Ayurvedic Support for Urinary Tract Infections

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The channel carrying urine, our bodies' liquid waste, is called mutra vaha srotas. The origin of the channel begins at the kidneys, the bladder is the container, the ureters are the passageways, and the end or opening is the urethra. Bladder infections (cystitis), inflammation of the urethra (urethritis), and kidney infections are all more common in women than in men. This is most likely because women have a shorter urethra making transmission of bacteria from the vagina or anus easier to enter into the ureters. When men have urinary tract infections, it is usually secondary to a more serious health concern such as an enlarged prostate.

Urinary tract infections or UTIs, are infections that occur within the urinary tract, most commonly with the bladder or urethra, causing symptoms of burning upon urination, frequent urination with not much urine, and feeling a frequent urge to pass urine. There can be blood in the urine, or cloudy, strong-smelling urine.

According to Ayurveda, UTIs are due to an imbalance within pitta dosha. Ayurveda's wisdom offers guidelines to balance pitta dosha and strengthen the urinary tract in order to avoid recurring infections. First understanding and removing the cause begins the healing process.

Main factors that aggravate pitta dosha and contribute to UTIs are:

  • Eating foods that are too hot, sour, or spicy
  • Drinking alcohol
  • Suppressing the urge to urinate
  • Habitually retaining urine in the bladder for long periods of time
  • Exposure to extreme heat, and overexposure to sunlight
  • Emotions of anger, impatience, jealousy
  • Environmental factors such as working with fire, chemicals, or toxic fumes
  • Not drinking enough water

Diet

Ayurveda recommends choosing a diet that will pacify pitta dosha to help cleanse and eliminate the toxins that are bringing too much heat to the body. For more information, see our resource on a pitta pacifying diet.

Being sure to drink plenty of water to help flush bacteria out of the urinary tract. Pure cranberry or pomegranate juice are excellent purifying drinks that reduce excess pitta and also reduce proliferation of bacteria.

The following foods have an adverse effect on the bladder and should be limited or avoided: alcohol, caffeine, carbonated beverages, coffee, chocolate, refined and processed foods, refined sugars.

Lifestyle

Bacteria can flourish when conditions are warm and moist.

Here are a few tips to help you stay cool and dry:

  • Empty bladder after taking a bath and sexual intercourse.
  • Wear cool, loose fitting cotton underwear and clothing.
  • Dry thoroughly after shower or bath. Change into dry clothes as soon as possible after swimming.
  • Women should consider sanitary pads for their menstrual cycle, avoiding tampons.
  • Cultivate emotions of peace and contentment.

Yoga

Include yoga poses that target the kidney and abdominal area such as Cobra (Bhjangasana), Bridge (Setu Bhanda Sarvagasana), and Bow (Dhanurasana) pose. These help to massage and tone the kidneys and improve the function of genito-urinary organs.

Pranayama

Sheetali is a cooling pranayama or breathing exercise that is effective in reducing excess heat in the body. Sheetali also helps dispel emotions of anger and frustration. It is a practice that brings tranquility and contentment to the mind.

  • Sit comfortably, with spine long and in alignment.
  • Curl the sides of the tongue up so that they touch each other.
  • Close the lips around the tongue, forming a circle.
  • Begin to slowing inhale air through the "straw" which is the tongue.
  • At the top of the inhalation, release the tongue and close the mouth.
  • Exhale out through the nose.
  • Continue for up to 10 rounds of breath.
  • Sit calmly and notice the cooling effect of this pranayama.

Ayurveda offers the healing tools of self-care - diet, lifestyle, herbs, yoga, and pranayama to support a healthy urinary tract and bring balance to the body.

“Everything has beauty, but not everyone sees it.”— Confucius

DISCLAIMER
The information provided in this newsletter is not intended as a substitute for medical advice, but only to apprise the reader of basic Ayurvedic lifestyle information. The advice of a qualified health professional is recommended before making changes in diet or exercise routines.