Female urogenital health issues are on the rise, yet it is seldom talked about. True, it may not be the most glamorous of topics, but those less than pleasant symptoms that ladies experience ‘down below’ are linked to health elsewhere so it’s time we did some straight talking about UTIs, cystitis, bladder infections, thrush and BV (bacterial vaginosis).
We asked registered nutritional therapist, Eva Humphries, DipION, mBANT, CNHC for some scientific insights into dealing more naturally with reoccurring urogenital issues. While we hope that the information provided here is helpful, it is not intended as medical advice so do consult your doctor about any ongoing symptoms that may be of concern to you.
What are the urogenital conditions you need to know about?
The most common urogenital issues are cystitis and thrush. Cystitis is a urinary tract infection or UTI, and, in around 80% of cases, it is caused by Escherichia coli (E-coli) bacteria. E-coli are found in the bowel, but in women these bacteria don’t have as far to travel from the anus to the urethra, where they can migrate up and into the bladder and multiply, causing inflammation and potentially infection. Symptoms are pain or stinging during urination, the need to pee often, cloudy or foul smelling urine and abdominal pain. Vaginal thrush is a fungal infection that results in itching, soreness, discharge, stinging, and in some cases, sores on the skin around the vagina.
What can you do to treat these conditions?
Both cystitis and thrush occur when the immune system and the ‘normal’ host microflora are disrupted. The microflora are made up of friendly bacteria and fungi that live in the gut and on all other surfaces of the body including the vagina, skin, nose and mouth. Far from causing havoc, these friendly organisms keep the gut and other surfaces healthy by training the immune system and producing essential nutrients to nourish these sites. In addition, the friendly organisms keep the bad guys in check. It works a little bit like this – if you lived in a town full of law-abiding citizens, had a good police force and there happened to be a single criminal in residence, that criminal wouldn’t cause too much disturbance. If, however, the population of criminals grew, they would likely make a larger impact. It’s the same when it comes to urogenital health: in cystitis, the population of e.coli bacteria, and in thrush, the population of the yeast candida, grow out of control causing an infection. Since we know that the infection is caused by this apparent imbalance, supplementing with specific friendly bacterial probiotic strains may help to re-establish order. The probiotics help coat the bladder, ureters and urethra, and the vagina with lactobacilli bacteria. This then makes it more difficult for the e-coli to find attachment points, so they get washed away when we have a pee. In the vagina, the probiotic strains help to crowd out the yeast, helping to establish a healthy colonisation of bacteria.
A study by the University of Wisconsin Medical School concluded probiotics to be useful in the prevention of reoccurring urogenital infections (1), particularly the lactobacillus strains. Another study by the EWHA Women’s University School of Medicine in Seoul echoed these findings and also noted the reduction in antibiotic resistance by probiotics (2). In real terms, this means that probiotics may help even when antibiotics stop being effective. The Just for Tummies For Women probiotic capsules contain well researched strains of probiotic bacteria which may aid the reduction of UTI symptoms and frequency.
Research also indicates that candida, the main yeast in thrush, and e.coli, the main bacteria in cystitis are especially fond of sugar (3,4). Simple sugars, such as those found in fizzy drinks, juices and sweet treats are especially easy for these organisms to digest (5). Ditching those sugar-sweetened foods and drinks may therefore go some way in reducing reoccurrence. Replacing sugar-laden drinks with water has an additional benefit since greater water intake improves UTI symptoms (6).
As well as rebalancing the microflora via probiotics and starving the ‘bad guys’ by removing sugar, anti-fungal and anti-bacterial agents can offer further help in weakening pathogens. Allicin, a compound found in garlic, is one such agent. Studies by Kyung Hee University in Seoul found garlic to be effective against thrush causing candida (7). The good news doesn’t stop there. Another study in the 2009 International Journal of Antimicrobial Agents indicated that garlic is safe to use in combination with conventional treatments and can even improve their efficacy (8).
The Just For Tummies Women’s Health Duo was developed based upon this scientific evidence; the ‘Duo’ box contains garlic tablets alongside the For Women strain-specific probiotics. If you have been suffering from reoccurring UTIs and/or thrush, this double whammy of supplements may be the ideal preventative measure that keeps you healthy ‘down below.’
This is what Louise had to say about the Just For Tummies For Women probiotics:
“I’ve managed to get rid of my fairly constant thrush, and I like the fact these can be taken as part of an anti-candida diet as they are free from additives.”
Michelle was kind enough to share her experience of the Women’s Health Duo:
“Such a simple kit to use to ensure I can keep on top of my UTIs to minimise the chance of them recurring.”
(1) Abad CL, Safdar N (2009) The role of lactobacillus probiotics in the treatment or prevention of urogenital infections–a systematic review. Journal of Chemotherapy, 21(3):243-52.
(2) Shim YH, Lee SJ, Lee JW (2016) Antimicrobial activity of lactobacillus strains against uropathogens. Pediatrics International, 58(10):1009-1013.
(3) Sexton JA, Brown V, Johnston M (2007) Regulation of sugar transport and metabolism by the Candida albicans Rgt1 transcriptional repressor. Yeast, 24: 847-860.
(4) Escalante A, Salinas Cervantes A, Gosset G, Bolívar F (2012) Current knowledge of the Escherichia coli phosphoenolpyruvate-carbohydrate phosphotransferase system: peculiarities of regulation and impact on growth and product formation. Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology, 94: 1483-1494.
(5) Lll KG, Klimczak A, Rachubiński P, Jagłowska A, Kwapiszewska A (2015) Consumption of sweetened beverages as a risk factor of colonization of oral cavity by fungi – eating habits of university students. Annals of Parasitology, 61: 175-182.
(6) Tian Y, Cai X, Wazir R, Wang K, Li H (2016) Water consumption and urinary tract infections: an in vitro study. International Urology and Nephrology, 48: 949-954.
(7) Kim YS, Kim KS, Han I, Kim MH, Jung MH, Park HK (2012) Quantitative and qualitative analysis of the antifungal activity of allicin alone and in combination with antifungal drugs. PLoS One, doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0038242.
(8) An M, Shen H, Cao Y, Zhang J, Cai Y, Wang R, Jiang Y (2009) Allicin enhances the oxidative damage effect of amphotericin B against Candida albicans. International Journal of Antimicrobial Agents, 33:258-263.