Urinary Tract Infections & Kidneys

UTIs

The NHS page defines urinary tract infections (UTIs) as “common infections that can affect the bladder, the kidneys, and the tubes connected to them.”

UTIs can be categorised as lower UTIs or upper UTIs.

Lower UTIs, which are infections of the bladder or urethra can cause you to have to go to bathroom more often, to experience pain when passing water, and to have muscle aches and abdominal pains. If you have a lower UTI, you may also notice that your urine is cloudy and foul-smelling.

Upper UTIs, on the other hand, are infections of the kidneys or ureters. Their symptoms can include the symptoms of lower UTIs, although they can also  can include fever, chills, pain in your sides and back, restlessness, and confusion.

UTIs are usually caused by bacteria, and Escherichia coli (E. coli) are the bacteria most often associated with UTIs. So if you haven’t been told already, you should wipe from front to back after using the toilet. And there is a good reason for that. Your urethra, which is the tube that carries urine from your bladder to the outside of your body, can be found close to your anus. E. Coli is a bacteria that lives in our gut. And as we have mentioned, E. coli can cause UTIs, and that can happen when we transfer the bacteria on a toilet paper from our anus to the urethra. The bacteria then finds its way to the bladder causing infections. Failure to treat the infection can further lead to infection of the kidneys.

Moreover, while men and women get UTIs, women have higher chances of getting them. This is because women have shorter urethras, which means bacteria can travel to the bladder more quickly. Other things that can raise your chances of getting a UTI as well as kidney stones are drinking too little water, having a weak immune system, and in case of men, having an enlarged prostate gland which makes it impossible for a man to empty fully his bladder.

Having a UTI can cause a great deal of pain and discomfort and disrupt your day-to-day life. Frequent UTIs can lead to complications such as kidney damage. While there are antibiotics available for UTIs, they should be your last resort as much as possible. Frequent use of antibiotics builds resistance to the antibiotics, causing later a big problem when we really need them.

Prevention is as always the best treatment, and using some natural remedies may do just that.

Drinking plenty of water

Research has consistently shown the importance of drinking sufficient amount of water (2.5 -3L) to our health. UTIs, kidney disease, constipation, lung disorders, and heart disease are some of the health problems associated with not drinking enough water. And, this becomes even more important if you deal with a UTI. Drinking lots of water simply dilutes the urine and flashes out the bacteria from your kidneys and bladder.

Generally, you are advised to drink lots of fluids if you have a UTI, but see to it that you avoid drinks like coffee, soft drinks, and alcohol since they can make things worse.

Garlic

When you finely chop or crush garlic, allicin is produced. Allicin is a compound known for its antibacterial activities. It can fight different types of bacteria, including E. coli, which are the bacteria most often associated with UTIs.

Horseradish

Horseradish, when cut or grated, produces allyl isothiocyanate (mustard oil). Allyl isothiocyanate’s intense smell and taste serves as the plant’s defence against plant-eating animals, as well as natural antibiotic and parasite killer. Having half a teaspoon of horse radish three times a day can be great support in treating or preventing UTI in a natural way.

Probiotics

One of the reasons why E.coli can spread to our urinary tract is the lack of “good” bacteria, which keep E. coli under control. Our body needs good bacterial flora to prevent the overgrowth of microorganisms which can cause infections. Many of us don’t have balanced bacterial flora in our gut because of recurrent treatment with antibiotics and indigestion tablets, or simply because of drinking tap water rich on chlorine, a disinfectant added to tap water. Probiotics can help to restore the balance. However, note that eating a yoghurt per day with very few of the good bacteria won’t do the trick. All the yoghurt brands in your supermarkets sold as probiotics are sold this way because it is very good marketing trick to make you buy more, but the number of bacteria in these products have no health value. They won’t harm you but they won’t help you either. It’s the same way you can’t treat someone’s dehydration with a spoon of water. Two things you can do are: consume regular probiotic foods, such as kimchi and sauerkraut, or simply buy probiotics. Typical dosage of Lactobacillus acidophilus, which has health benefits, ranges between 1 billion to 10 billion live organisms. This dose can be split into three or four doses per day. This will help to regulate the bacterial flora in your gut as well as in other parts of your body which require bacteria to function normally.

Kidneys

The kidneys play an essential role in keeping your body working properly. Mainly, they get rid of waste products and extra water from your blood. That is why it is important to keep them healthy. However, there are instances when your kidneys get compromised. We talked about UTIs above, and your kidneys can get infected, too. If you suffer with recurrent infections which aren’t treated properly, chances are your kidneys may be permanently damaged. It is also possible that the infection will spread to your bloodstream, which can then result in a life-threatening infection – sepsis.

According to the National Kidney Foundation page, chronic kidney disease (CKD) affects 10% of the population worldwide. And, because a lot of people are not able to afford treatment for the disease, millions of people die from it each year. As such, taking measures to prevent it cannot be overemphasised. And, we can always start with we put on our plates every day — our diet.

The Typical Western Diet and the Kidneys

The typical Western diet comprises of lots of meat, fat, refined sugar, and processed foods. What a lot of people don’t know is that most of these products are toxic, especially for their kidneys. And, if you have diabetes or high blood pressure, you are at a greater risk of developing chronic kidney disease. And guess what? Table sugar and high-fructose corn syrup, which can be found in a wide range of processed foods, are linked to high blood pressure as well as uric acid levels; both of these can damage your kidney.

Another factor in this so-called Western diet is the very high amount of animal protein present in it. When you eat meat, you are making your kidneys work harder within hours of consuming it, causing a lot of stress on them. This can then impair their function and result in kidney problems, including chronic kidney disease.

A study followed thousands of women, their diet, and their kidney function for a decade. The aim was to look for the presence of protein in the urine (microalbuminuria). And mind you, your urine should be free of protein. Leaking proteins through your kidney can mean that your kidneys are beginning to fail. In this particular study, it was found that diets with higher amounts of animal protein in them are linked to the presence of microalbuminuria in the urine. In another cross-sectional analysis in a large multiethnic cohort of over 5000 participants, a dietary pattern characterised by high consumption of whole grains, fruit, vegetables, and low-fat dairy foods was associated with significantly lower rate in microglobinuria. Consistent with this, greater intakes of low-fat dairy foods, vegetables, and fruit were each associated with lower rate of kidney disease. By contrast, a dietary pattern characterised by high consumption of refined grains, high-fat dairy foods, and meat food groups and non-dairy animal food consumption were each positively associated with significantly higher risk of kidney disease.

Studies have also showed that the fat in our diet blocks the kidney exactly the same way it blocks the arteries in all our organs.

Thus, it only makes sense to consume more plant-based foods and less meat, rich in fat dairy products (cheeses), high in “bad” fats foods (good fats come from whole plants such as nuts and seeds), and processed foods to protect your kidneys.

Other lifestyle changes to preserve kidney function

Exercise

Despite the fact that our blood pressure increases during exercise, regular exercise actually lowers the blood pressure and the heart rate overall, hence it lowers your chances of getting kidney disease. At least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity per week reduces the risk of high blood pressure and heart attack by half. Of course remember that you cannot expect the same results if you just exercise and otherwise smoke, drink too much alcohol or consume mostly unhealthy foods.

Reduce Your Alcohol Intake.

Alcohol is a toxin, period. Our liver can detoxify a unit or two per day but after that you are on your own. Alcohol excess causes damage to all our organs, including the kidneys. When you drink too much alcohol, your blood pressure and cholesterol levels also go up, increasing your risk of cardiovascular disease. In fact, there are more than 220 conditions associated directly or indirectly to drinking alcohol. So our recommendation is to reduce to a minimum or to avoid it altogether.

Quit Smoking

“SMOKING KILLS” is written on every packet of cigarettes in the UK, and this pretty much sums up what we have to say. When you smoke, you are more likely to get cardiovascular disease, kidney disease, cancers, infections and much more. Of course, when you quit smoking, you are not just protecting your kidneys and your overall health but also all the people you care about.

Think Twice Before Taking Painkillers

Taking too many or too often non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen and aspirin can also damage your kidneys.

Reference

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