Cause of Urinary Tract Infection
Todd Luger, LAc
There is no disagreement between eastern and western medicine
that bacteria are the likely cause of urinary tract infection.
However, this still does not explain why some people get recurrent
urinary tract infections and others have constant urinary problems
despite not having any known infection. Naturopathic and Chinese
medicine may be able to lend some insight into these mysteries,
the origins and prevention of these conditions.
Many women have frequent urinary tract infections despite maintaining
proper hygiene. This often results in the repeated use of antibiotics
to address the assumed cause of urinary tract infection. In many
cases, antibiotics are prescribed without even doing a urinalysis.
In fact, in my practice, recurrent urinary tract "infections"
is the most common reason for repeated prescription of antibiotics
in young women. It has now been discovered that in many cases,
the supposed infection was actually a hypersensitivity to a common
It is thus always important to determine the actual
cause of urinary tract infection. Some women who have a condition
called interstitial cystitis are misdiagnosed with urinary tract
infections and then mistreated with repeated rounds of antibiotics.
Interstitial cystitis may actually be an autoimmune disease, which
may be aggravated by the disruption of the intestinal flora and
digestion often caused by antibiotics. In addition, recent research
indicates that overuse
of antibiotics also correlates with increased incidence of breast
cancer. So unless one has a demonstrable infection, it is
usually ill advised to take antibiotics.
The reasons for recurrent infection get to the root cause of
urinary tract infection. There are all kinds of normal bacteria
that live on the surface of the body and in the mucosal membranes
of tissues like the mouth, rectum and vagina. In addition, these
areas of the body are easily susceptible to pathogenic bacteria
from external sources. Under normal circumstances, these microorganisms
are held in balance or never take root. However if the immune
system is compromised through diet, stress, toxins, etc., the
delicate balance can change rapidly. Repeated
use of antibiotics actually can be a cause of urinary tract infection
by altering this ecology on a regular basis.
If an actual cause of urinary tract infection can be demonstrated
to be bacterial, antibiotic treatment is indicated. However, a
trained Chinese herbalist should be able to treat the infection
reliably with antibacterial herbs in many cases. In Chinese medicine,
urinary tract infectionns are usually given the diagnosis of damp
heat. Many of the Chinese herbs that have been classified as effective
in "damp heat" have been shown by modern research to
have distinct antibacterial effects.
You should also seek professional advice about the use of probiotics
during and after antibiotic therapy. Probiotics are the "good"
bacteria that live in the gut and make a vital contribution to
nutrition and immune competency. This will prevent side effects
from the antibiotics, including yeast infections. But more importantly,
the use of probiotics may also prevent a cause of urinary tract
infection in the future. Chinese medicine would also advocate
the avoidance of foods that produce damp heat such as alcohol,
sugar, refined flour and, in general, anything that is greasy
||Todd Luger, Licensed
Acupuncturist and Herbalist, has 14 years of clinical
experience in Chinese Medicine, focused on chronic pain and
illness, has been a professor of Herbology and Clinical Medicine
at Pacific College of Oriental Medicine since 2000, and is
director of the Chinese
Herb Academy. You can read more of his articles on PulseMed.org,
at the Chinese Herb Academy, or on
his Health Weblog.