Beyond antibiotics: Exploring alternative treatments for recurrent UTIs

Antibiotics have always been a preferred preventive treatment against recurrent UTIs, which affect millions of individuals across the globe. However, recently there has been a surge in cases of antimicrobial resistance among patients, typically fueled by the rampant overuse of antibiotics, which is making it challenging to treat UTIs and emerging as a health concern.As a result, the push for developing non-antibiotic strategies is increasingly becoming a priority, with more individuals being advised to explore alternative treatments to alleviate their UTI and related discomforts. Today, some of the most commonly studied and suggested alternative treatments for UTIs include – nutritional support, probiotics, and vaccines.
Nutritional support
Certain dietary components such as D-mannose, Vitamin C, and cranberry harbor properties that support overall urinary health and can help reduce urinary tract infections. For instance, cranberry which belongs to the Ericaceae family has been associated with urinary health for a long time. The berry comprises nearly 88% water and features a complex blend of fructose, organic acids, flavonoids, ascorbic acid, anthocyanidins, proanthocyanidins, catechins, and triterpenoids. Notably, anthocyanidins and proanthocyanidins are tannins that act as defense systems against harmful microbial infection. In addition, cranberry’s antioxidant properties can help lower inflammation and support the immune system while its acidic nature could prevent bacterial growth. Similarly, its diuretic effect which increases urination helps the body to flush out harmful bacteria, facilitating faster recovery.
Introducing this gut-friendly bacteria into one’s system can balance the microflora in our urinary tract. Since a balanced microbiota is considered a potent defense mechanism against infection, supporting the natural flora with strains of friendly bacteria like Lactobacillus could be an effective strategy to prevent UTIs. Lactobacillus species reside in the vaginal and periurethral areas of the human body and can prevent the adherence and migration of infection-causing pathogens to our bladder urothelium. This way it can balance the ecosystem of the vagina whose flora is critical for combatting the onset of UTIs or similar symptoms. One of the most effective ways to introduce friendly bacteria into the body is by consuming a probiotic-rich diet. Consuming buttermilk, yogurt, fermented-rice-based food, paneer, and Kombucha, can help increase the friendly bacteria population in the body and help prevent recurrent gut and UTI-related issues. Alternatively, introducing probiotic supplements can help promote a balanced microbiome and prevent recurrent UTIs. However, individuals should consider probiotics supplements featuring lactobacillus strains to effectively flush out pathogens and produce antimicrobials to help maintain a balanced vaginal pH that keeps infections and discomfort away.

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Immunostimulants and vaccines
The development of effective vaccines against UTIs is often limited by several factors including the weakened immunity in humans following a UTI, the presence of diverse pathogens, or a lack of natural antibodies in the bladder. However, with strides in medical science, several promising vaccines and immunostimulants are being studied. Some of them are also being tested on humans, offering hope that soon we will access this alternative route to treat and prevent UTIs.

With advancements in UTI diagnosis and treatment, more alternative treatments are anticipated to come into play and help tackle the issue more effectively. Meanwhile, individuals should explore these methods to combat UTIs and relieve symptoms. Besides the alternative treatments, individuals should focus on behavioral factors to lower the risk of UTIs. To begin with, they should practice good hygiene like wearing comfortable underwear, cleaning from front to back, and urinating after sexual intercourse. In addition, they should stay hydrated and avoid harsh chemical-based feminine hygiene products that can irritate the microbiota to minimize the risk of UTIs.
(Author: Sahil Samra, Co-founder- TrueNorth Healthcare LLP (Sensibiotics))


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