Chronic cystitis can be debilitating and, as the name suggests, often hard to shift; you may well have been back and forth to your doctor with copious courses of antibiotics, but to no avail. Here, I run through some of the common causes of this condition as well as some diet and lifestyle tips to help fend off the symptoms once and for all.
Many of us will have experienced a urinary tract infection (UTI) or a bout of cystitis at some point in our lives; however, if the problem is persistent, it can easily get you down and you may find yourself asking: ‘Why me?’, ‘Why do I keep getting cystitis?’.
If you suffer from chronic cystitis you might wonder what the cause is, and this is an important first step in managing the condition. Here, I run through some common causes:
1. Failed attempts at treating acute cystitis
The majority of cases of cystitis are caused by bacterial infections. As a result of this, a trip to the doctors will often result in a course of antibiotics. However, what if the meds aren’t doing the trick? Antibiotic resistance or using medications incorrectly (such as not finishing the course of medication, which can then also contribute to antibiotic resistance), could partly be to blame, or perhaps the underlying cause may not have been correctly identified in the first place...
If you’re on any medication from the doctor, it’s useful to consider any potential side effects.
Certain drugs could create inflammation throughout the digestive tract and medical devices such as catheters could also contribute to infections if they give bacteria means to collect in the wrong places.
5. Fluctuating hormones
Hormonal fluctuations could also be contributing to cystitis. If your symptoms are persistent, if they tend to crop up at certain times of the month or if you struggle with symptoms of PMS or menopause already, it’s possible that these could be having a part to play.
Hormones can have a significant impact on the mucous membranes that line our urinary tract and vagina. If these become drier with less mucus production, they can become more easily damaged and infection is more likely to set in.
6. Chemical cystitis
Chemical ingredients such as those found in personal hygiene products, bath products or cleaning products that come into contact with your skin can all aggravate cystitis.
Certain ingredients can risk upsetting the pH and/or the balance of bacteria in and around the urinary tract which can then allow infections to more easily set in. So, if these are a common feature in your routine, it might be worth considering switching to some more natural, gentler alternatives.
Tips for overcoming it...
If chronic cystitis is affecting you, attempting to identify the root of the cause is important. Urine tests with the doctor can often help to pick up infections, while identifying patterns in your symptoms can also be a good indicator.
Then, some top tips to help overcome some of the symptoms include the following:
1. Use antibiotics appropriately
As with any medication, if it doesn’t seem to be taking the edge off your symptoms, then a discussion needs to be had with your doctor to check that it’s the right one for you. Antibiotics are only appropriate for UTIs or cystitis if the root of the cause is an infection. Plus, if you are given a course, you should follow the instructions and always complete the course when instructed to do so.
You can take Uva-ursi 5 times daily and up to a period of 6 weeks at a time to help eradicate tricky infections. Of course, if your symptoms persist or get any worse, it would be time to return to your doctor for further advice.
2. Dietary tips
If chronic cystitis is getting you down, looking at your diet and lifestyle habits is often a good place to start.
If your symptoms are recurrent, it’s important to try and identify any habits in your daily regime that could be contributing. Every day we’re washing, dressing and going to the loo and some of these routines (that we often don’t give a second thought!) could be having an influence.
Consider which toiletries you’re using in the bath or shower and ensure you wipe from front to back when going to the loo (simple, but important!). Even underwear choices could potentially be aggravating your symptoms, depending on different styles and materials. Ensure you pee after sex, too, which can help to flush any unwanted bacteria away before it has a chance to become established.
Firstly, heightened stress levels can risk depleting our immune functions. In the case of infectious cystitis, we rely heavily on our immune system to detect any invading pathogens quickly, before they have a chance to take hold and give rise to infections.
Cystitis is sometimes known as ‘honeymoon cystitis’. Why? Well, during sex, bacteria can spread from the perineum to the urethral opening. The risk of developing cystitis is therefore increased depending on the frequency you have intercourse (sorry honeymooners!).