Nearly half of all women will experience a painful attack of cystitis at some point in their lives. Cystitis is an inflammation of the bladder, and it can be the result of infection, irritation, or bruising, or even a combination of these three factors. Women are more prone to cystitis than men because the tube (urethra) that runs from the bladder to the outside of the body is much shorter (about 5cm/2ins) in women than it is in men (about 18cm/7ins).
This means that bacteria can more easily travel to a woman’s bladder than it can a man’s. What’s more, the opening to the urethra is close to both the anus and the vagina in women (in men, it’s quite a distance away), which provides even easier access for bacteria to enter the urethra and to make its way up to the bladder.
What are the symptoms of Cystitis?
The symptoms of cystitis make the diagnosis crystal clear, and if you have ever suffered from cystitis in the past, you’ll recognise them immediately.
The two most common symptoms of cystitis are:
- An overwhelming urge to urinate every few minutes, normally with little urine to pass
- Burning pain during urination
Supplements to assist with urinary tract health
- Probiotics help to resort the “good and healthy” bacteria known as the flora in our body. When you have an attack of cystitis it may be beneficial to use a vaginal cream that contains acidophilus as well as taking it orally. It is better to take probiotics in supplement form when you suffer from cystitis rather than yoghurts or probiotic drinks as the levels of the beneficial bacteria will be higher. According to studies by the University of Maryland Medical center most urinary tract infections will benefit immensely if you take a probiotic. There is also emerging evidence that regular probiotics can help prevent bad bacteria from invading the urinary tract by maintaining a populations of healthy bacteria on the tract’s adherence sites.
- Cranberry: We’ve known for some time that cranberries help cystitis and that they significantly reduce the bacteria associated with urinary tract infections. It was originally believed that cranberry juice reduced the symptoms of cystitis by making the urine more acidic – obviously not a desirable effect, as it is the acidic urine that causes the burning sensation. We now know that cranberries work in a different way. It seems that certain substances called condensed tannins in cranberries can stop bacteria such as E. coli from sticking to the walls of the urinary tract.
For bacteria to infect your urinary tract, they must first stick to the mucosal (mucous membrane lining) walls of the tract. If they are unable to do so, they cannot multiply and are flushed from the body when you urinate. If you have had chronic cystitis in the past, it is worth using cranberries as a preventative measure.