12 natural ways to prevent cystitis

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Sarah Hyland

Studying Health Sciences, Writer & Product Trainer
@AvogelUKHealth
sarahavogelroi


10 December 2020

How can I treat cystitis naturally?

There are myriad ways of preventing the misery of a cystitis infection. This is just as well. 50% of all women in the UK will get cystitis, at least once1. Besides the painful symptoms, it also has a very high reinfection rate. 25% of women get a second attack of cystitis within six months. This rate can increase if there is a history of multiple infections2. Not getting it in the first place seems, to me, the best all-round strategy! Let us nip cystitis in the bud.

To prevent cystitis, here are some of the best natural ways:

  • Keep clean
  • Learn the right wipe technique
  • Avoid using abrasive or harsh soaps
  • If you need to pee, go to the loo
  • Don't squeeze out the pee.
  • Do have sex; pee straight after
  • Use underwear made from natural fabrics
  • Drink more water
  • Take cranberry
  • Eat foods that help prevent cystitis
  • Find out about herbal remedies
  • Use home remedies

If this piques your interest, read on to find out more.

What causes cystitis in the first place?

In order to best prevent it, it's best to know your enemy. Cystitis is a urinary tract infection (UTI). It's called cystitis when the infection is located in the bladder. Most cystitis is caused by E. coli bacteria that is found (naturally) in poo. We all produce the stuff. Women tend to suffer (yes suffer!) from UTIs more than men for geographical reasons. A boy's urinary tract does not end near their anus, whereas girls' bits are all in the same neighbourhood.

How do I know if I am getting cystitis?

You'll know that you are coming down with a UTI. It can be very sudden. You'll need to pee every other minute! It can sting like hell when you do. Not to be confused with drinking too much coffee and having to pee twice. This is the kind of grief to watch out for:

Here are 12 natural ways to prevent cystitis:

1. Keep clean

E.coli bacteria causes between 75-95% of cystitis infections. This bacteria is found in faeces (poo). It does little harm in the bowel (in low numbers), but if it gets into other places it can cause trouble. That is why we are told to wash our hands after going to the toilet and before we eat. It can cause tummy upsets if we eat something contaminated with E. coli, and it can cause a UTI if it gets into our urinary tract.

2. Learn the right wiping technique

Basic anatomy and potty training here. Reach behind you to wipe after you go to the loo. Wipe from the front towards the back, NOT from the back towards the front. Front wiping risks moving some unfriendly bacteria to the wrong place. Then ouch, another infection like cystitis or thrush.

The logic is based on the geographic location of our intimates. Quite a lot of people I know have been surprised by the fact that women have three holes down there! The urethra (pee hole) is towards the front and the anus (bum) is at the back. The vagina is in the middle. Here's a helpful diagram: 

3. Avoid using abrasive or harsh soaps

Unfriendly E. coli is not the only bacteria. We have millions and billions of friendly microbes. They live everywhere; we are covered in them: on our skin, in our vaginas, outside the urethra. Harsh soaps, intimate cleaning products or water that is too hot can kill off the good guys. We want these friendly bacteria. They can protect us from infections like cystitis. If they are washed away, it leaves an empty space that can quickly be occupied by an undesirable. Scrubbing too hard or using harsh soaps can irritate the delicate skin in this area. Be gentle and use water only.

4. If you need to pee, go to the loo

Why wait if you don't have to? When we urinate, the body is flushing out waste products. This includes bacteria that we don't want. It's important to empty the bladder completely, so give yourself as much time as it takes.

5. Don't squeeze out your pee

Relax. Did your mammy tell you never to sit on the dirty toilet seat? Entire generations of women were reared to hover over the bowl. Poised for flight and squeezing that pee out like the toilet was on fire and they were saving us all. Forcing the urine out activates the muscles in the pelvic floor which stops the bladder from emptying completely. It also sends your body mixed messages, 'pee; no, don't pee'. Confusing.

6. Have sex; pee straight after

Sexually active women are more likely to get cystitis. Couples in love, partners on holidays and at Christmas often have energetic and frequent sessions. All this rubbing can make delicate tissue a little inflamed and more prone to infection. Intimate mixing of body fluids can cause a bit of mischief too. Bacteria can get moved around. Ergo - honeymoon cystitis, which is the UTI you can get from having romance in your life. Peeing immediately after sex will flush any bacteria that may be knocking around out from the urethra, and help prevent cystitis.

7. Use underwear made from natural fabrics

Knickers made from synthetic fabric like nylon and polyester are not breathable. They can feel sweaty, and any moist environment can promote cystitis-causing bacteria. Using natural fabrics (like cotton) will keep you cool and fresh-feeling.

8. Drink more water

Dehydration causes urine to become very concentrated. If your pee is darker than a pale yellow then you are not drinking enough water. Concentrated urine will contain more bacteria. This increases the chances of getting cystitis. Drink plenty (at least one litre and a half a day) of plain water. Keep that urine flowing!

9. Take cranberry 

Cranberry can stop bacteria sticking to the wall of the bladder. For that reason, it is useful for helping to prevent cystitis. It doesn't act like an antiseptic, so it won't kill off bacteria. It will just act as a deterrent - the bacteria will get flushed out of the bladder more easily if they have nothing to stick onto. Read more about cranberry here.

10. Eat foods that help prevent cystitis

Eating a healthy diet is a great way of helping prevent cystitis. The more good things you add, the less room in your tummy for things we know are not good for our urinary tract, like alcohol, caffeine and sugary drinks. Certain foods are particularly beneficial for cystitis prevention. Eat plenty of vegetables and fruit that are high in vitamin C, like spinach, broccoli, Brussel sprouts and berries. Vitamin C is important for connective tissue (our elastic bits) and it promotes wound-healing. It supports good circulation, and we need it for a functioning immune system.

Foods that support good bacteria in our gut will also help prevent cystitis infections. They are especially useful when recovering from any illness that required an antibiotic. Natural organic unsweetened yoghurt, and fermented foods like sauerkraut, support good intestinal flora.

Molkosan is a simple addition - it's a prebiotic drink that can be added to water or juice. Prebiotics nourish good bacteria in the gut, creating a nice environment for them to thrive in. 

11. Find out about herbal remedies

There's a long tradition of using herbs to prevent and treat cystitis. Nasturtium as an antimicrobial. Horseradish, goldenrod and bergamot were all used to help discourage infection and to support bladder function. Uva-ursi or bearberry would have been taken during and after an attack, to treat and also to prevent cystitis from reoccurring. If you would like to read more about herbal medicine and how it may help, here is a copy of our free Cystitis e-bookbook.


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12. Use home remedies

Bacteria are very sensitive to pH and will do well in a very acidic bladder environment. Watery solutions of bicarbonate of soda or apple cider vinegar can change the pH balance of urine. Traditionally these drinks were used at the first sign of a UTI. Barley water was the most popular remedy for preventing cystitis when I was growing up. It has a mild diuretic action. Barley water is made from boiling barley (preferably wholegrain and organic) in water. The water is then separated from the grain and traditionally mixed with lemon and sometimes a little honey.

Do go to your doctor if you have cystitis and are running a temperature, have back pain or blood in your urine. Likewise, if cystitis keeps reoccurring, despite all efforts, your doctor may want to rule out underlying conditions, for instance, diabetes.

My Self-Care Tip: How to support your urinary tract.

This video has my tips for supporting the urinary tract to help avoid and deter cystitis infection.

References:

https://bit.ly/3nWP6KG 

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK482435/ 

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Our expert's top picks for a healthy bladder and dietary advice

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What's being asked

Will changing my diet help with cystitis?

There are many helpful things you can do diet-wise to reduce the likelihood of cystitis. • Drink ...
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Is cystitis infectious?

No, it’s a bacterial infection that cannot be caught and cannot spread to another person. It may ...
Read more >

How is cystitis diagnosed?

A urine sample is given to the doctor, who sends it for testing. A urinary tract infection is ...
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Can cystitis and thrush be linked?

If you suffer from both recurring thrush and cystitis, or find that when you develop one, the other follows soon after, you’ll know how frustrating it can be.

Find out what the link is

Here’s what I recommend

Emma our women's health advisor recommends Uva-ursi complex to help ease symptoms of cystitis and cranberry to maintain bladder health.

Learn more

Did you know?

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!).

7 reasons you keep getting cystitis

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