Both men and women experience UTIs; however, women are much more likely to get them, for a number of reasons. First, a woman's urethra is shorter than a man's, making it easier for bacteria to reach the bladder. Secondly, due to the nature of the vagina, sexual intercourse for a woman makes it easier for bacteria to be pushed into the urethra.
A bladder infection or urinary tract infection (UTI) is said to be caused by bacteria in any part of the urinary tract, including the kidneys, ureters (the tubes that carry urine to the bladder from the kidneys), urethra (the tube that empties the bladder during urination), or bladder (the sac that "holds" urine before it is released through the urethra).
The symptoms of UTI are the same for men and women, usually:
- Frequent urination
- Pain or discomfort when urinating
- Difficulty when urinating (the need to go, but nothing coming out)
Though it is postulated that bacteria are what cause UTIs, the fact of the matter is, they are not necessary at cause for the problem; they are a cause for the symptoms. There are other underlying factors that set the stage for a bacterial infection that produces the inflammation, pain, and symptoms with UTIs.
Some of the common causes of a UTI include:
- A new sexual partner
- Frequent, unprotected sex without cleansing afterward
- A poor quality diet
- Not drinking enough water
- Kidney/Bladder deficiency
TCM and UTIs
According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, the underlying pattern of chronic UTIs is a kidney yin deficiency. This imbalance is diagnosed by symptoms like chronic fatigue, night sweats, chronic thirst, hot flashes, difficulty with urinating, dry skin and dry tongue, irritability and low libido.
When the cooling yin aspect of the kidneys is depleted, it can lead to chronic inflammation. Therefore, trying to treat a UTI with antibiotics, without addressing the underlying yin deficiency the immune system will stay weak, leading to the potential reoccurrence of bacterial infections in the bladder.
Clearing damp heat from the bladder is also a good idea for treating chronic UTIs. This imbalance leads to symptoms such as fever, possibly chills, burning urine, pain in the back or lower abdomen, and an urgent need to urinate frequently. An infection at this stage is best treated by a practitioner since the infection can easily become more serious and spread through the kidneys.
A UTI at this stage is best handled by a practitioner who addresses all factors involved, but an herbal formula including Chinese Bitters, Rehmannia, and Skullcap, all which help to clear the heat from the bladder.
Acute cases of UTIs will usually respond very quickly to proper rest, hydration, a clean and nourishing diet, and the right herbs. It would be helpful during recovery for UTIs, to avoid sweets, alcohol, abstain from sex, and support the functioning of the immune system.