Our urinary tract is a complex structure consisting of many organs working in sync to maintain the function of excretion and homeostasis. Excretion is our body’s basic need, without which, the regular and healthy functioning of the body will be severely disrupted and subject to danger. Our urinary system consists of organs such as kidneys, ureters, urethra, and urinary bladder. All of these organs have their unique functions and must work properly in order to ensure proper drainage and excretion of fluids and wastes from the body. The malfunctioning of even one of these organs can lead to detrimental effects on health and eventual failure to perform their assigned functions.
Urinary tract infections, aka UTIs, are a common occurrence in today’s world. Mostly targeting the female gender, these infections can be acquired at any age and by any sex. Here are some interesting facts regarding the urinary system and its prevailing infections;
• Our urinary bladder can hold up to around 400 ml of urine at a time
• The kidney filters all the blood in our body around 400 times in a day
• When your bladder is full, nerves send signals to the brain indicating the need to empty the bladder. The urge to empty the bladder is, therefore, a result of these signals
• The kidney can filter more than 1 million gallons of urine during a person’s lifetime. This is enough fluid to fill an entire lake!
• Your bladder can stretch from 2 inches to around 6 inches long when its full
• The urge to urinate starts when your bladder is around one-quarter full
• The bladder has a limit to its extension. Excessive stretching can lead to weakened pelvic muscles and urinary incontinence
• Urine is composed of around 95% water, 2.5% of a mixture of enzymes, minerals, and salts, and 2.5% of urea. It is a non-toxic by-product and can be diluted to be used as a fertilizer
• Your kidney has one pair of kidneys. If one kidney fails to perform its function and/or is removed, one kidney can perform the function of filtration alone
• The incidence of uti in women is greater as compared to men
UTIs and other such kidney diseases are a common occurrence in today’s world. UTIs, in particular, have the tendency to recur and relapse. Some common uti symptoms to look out for and pay attention to include;
• Burning micturition (burning/discomfort while urinating)
• Frequent urge to urinate
• Less discharge of urine, despite the intense urges
• Lower back pain or pain in the lower abdomen
• Fever with or without rigors and chills
• Dark, cloudy, or pink colored urine (indicating the presence of blood)
Other symptoms indicating kidney damage include;
• Signs of edema, aka swelling in the limbs, ankles etc. This fluid retention is caused by a failure of the kidney to perform its function of filtration and excretion
• Persistent nausea and vomiting
• Pain or pressure in your lower back and lower abdomen
• Unexplained shortness of breath
No matter what the problem may be regarding your urinary system, there are some natural ways to protect and heal your bodily systems.
Water is undoubtedly a cure-all. It may be the most conveniently and cheaply available fluid on this planet, but that does not assuage its significance. Among the many uti causes, dehydration is one of them. Drinking adequate levels of water can help you flush out toxins and infections and improve the process of filtration and excretion. For healthy kidneys and urinary systems, drinking lots of water can help in more ways than one. That being said, for those individuals suffering from chronic kidney disease, the progression of kidney failure does not halt by increasing water intake. According to a research conducted by researchers at Lawson Health Research Institute and Western University;
“Despite widespread beliefs, little scientific data exists on the optimal amount of water to drink,” says Dr. William Clark. “While many claims about the benefits of increased water intake remain untested, a growing body of evidence suggests that increased water intake improves kidney function through the suppression of the anti-diuretic hormone.”
Diet is always significant when it comes to our health. What we eat and drink is reflected in our bodies. Protein is a very significant part of one’s diet, but plant proteins are even more important. Dietician Desiree Neilson from Vancouver says. “Protein is critical to support the immune system and regulate blood sugar rise. When planning a meal, always put 15 to 30 grams of plant protein on your plate.”
When talking about diet and its significance, Dr. Neilson also mentioned;
“Diet is important in treating urinary tract infection to support the body’s immune system, reduce irritation in the healing process and help the body shed bacteria.”
That being said, sometimes changes in diet alone cannot cure or eliminate the infections. When the disease progresses and enters into advanced stages, there is a need to shift to a proper treatment and antibiotic regimen, says Dr. Neilson. She further adds that there is a lot of misleading information about such infections online. For example, vitamin C intake can have conflicting effects in regards to UTIs. It is, therefore, important to make sure which nutrients need to be taken in what amount.
3. Cranberry juice:
A remedy that has been around for centuries, this age-old belief really does work. Cranberry juice should be used in its unconcentrated and unsweetened form to get maximum benefits. Cranberry juice isn’t meant to act as a bactericidal; meaning, it won’t kill bacteria. It will only assist in getting rid of the bacteria by flushing them out of your system. Cranberries work by preventing the bacteria from adhering to the walls of the urinary tract, thus, stopping them from inhabiting and corrupting the urinary system. They have phytochemicals such as proanthocyanidins that help in this process. Although a lot of people seem to find comfort in this remedy, there is not enough scientific evidence to support it. Therefore, it is more of a trial and error situation and it works for some, while doesn’t for others. A study published in the “Journal of Medicinal Food” proved that patients had a decreased ability to adhere bacteria to their urinary tract. Thus, cranberry juice can be considered a natural cure for UTI.
Yogurt has a good amount of good bacteria, known as probiotics, which help maintain a healthy balance between the natural flora of microbes in the body. Antibiotics for uti tend to imbalance the inner environment. When the balance is disrupted, it gives an environment for bacteria to flourish and cause infections. People who incorporate yogurt and other fermented products containing healthy bacteria, aka probiotics, showed a decreased risk of developing urinary tract infections and even bladder cancer. According to a study published in “American Journal of Clinical Nutrition”, the 82,000 participants who ate 2 or 3 servings of yogurt and other cultured milk products presented with the lowest risk of developing bladder cancer. A very good option among bladder infection remedies includes making use of yogurt in your diet.
Antioxidants containing foods such as grapes, cocoa, cinnamon etc have ample amounts of antioxidants such as proanthocyanidins that help in fighting off bladder infections and bacteria. Fruits and vegetables are the best sources of naturally present antioxidants, which help in maintaining a healthy urinary system. They even promote the process of dieresis, thus, reducing risks of edema and cardiac diseases. These vegetables do not have adequate levels of sodium; therefore the diuretic effects are even greater. The risk of bladder cancers can also be reduced by incorporating vegetables such as kale, broccoli, cabbage, sprouts etc in our diet. Grape seeds or grape juice extracts can help in prolonging the life of kidney cells, according to a study published in the journal “Nephrology”.
Garlic has numerous beneficial effects on the overall health of the urinary system. It helps fight off UTIs due to the presence of a compound that kills bacteria. It is known to help prevent cancers by preventing cancer cells from metastasizing and inducing cell death in cancer cells. It helps reduce inflammation and gave protective properties to the kidneys. Instead of having to endure the unbearable raw taste of garlic, you can use it by preparing garlic tea and drinking it.