Kate Swanson writes about mental and physical well-being based on her personal experiences, as well as those of her family.
If you've ever had an attack of cystitis, you'll know the main symptom—it burns when you pee, and the awful thing is that you want to pee all the time. A cystitis attack can strike suddenly, and Murphy's Law dictates that it usually happens when the doctor's office is closed. The natural treatments below will alleviate the pain and safely control the infection until you can see a doctor.
Natural remedies rarely cure cystitis attacks altogether. If they don't kill all the bugs - and the only way to tell is a urine test - the surviving bacteria will quietly multiply again in your bladder. Or worse, they'll travel "upstream" to your kidneys, where they can become life-threatening. So it's always best to make a trip to your doctor, even if you're feeling better.
- If your home treatment doesn't start giving relief in a few hours, it's not going to - see a professional.
- If you are passing blood (check by drying yourself with a tissue, you will see the blood on it) - see a professional.
If you can find Waterfall D-Mannose, it's by far the most effective natural remedy with a high success rate
This is the ultimate cystitis fighter. I used to have chronic cystitis, and this remedy changed my life! I discovered it as a treatment, but now I just take one tablet at night as a preventative - and I haven't had a flare-up for over a year.
Unfortunately, D-Mannose is not easy to find in stores. You can buy it online at Waterfall D-Mannose or on Amazon or eBay, but it will take time to arrive. If you're a frequent sufferer, it's worth ordering a supply to keep on hand (and I'd recommend taking a lower dose regularly as a preventive).
The treatment is simple - just take one teaspoon (or 3 tablets) immediately with a full glass of water, another dose an hour later, and then repeat every 2-3 hours. Make sure you use a medicine or cookery measure - most modern teaspoons are much smaller than the official "teaspoon". If you don't have a measure, use a rounded or heaped teaspoon.
You don't need to drink extra water with this treatment, apart from the full glass with your dose. Drinking too much will dilute the concentration of D-Mannose in your system,which will reduce it effectiveness.
Note that D-Mannose will work only if the bacteria infecting your bladder is E-coli. Other bacteria aren't affected by it. If you find that D-Mannose isn't effective, try the "Cranberry Remedy" below.
How D-Mannose Works
If you're interested in the science, you may want to go straight to the latest study on D-Mannose. If you'd prefer the layman's explanation, read on!
It may sound chemical, but D-Mannose is a natural product. It's a kind of sugar, and it's found naturally in fruit. It doesn't kill the bacteria. It works because the bacteria is attracted to the D-Mannose, gets stuck to it, and then gets carried out of the bladder.
This means D-Mannose should be able to cure cystitis because it's physically removing the bacteria from your bladder, unlike cranberry or other natural therapies. In practice, if you have a full-blown infection, it's hard to maintain a high enough concentration in your bladder to catch every single bacterium. So while you can certainly wipe out most of the infection, you may still need a short course of antibiotics as a follow-up, to destroy the last few bugs.
- If you're taking high doses, you may get bloating and diarrhea.
- If you're diabetic, do be aware that it is a sugar, so you need to take that into account (although according to studies conducted by Dr Jonathan Wright, D-Mannose doesn't interfere with blood sugar regulation).
According to WebMD, high doses may cause kidney damage. However, having trawled through the research for weeks, I've failed to find even one study to back this up. This "fact" is repeated on several websites and blogs, but it turns out they are all quoting WebMD. I would love to hear from anyone who can clarify where this came from.
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Note: WebMD advises not to use D-Mannose during pregnancy. It also advises not to use cranberry during pregnancy. That's not because they've been found to be dangerous, but only because no studies have been done. My own view is that during pregnancy, these natural, mild treatments are preferable to drugs - but I advise you to make up your own mind, and consult your doctor if necessary.
If you are trying to get pregnant, on the other hand, it might be worth avoiding. It looks as though the sugar can bind to sperm, in the same way it binds to bacteria.
As with any natural remedy, it's always a good idea to check with your doctor to be sure it's safe for you to try.
This emergency treatment is an effective way to ease symptoms and reduce the severity of a bladder infection, if you don't have D-Mannose.
Cranberry does NOT kill the bacteria, nor does it transport the bacteria out of your system. All it does is make the bladder a more hostile environment for the bugs - which is good for prevention, but not enough as a treatment. To be successful, you need to use it in a combined therapy. This is a more time-consuming, complicated therapy - but if you can't get your hands on D-Mannose, it's an effective way to deal with an emergency.
Gather everything you need before you start:
- Your preferred painkiller;
- Urinary alkalinizer, or bicarb;
- A caffeinated drink (e.g. coffee, Coke, energy drink);
- Fresh water and other drinks, especially citrus juices;
- A hot water bottle or heat pack
- A timer (optional)
It's a good idea to organize your "drinks station" on your bedside table. Fill a jug with your favourite drink, or set up a selection of bottles.
It's important to follow the sequence carefully:
- Take your urinary alkalinizer or bicarb in a glass of water. These products work AGAINST the effects of cranberry and citrus juices, but they are the quickest way to remove the sting. So it makes sense to take one now, to take the edge off the pain. Take a note of the time.
- Take your painkiller with a large glass of something. Water, cordial, juice, soup - it doesn't matter. DON'T just drink water, because you'll drink a lot more if you drink a variety of different liquids. The only thing not allowed is alcohol. (Don't forget to eat something if your painkiller must be taken with food).
- Have your caffeinated drink. Caffeine will make the liquid move faster through your body - which is what we want. If you don't normally take caffeine, just have this one caffeine drink. Otherwise, have two or three in the course of the day.
- Go to bed with a hot water bottle or heat pack on your tummy. This will soothe the area and reduce the feeling that you need to "go".
- Every 15 minutes (or more often if you like), have a drink - drink as much as you can (not just one glass). If you are going to read a book, watch TV, play Sudoku etc, then set your timer to go off every 15 minutes, in case you get absorbed in what you're doing.
- An hour after you start the treatment, take your cranberry (the recommended dose and frequency stated on your product). If it's juice, have as much as you like.
- If it's time for a meal, make it soup or a smoothie - something with a lot of fluid.
Continue with this routine as long as you need to.
- keep drinking as much as you can
- go to the toilet as often as you feel the need (and completely empty your bladder)
- take your cranberry and painkiller according the recommended dosage
The dilution should make the burning sensation bearable, but if it doesn't, you can take another urinary alkalinizer as needed. Bear in mind, though, that it does work against cranberry, so try to separate the two by at least an hour.
Some naturopaths recommend parsley, garlic, and cider vinegar for cystitis. They are not effective on their own. It may help to add them into the combined treatment (maybe in your soup, or as salad dressing, or both), and they won't do any harm.
However, be aware that some other natural remedies for cystitis do have side effects, in spite of being "natural".
Be especially cautious with Uva Ursi. It can have a very nasty effect on your liver
Tips for Successful Cystitis Treatment
- Don't try to follow this treatment and "soldier on". If you try to keep working or doing the housework at the same time, you simply won't drink enough. Try to devote a couple of hours to doing this, and just this! If you can, spend at least half a day working on it.
- During this treatment, you will be drinking a huge amount of fluid and you will go to the toilet a lot. I know, it's a horrible thought when it hurts, but you'll find that as your urine gets more diluted, it will sting much less. When you go, it's very important that you empty your bladder completely. Again, this is something that cystitis sufferers often don't do, because they subconsciously contract the muscles to avoid the final sting. But it's the leftover stale urine that allows the bacteria to multiply and re-establish, so don't do it. Take your time, and make sure you squeeze out the last drop - every time!
How The Combination Therapy Works
This therapy works in three ways:
- Stops the pain. The urinary alkalinizer stops the pain but does NOTHING to treat the infection.
- Flushes the infection out of the bladder. We do this by drinking lots of fluid, and making the fluid move through the body as fast as possible (using caffeine). When you want to rinse something out in the sink, what do you do - turn the tap to a measly trickle, or a gushing torrent? A fast flow will flush away toxins better.
- Creates a hostile environment for the bacteria. The combination therapy can't kill the bugs, but it does make the urine acidic (so the bugs can't reproduce) and affects the lining of the bladder (so the bugs can't cling to it)
A word of caution: there are people who swear this combination treatment can cure cystitis attacks. However, the treatment does not kill the bugs, so there's always a risk they will escape to the kidneys and cause havoc. It is always best to ask your doctor to check your urine once you're feeling better.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.
Kate Swanson (author) from Sydney on February 06, 2013:
Jackie, most women drink far more than is necessary these days, so you may not be as bad as you think! Fruit juices are often high in Vitamin C and acidic, so if you drink a lot of them, they may be keeping cystitis at bay. Or you may just be one of those lucky women who aren't susceptible.
Be careful drinking juices, though - they are just as fattening as sodas.
Jackie Lynnley from the beautiful south on February 05, 2013:
Great info, well done. Thankfully I have never had this problem, strange too, since I have to make myself drink more. I have always been a sipper. I don't drink sodas much though, mostly juice, so maybe that is why.
Judy Specht from California on August 13, 2012:
Great ideas. Love the song video, it was hysterical.