which can negate the effects of other bladder infection herbs! So if you are not improving on my bladder problem basics there is something more complex going on that requires my help, please visit my SCHEDULE page so we can get a tight regime in place. Usually my bladder patients need 1-2 appointments to get a system down for them that works for their bladder.
I digress, back to bladder problems, as we move from a high level of hydration during summer to a lesser amount of hydration in the fall women naturally develop more bladder infections. Especially those wearing pantyhose and tight pants that are not breathable and therefore further irritates the vagina, bladder, and urethra causing bladder infections, yeast infections, bladder problems, and vaginal infections.
Women who suffer from recurrent bladder infections are already diligent about wiping front to back, drinking plenty of water, and peeing after sexual intercourse. Although antibiotics may be necessary once a full blown infection starts, prevention as with just about anything is key. Many herbs for bladder infections are known to be helpful, but I prefer to use foods as medicines whenever possible.
Most women know that cranberry juice is good for bladder infections. E. coli, the bacteria that causes most bladder infections is unable to adhere to the lining of the bladder thanks to cranberry. What most people don’t know is that there is not a therapeutic cranberry juice out there that really tastes that good! If you are drinking a “delicious” glass of cranberry juice every day then you are probably not doing much to prevent a bladder infection.
When shopping for cranberry juice, be sure to read the label and purchase only 100% pure cranberry juice. A juice loaded with grape juice, apple juice or heaven forbid high fructose corn syrup is simply not going to be effective, and may worsen bladder problems. Because blueberry juice is also beneficial to the bladder you can make cranberry juice more palatable by drinking a blend of equal parts. You can also experiment with different herbal teas and make an herbal ice tea with juice.
Although these pure berry juices are a bit more expensive than their artificial counterparts they are worth their weight in gold for bladder problems not just for their preventative properties but also because of their anti-oxidant value. Berries are a great part of an anti-aging program. So when you are drinking your daily juice to prevent bladder infections you are also doing a great service to your cardiovascular system and general health!
“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” ~ Chinese Proverb
Here is more research about cranberries and bladder infections by my friend Rod Newbound that is a Registered Nurse and wanted to collab with me on his favorite UTI and anti-aging fruit:
Although it’s been known for several years that cranberries can prevent urinary tract infections, up until now, the exact mechanism has remained a mystery. But in a newly published study, scientists at Worcester Polytechnic Institute say they’ve discovered the secret.
They found that virulent bacteria, like the kind that create urinary tract infections, have hair-like projections called fimbriae that attach to the wall of the bladder. Their studies showed that even low concentrations of cranberry juice created a thermodynamic energy shield that keeps these nasty creatures from getting a foothold.
No Harm To Friendly Bacteria
Because the good bacteria don’t have these fimbriae, they aren’t affected. This is important, because our bodies have billions of good bacteria that provide protection from such gut wrenching disease organisms like Clostridium difficile.
Unpublished work also shows cranberry juice has potent effects on disease-causing bacteria, but that the effect is temporary. This suggests that in order to have continuous protection; you will need to consume some form of cranberry regularly – perhaps daily.
Cranberries, a Superfood You Should Enjoy Year Round
How to Get Your Cranberries Without Terrorizing Your Body With High Calorie Sugars
Action Plan: Add more cranberries to your weekly diet for bladder problems and prevention. Try them in salads, muffins, pancakes, breads, cheese spreads, on peanut butter sandwiches, etc. You can find unsweetened cranberry juice at some health food stores. Mix it with 1/4 cup blueberry juice and 1-3 packets of stevia to reduce the tartness. Or dilute it with 3/4 cup of water, add 1-2 packets of stevia for every 1/4 cup of cranberry juice.
I also like to make the Celestial Seasonings fruit teas iced and add about 25% cranberry per batch of iced tea. Estimate 1-2 packs of stevia per cup if you like your drink to taste sweet. Adding a splash of agave syrup can help reduce the bitterness of the stevia when drinking cranberry juice for UTI prevention and bladder problems.
Thank you to Rod Newbound a 58 year old Registered Nurse who teaches his patients how to live longer using natural medicine anti-aging tips for collaborating with me on all of this amazing cranberry research!
Dr. Nicole Sundene, NMD
Dr. Sundene is a Naturopathic Doctor in Scottsdale, Arizona, and is considered a Female Hormone Expert in Women's Health and Bioidentical Hormones. She specializes in Holistic Women's Health for Menopause, Thyroid, Hashimotos, PMS, Perimenopause, Autoimmune, Postpartum, Chronic Fatigue, Depression, Anxiety, Food Allergies, Digestion, Dermatology , Acne, Psoriasis, Eczema and Adrenal Hormonal Conditions. In 1999 she began working for a Hormone Doctor prior to starting Naturopathic Medical School. With over 22 years of experience in both Prescription and Natural women's health and hormones she presents to women the best integrated health solutions for their Chronic Disease. She has been an Herbalist for over 27 years and enjoys teaching women how to use herbs to balance their hormones, nutrition and optimize their health. Dr. Sundene relies on blood testing for her hormone metrics. The hormone testing is covered per the patient's insurance plan and conducted at certain points in the woman's menstrual cycle. To learn more about Hormone Testing for Women Visit: Bioidentical Hormones. Follow Dr. Sundene on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook for more tips on Women's Health, Female Hormones and Naturopathy!