When antibiotics fail; more is not always better when treating urinary tract infections.
It is usually a simple 2+2 equation– a urinary tract infection usually equals a course or two, or three of antibiotics.
It is such a common treatment that many doctors will not even check the urine for signs of bacteria overgrowth. Scanty and painful urination calls forth the penicillins, cephalosporins and fluoroquinolones. Sometimes these clear up the problem, in which case there is no point in reading further.
However, in those for whom these heavy hitters of the western pharmaceutical arsenal can not seem to put an end to the problem, Chinese medicine has options that don't involve the complete decimation of the intestinal tract's beneficial bacteria. What's more, they can be tremendously effective.
As I had an 80-plus year-old patient recently comment, “my urination has not been this smooth in 30 years.”
Antibiotics are amazing medicines when used properly, and for the scope in which they are most effective. However, overuse of these magic bullets over the past 50-plus years has brought with it the co-evolution of the very bacteria we are trying to control. Our magic bullet has had the unfortunate side effect of encouraging the growth of even more virulent strains of pathogens. And like any war of force, escalation brings with it more escalation. And the “collateral damage” likewise becomes increasingly severe.
Chinese herbs offer a different approach. And there is a reason why in the past 2000 years the doctors of Asia have not developed formulations that “kill” the invader. Unlike our western medical model of kill, cut and control, the medicine of Asia seeks to promote balance, harmony and communication between the various body systems. Systems in balance, those that are strong and resilient, inherently have the capability to control pathogenic influences. Chinese medicine's strength lays not so much in fighting pathogens, but in promoting a systemic homeostasis that just does not give pathogens an environment to collect and breed.
Does this mean that Chinese herbs can only be used to treat long-term chronic and unresolved urinary tract infections? In a word, no. There are a number of formulas that both “attack the pathogen, while re-balancing the system.” These prescriptions are good for acute UTI's. And for those recurrent issues that multiple courses of antibiotics just don't seem to touch, the more harmonizing and strengthening formulas are more appropriate.
Acupuncture too is helpful for UTI's, especially with the symptomatic issues of burning and urinary frequency. Together acupuncture and herbs can bring relief to the sufferer of chronic urinary tract infections that have been failed by multiple courses of antibiotics.
And of course, there are things you can do for yourself that help to regain bladder health and balance. Unsweetened cranberry juice is a commonly used home cure that many people find to be helpful. Also, anything you can do to reduce inflammation in your system will have a positive effect on the urinary system. So when dealing with a lingering UTI, cut out the sugar, eat well, balance work and play, and make sure you are getting enough of the good essential fatty acids– fish oil is a great source of these. In essence to have balance within, it is important to have balance in various aspects of life. As is often the case, an illness or symptom just might be a call to see how we are unfolding our life and if a change is being asked for.
Some women use acupuncture as a last resort, while others use it at the first sign of an infection. If you would prefer to strengthen your body's innate ability to ward off bladder infections, then a visit to your acupuncturist is a good place to start!