Chinese Herbal Medicine for Bladder Infection or Antibiotics?
Chinese Herbal Medicine for Bladder Infections (a.k.a. Cystitis, Urinary Tract Infection, or UTI,) is very effective. . They infections are fairly easy to treat with conservative measure such as acupuncture, chinese herbal medicine, and diet therapy.
Unfortunately, M.D.s are quick to prescribe antibiotics for bladder infections, for two reasons.
One– their patients expect it.
Two–they remain uneducated about natural methods, and, sadly, remain mostly uninterested.
But are antibiotics the wisest choice? Not in my opinion. And I say this, because of the side effects of antibiotics, the development of antibiotic resistent bacteria, and because Chinese Herbal Medicine works so well here. In fact, Chinese Herbal Medicine works better than antibiotics for the vast majority of Urinary Tract Infections, especially for those women with recurrent (more than 1x a year) UTI.
Seven Reasons Why Chinese Herbal Medicine Works Better Than Antibiotics for Common Bladder Infections.
Antibiotics are not always effective.
I routinely meet patients who have been on two or three rounds of antibiotics, yet whose infections persist.
One reason may be the development of resistant bacteria. Bacteria are smart. They evolve in response to their environment. Resistance to antibiotics is a big problem with infections of all types.
Chinese Herbs are Very Effective.
On the other hand, perhaps because use of herbs is not so widespread, or because whole herbs have much more complex chemical structures than antibiotics, the bacteria have not developed resistance to herbs. I have yet to encounter a bladder infection I have not been able to cure with herbal medicine.
Antibiotics Kill your Healthy Gut Bacteria
Taking antibiotics affects your gut microbiome, which can weaken your immune system and can cause nasty side-effects, Vaginal yeast infections are one. Bloating and diarrhea are another. Antibiotics kill the healthy bacteria that live in the vagina and digestive tract. This weakens the gut microbiome. It can also lead to and overgrowth of yeast.
Herbs do not have that effect. In fact, many of the herbs used for bacterial infections are also anti-fungal, abd are used for yeast infections. These Chinese Herbs for Bladder infection aid vaginal and digestive health.
Repeated use of antibiotics for common infections (bladder, ear, sinus, throat, lung) can lead to systemic yeast infection, or Candida.
This can have widespread implications for general health. Symptoms range from chronic fatigue and difficulty concentrating, to sugar craving, bloating, and chronic digestive disorders.
Chinese Herbal Medicine for Bladder Infections are Good for You!
Not only are most of the Chinese Herbs we use without side effects, some of them strengthen the immune system. Herbs like Astragalus and Reishi Mushroom boost the immune system. Other herbs like Phellodendren and Goldenseal clear heat toxins from the blood. Other herbs, like Trifala improve the quality of the tissues lining the bladder.
Women with Recurrent Bladder Infections Often have Weakened Immune System Function.
Western Medicine fails to address this fact. But Acupuncture, Moxabustion, Chinese Herbs, and Diet Therapy, can boost the weakened immune system..
See the case of Mary, below.
Chinese Herbal Medicine treats the Whole Person.
Is this just some kind of “new age” rhetoric? No. Why not? Lets look at the below cases of two different women, both with recurrent UTI.
Sally: Strong, Hot, Excess or “Replete” Type
Signs and Symptoms
19 years old
Frequent bladder and yeast infections
very strong appetite
high energy level
red tongue with a greasy yellow coating
Sushma: Weak, Cold, Deficient or “Vacuity” Type
Signs and Symptoms
Mary, a thin 40 year old
Frequent bladder infections, no yeast infections
chronic allergies with watery nose
intermittent to weak appetite, underweight
chronic loose stools
chronic insomnia and anxiety
pale tongue with very thin white coat
Comparision of Two Women with Frequent Bladder Infections But Different Patterns
Both Sally and Sushma have frequent bladder infections.
Sally: Damp Heat Pattern UTI
- red tongue with greasy coating
- ruddy complexion
- physically strong
- loud voice
- strong appetite
- sleeps well heavy sleeper
- eats well
- suffers chronic constipation
- frequent yeast infections
- bad breath
- strong body odor
This woman has “too much of the wrong thing in the wrong place,” Instead of normal physiological heat, she has an overabundance of heat and substance. Her Qi is stagnated…We see the dampness and heat in the above symtoms. Heat creates redness, infection, strong smells, especially when combined with dampness which we see in the tongue coat and heavy sleep.
Clear the Damp Heat
To treat Sally successfully we must “unclog” her system of these “toxins” that make her susceptible to bacterial and yeast overgrowth.
It is unlikely Sally’s immune system is weak, per se; more likely her body with its heat and damp accumulation is a wonderful field for very strong strains of bacteria to grow in, like a petrie dish full of sugar under a heat lamp. But if nothing is done, she will, in fact, end up being weak later in life as an effect of recurrent infection.
Herbs to Clear Damp Heat
In Sally’s case the treatment principle will be to start by strongly clearing damp heat. Because she is young and strong we can give her forceful Chinese herbal medicine prescriptions that treat bladder infections, like Long Dan Xie Gan Tang Gentiana Decoction to Clear Toxins, or Ba Zheng San Eight Miracles Powder. Another choice is Wu Lin San.
Because of the chronic yeast infections we might need to follow that with Phellostatin, or Neem, to kill off the yeast hibernating in her gut.
We don’t have to worry about strengthening Sally; once we clear away the toxins from her body, her body will strengthen itself.
Diet Therapy for Damp Heat Bladder Infection
But we will have to make sure her body, which is plump, is processing fluids well enough, and that her diet is appropriate to her constitution. Sally needs to eat lots of cleansing vegetables, and less dairy, wheat, meat, sugar, alcoholic drinks, and shellfish, ergo, foods and drinks that produce excessive moisture and heat.
If Sally takes Antibiotic drugs alone, she may temporarily get rid of the infection, but she will make her yeast issues worse. And the bladder infections will keep coming back, as the systemic damp heat that is the ground the bacteria grows in will not be addressed.
In addition to putting Sally on a cleansing diet, I would recommend a Pro biotic formula to restore the healthy bacteria in her gut that have been killed off by antibiotics, coffee, stress, etc. It will help with the constipation and the yeast infections and is a foundation point for anyone’s overall health.
See http://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/features/benefits-yogurt for more info on Pro biotics. As to a Yogurt with a broad spectrum of pro biotic bacteria, I recommend Lifeway Brand Unsweetened Kefir. If you need to sweeten it, add some fruit or honey, which will be much less sugar than the pre-sweetened types. There are also excellent vegan soy “yogurt” products, and one can also get good bacteria from fermented vegetables like Kim Chi or raw sauerkraut.
Sushma: Vacuity Cold Bladder Infection
- a weak voice,
- pale complexion
- pale, wet tongue, thin white watery coat
- seasonal allergies with runny nose and eyes
- quiet voice
- chronic diarrhea without burning
- very sensitive gut
- picky eater
Sushma lacks the digestive fortitude to produce a well formed stool. We can tell from the white tongue coat, and watery allergies that she is a cold type, and from the anxiety, weak digestion, underweight, and quiet voice her tendency to vacuity.
Her frequent bladder infections in this context suggest a weakness of the immune system.
While we must kill the bacteria causing Mary’s bladder infections with anti-biotic herbs, we must also address her immune weakness and overall deficient state. We have to help her get to the point where she is eating, digesting, and sleeping well, so that her body can restore itself to a healthy state in which her immune system is able to fight off infection better.
Sushma’s Herbs to Kill Bacteria AND Stregnthen Her Gut and Immune System
For Sushma, a Probiotic formula is integral, as it is these healthy bacteria that crowd out the unhealthy ones. But her Chinese herbal medicine remedy will be different; her system is weak; so she needs a gentle prescription, called Si Miao Wan Damp Heat Cleanser. This is will kill bacteria overgrowth, while at the same time strengthening the immune and digestive system.
I would also give Sushma some Chinese medicinal mushrooms like Ling Zhi Reishi, and Astragalus Root, to boost her immune system and calm her anxious mind. I might have her start this as soon as her infection improves, and even possibly with the damp heat clearing herbals.
Acupuncture to Calm the Mind and Improve Digestion
Sleep has enormous restorative value. In Mary’s case I would use acupuncture to calm the mind and restore sleep. After her infection is gone, I would give her herbs to help with that and with her weak appetite. Diet would also be key.
Diet Therapy for a Cold Deficient Typw with Bladder infections
Mary would benefit by warm, cooked food, with gentle spices like ginger, cumin, coriander, cardamom, turmeric, ajwain, cinnamon, clove, fennel, holy basil, to stimulate her appetite and promote good digestion. There are many digestive herbal formulas to choose from that I might give her, including Trifal or Trikatu from Ayurveda.
Additional Natural Medicine for Bladder Infections
First and foremost, when you have cystitis, push fluids. Drink water until you are sick of it. That acts to mechanicallyflush the bacteria out of the urinary tract, and dilute its concentration in the urine.
Cranactin with Uva Ursi and Goldenseal
Second, I like to use Cranactin brand extra stregnth Cranberry extract with Uva Ursi.
Cranberriess contain a chemical that makes it hard for bacteria to adhere to the lining of the bladder. But sugar feeds bacteria, so don’t waste your time drinking sugary cranberry juice, and unsweetened cranberry juice is really unpalatable. If you can take it, Mazel Tov!
And Uva ursi is a second herbal that is useful for bladder infection. Cranactin Extra Strength has these two, and also Goldenseal, a potent antibacterial.
Third, avoid all spicy HOT food during an infection. Spicy here means chile in all its permutations. Spicy food seems to aggravate the delicate mucosa that are already irritated by the bacterial overgrowth.
Avoid Prolonged Courses of Antibiotics
According to the Candian Urological Association website, the “prolonged courses of antibiotics (more than 5 days) are usually unnecessary,
and associated with increased side effects.” If after one course nothing has changed, consider other diagnoses, and/or supportive measures.
Is it a bladder infection or a vaginal infection or intestitial cystitis?
The typical experience of a bladder infection is the SUDDEN onset of frequent, painful and urgent urination. The urine is often cloudy and foul smelling. Low back or abdominal pain may be present. Symptoms may range from very mild to severe.
Vaginal infections, on the other hand, whether bacterial or yeast, involve vaginal redness, itching, discharge, or discomfort with sex.
Anyone with frequent symptoms of bladder infection should also consider the possibility of interstitial cystitis,
a chronic inflammation of the bladder’s interstices. Interstitial cystitis from the western standpoint is not yet well understood, and there seems even to be several different types involving different tissue. The commonality seems to be inflammation.
Its my opinion that like most chronic inflammatory diseases, I.C. involves the accumulation of depressed Liver Qi that causes stagnation, heat and dampness in the deep tissues of the body. For various reasons some people are more susceptible to this accumulation in the bladder, others, like folk with fibromyalgia, in the muscles. But the underlying mechanism is the same. Treatment is of course adjusted to whichever tissues or areas in the body are affected.
Finally, I always use classical Chinese acupuncture in the treatment of both acute bladder infections and interstitial cystitis, and have found it to be very effective in the reduction of the inflammation and heat.
copyright eyton shalom, 2015, all rights reserved
Ayurveda, Acupuncture, and Chinese Medicine in San Diego