Bladder Infections in the Age of Antibiotic Resistance

Remember the days when you would go to the doctor and get an antibiotic for every sniffle and cough? Those days are over because overuse and overreliance on antibiotics have created bacteria which can no longer be killed by ordinary antibiotics.  Doctors are now rightly conflicted because the antibiotics they prescribe may kill most of the bacteria but leave the few that are resistant and allow those strains to proliferate.  Multiple antibiotic resistant strains of bacteria cause infections in one in 16 people admitted to hospitals in Canada and cost $250 million per year. The Public Health Agency of Canada estimates that by 2050, there will be 10 million deaths annually worldwide caused by antibiotic-resistant bacteria, overtaking diabetes and cancer combined.

In my 22 years practicing as a naturopathic physician, I have seen an increasing rate of these tough infections in my patients.  In particular, I have seen many women, particularly older women, who’ve had multiple bladder infections in a year, and some even need to use very strong intravenous antibiotics to treat them. The naturopathic approach to treating recurrent UTIs goes beyond just killing the superficial bacteria.  It endeavors to change the environment that is allowing the bacteria to persist.  It is a multi-faceted approach that is an example of how naturopathic medicine can play a role in reducing antibiotic resistance by stopping these types of tough bugs in their tracks.

UTIs are generally created by bacteria from the feces migrating up the urethra and taking hold in the bladder.  In tough recurrent cases, biofilms can form that harbor infection.  Biofilms are a slimy goop that protects the bacterial community from antibiotics and the body’s natural defenses. For my patients with recurrent UTIs, the first step is to make sure they understand how to practice good hygiene.  Then I teach them how to check their own urine at home with a dip stick that can show signs of infection.  I use herbs that help to reduce the adherence of the bacteria to the bladder wall.  These herbs essentially flush out the bacteria, unlike antibiotics which are trying to kill them. Thus, the bacteria don’t mutate to avoid the herbs the same way.  I also use antibacterial herbs to reduce the population.  Plus we look at ways to break down the biofilm to allow greater access to the bacteria.  Scientific studies have shown that there are herbs that can do just that.  For my older patients, we look at strengthening the tissues of the urethral opening by introducing a bit of estrogen locally.  Repeated antibiotic use in the past has usually disturbed the natural defences provided by the good bacteria in the body.  Studies show that oral use of certain probiotics bolsters the genital good bacteria colonies, which can then act as the first line of defense against migrating nasty bacteria and reduce the incidence of UTIs as effectively as daily use of an antibiotic. I also look at ways to enhance the immune system with lifestyle and natural medicines, so the body’s natural defences are in fighting shape.  This type of whole-body approach can be very successful at stopping the cycle of infection and thus reduces the use of antibiotics.  We all need to do our part to turn the tide on antibiotic resistance.

Dr. Deidre Macdonald is a naturopathic physician practicing in downtown Courtenay.  250 897-0235

Children’s Health – Naturally

Parents all want the best for their children. At no time is this more true than when kids are suffering with health problems. There are many options for parents to help their kids be as healthy as possible.

Ear Infections are a common but distressing illness in children. Once the standard of care, doctors now discourage the use of antibiotics. The Cochrane Review of medical research states that only about 6% of children benefit from taking antibiotics (over just waiting it out) while about 6% of children have serious side effects from them. So what is a parent to do? It is important to address the underlying cause of recurrent ear infections. Often, there is excess mucous and congestion which creates an ideal breeding ground for bacteria. We can “drain the swamp” by eliminating food allergies and promoting good lymphatic drainage during colds. Natural medicines to boost the immune system are also helpful during ear infections.

Bladder infections can be a problem while children are in the process of learning good hygiene. These painful infections can often be be treated with safe natural medicines like d-mannose and cranberry. If antibiotics have to be used, it is essential to repair the intestinal bacterial lining by taking a high quality probiotic formula for a few weeks after treatment.

Allergies to dust, pollen, moulds and pets can be a source of allergic symptoms like sneezing, runny nose and eyes and itchy eyes or throat. There are painless testing techniques, as well as scratch testing, to determine the source of problems. Herbal anti-histamines like nettles and quercitin not only help diminish symptoms, they are also nutritious. Allergy desensitization techniques have evolved from the days of weekly shots and now include oral techniques like Sublingual Immunotherapy.

Eczema can often be very successfully treated when we address the underlying cause and then correct it. Research and experience has shown a strong link between eczema and digestive concerns. By identifying and eliminating food allergies, restoring optimal intestinal flora and providing medical oils most children’s eczema will resolve nicely, without the endless cycle of topical steroids.

Digestive concerns – Nothing is worse than a 2 year old with constipation! Their willfulness is legendary. Taking laxatives long term is not advised, so what else can a parent do to prevent constipation and subsequent painful stools? Again, we have to search for the underlying cause of the problem. The first place to begin is to determine when the problem started, rule out anatomical abnormalities, then identify and eliminate food allergies. We often incorporate safer, natural stool softeners in the early phase of treatment as well as probiotics.

ADHD – Parents want so much to help their children be successful in school but are often wary of the side effects of the Ritalin class of medications for ADHD. What else can be done to improve concentration and learning? The brain is an organ that is affected by nutritional deficiencies, food allergies, and toxic exposure just like any other organ. Behavioural strategies work better when the brain is properly fueled with excellent nutrition and key nutritional and herbal supplements. Every child is treated according to their unique situation, but Bacopa, zinc and iron are promising aids to children’s brain and nervous system function. Specific customized homeopathic prescriptions are also a wonderful tool for unlocking a child’s full potential.

While most naturopathic physicians can prescribe prescription medications for each of these health issues, we prefer to educate parents about their full range of treatment options and endeavor to treat the underlying cause of problems rather than just mask symptoms with medications.

Dr. Deidre Macdonald is a licensed naturopathic physician who has been treating families with naturopathic medicine in downtown Courtenay for 15 years. Contact her office at (250) 897-0235 or via this website.