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What You Need to Know About Urinary Tract Infections and Interstitial Cystitis

Updated: May 10

Urinary tract infections occur when bacteria enter the urinary tract, leading to infection and inflammation. Common symptoms include a frequent urge to urinate, a burning sensation during urination, and cloudy or strong-smelling urine. While UTIs can affect anyone, they are more prevalent in women due to their shorter urethra, which allows bacteria easier access to the bladder.

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The Connection to Interstitial Cystitis

Interstitial cystitis, also known as painful bladder syndrome, shares some symptoms with UTIs, such as pelvic discomfort and urinary urgency. However, unlike UTIs, IC is not caused by bacteria. Instead, it is characterized by chronic inflammation of the bladder lining, leading to persistent pain and discomfort.

Research suggests that recurrent UTIs may trigger or exacerbate IC symptoms in some individuals. The inflammation caused by frequent infections can damage the bladder lining, making it more susceptible to irritation and discomfort associated with IC.

Diagnosis and Treatment

Proper diagnosis of UTIs and IC is essential for effective management. UTIs are typically diagnosed through urine analysis and culture to identify the presence of bacteria. Antibiotics are the standard treatment for UTIs, but are not always necessary for treatment. Recurrent infections may require further investigation to identify underlying causes.

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IC diagnosis is more complex and often involves ruling out other conditions with similar symptoms. Tests may include cystoscopy, bladder biopsy, and urine cultures. Treatment for IC is often addressed by finding the cause of the bladder irritation, which may include dietary changes, physical therapy, herbal medication and homeopathic medication.

Prevention Strategies

While UTIs are not always preventable, certain measures can help reduce the risk of infection. These include:

  • Drinking plenty of water to flush out bacteria from the urinary tract

  • Urinating frequently and completely to prevent bacteria buildup

  • Wiping from front to back after using the bathroom to avoid introducing bacteria to the urethra

  • Avoiding irritants such as caffeine, alcohol, and spicy foods that may exacerbate IC symptoms

  • Practicing good hygiene, including regular bathing and wearing breathable underwear

  • Supporting the microbiome through a healthy diet rich in fiber and prebiotics as well as probiotics

Woman is holding her right side.

Don’t Hesitate to Seek a Naturopathic Doctor

Urinary tract infections and interstitial cystitis can significantly impact an individual's quality of life. Recognizing the connection between these conditions is essential for proper diagnosis and treatment. By understanding the risk factors, symptoms, and preventative measures associated with UTIs and IC, individuals can take proactive steps to support their urinary health effectively. If you experience recurrent or persistent urinary symptoms, consult a healthcare professional like those at the Pacific Clinic of Natural Medicine for proper evaluation and guidance.  We can do more than standard urine analysis to find the cause, such as:

  • Dietary evaluations to find irritating foods for the urinary tract

  • MicroGen Dx PCR and Next Generation Sequencing to find hidden infections

  • Microbiome assessments to evaluate the microbial balance

The Pacific Clinic of Natural Medicine provides an extensive list of medical services including natural medicine, functional medicine, homeopathy, labs, and more to help all patients in the Portland, Oregon area. If you have any questions about us or our services, please visit our FAQs page.

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