Cystitis tips

One in three women get cystitis in their lives and some get recurrent attacks, but doctors can only provide antibiotics as a solution. There are plenty of ways of trying to prevent it and natural solutions when you’ve got it.  At its worst cystitis can be excruciating.There are a number of symptoms and some can be present without the others:

•  burning sensation on passing water
•  pain in the lower abdomen
•  pain in the lower back, the kidneys and in the ureters   – the tubes from the bladder to the opening.

Often the vagina itself feels inflamed and there may be general malaise, depression and fever.

The woman may have to go to the toilet regularly and as this is a painful experience it makes it even worse. The urine becomes cloudy, smelly and often contains blood streaks, although these may not be visible to the naked eye. The pain can be so severe that you feel like pulling your hair or sticking your nails in your palms – this is danger point and requires medical attention.

It is vital that if someone is in severe pain and has a temperature that they see a doctor immediately because it can spread to the kidneys and become very serious. At this stage self-help may not work.

Repeat attacks

Some women are particularly prone to cystitis and bladder discomfort, which may not involve an infection but means that going to the loo can feel uncomfortable afterwards with pain in the bladder situated in the lower abdomen or in the back.

The medical profession has found little to no solutions to repeated cystitis and bladder discomfort. Common treatment is by antibiotic which will certainly take away an infection fairly quickly but often has the effect of giving thrush as well. It is possible that the antibiotic you get doesn’t fight the specific bug and you have to go back to the GP and get a different one.

Antibiotics don’t help to prevent further attacks and unfortunately if someone has cystitis regularly repeat prescriptions eventually wear down the immune system making them more susceptible to everything!

Prevention is the answer

As there’s no medical cure self-help is the only answer. Standard advice is:

• Drink plenty of water to flush out the infection;
• Avoid coffee, tea, alcohol which are all diuretics and make you go to the loo even more;
• As germs come from the anal area wipe from front to back with toilet paper;
• Don’t use soaps, shower gels, bath lotions contain chemicals;
• Go to the loo immediately after intercourse and wash in a bidet or bath;
• Wear cotton pants;
• Ask your partner to wash his genitals before sex – often embarrassing!

Intercourse triggers attacks

Intercourse is one of the most common causes of bladder problems and it may be the position of the bladder and the womb that cause it in some females and not in others. Most women don’t want to give up sex for the rest of their lives so they need to find an answer!

Cystitis is caused by bacteria going up into the bladder and causing infection. This is often because the penis causes bruising to the vaginal walls and bladder and the bruising sets up infection. If the woman is using spermicides or the cap it is more than likely that these will aggravate the condition as does menopause when the vagina becomes dryer.

One of the reasons why women suffer from this debilitating problem rather than men is the position of the genitals. The anus is full of germs and is situated very close to the vagina, which is near to the ureter so it is easy for germs to move from one to the other.

Candida

Sometimes repeated attacks of cystitis are due to candida, a yeast infection that takes a hold on the system. There are plenty of symptoms of candida including fungal infections (thrush, athlete’s foot), digestive problems, bloating, tiredness, lethargy. See our article on Candida in Women’s Health.

Natural remedies

There are a several over the counter solutions, many of them based on bicarbonate of soda which aims to neutralise the acid in the urine. There are also plenty of herbal and homeopathic solutions:

  • Uva ursi – a herbal remedy for urinary infection
  • Echinacea – boosts the immune system and can help to prevent an attack when the first twinges start
  • Taking regular probiotics such as Acidophilus helps to keep the gut replenished with healthy bacteria which reduces chances of infections
  • Cranberries – contain PACs (proanthocyanidins) that attach themselves to the bacteria – mostly E-coli – preventing them from attaching themselves to cells in the body. Supplements can be good but choose a juice that has no artificial sweeteners or sugar in
  • D-Mannose, made from the bark of the spruce tree, is a compound which is present in the urine to fight bacteria, but by providing more in a supplement it can ease cystitis
  • Cantharis – homeopathic remedy when there is a burning sensation on going to the loo
  • Witch-hazel squeezed on a piece of cotton wool at the opening to the ureter so that it can be felt right up into the tubes or held in the vagina to soothe inflammation
  • Gokshura and Shatavari are Ayurvedic herbs for urinary discomfort with pain on passing water, urgency, dribbles, burning and blood streaked urine


Complementary therapies

Naturopathy – looks at lifestyle and the causes of the problem which could be emotional as well as finding herbal and other natural solutions. People with bladder problems are said to be holding on to the past or they may be feeling out of control in their lives (literally!).

General Council and Register of Naturopaths & British Naturopathic Association, 01458 840072,  www.naturopathy.org.uk

Reflexology – particularly helpful during an attack because the reflexologist can work on the bladder area and can help it to go away entirely.

Association of Reflexologists, 01823 364951,  www.aor.org.uk

Nutrition – unhealthy eating habits won’t help sufferers of cystitis to get better. A nutritionist can be more specific, but generally it may help to eat organic food so that chemicals aren’t irritating the bladder and eat plenty of fruit and vegetables. As the problem may stem from candida, an overgrowth of yeast, avoiding bread and sugar may help.
 

The British Association of Nutritional Therapists, 0870 6061284,  www.bant.org.uk
The Institute for Optimum Nutrition, 020 8614 7800,  www.ion.ac.uk

Emotional Freedom Technique – where tapping the ends of the meridians helps to get out emotional causes for illness.

The Association for the Advancement of Meridian Therapies: www.meridiantherapy.org

Chinese Herbal Medicine – herbs have to be boiled up and drunk twice a day as a tea to build up the ‘chi’ or energy in the kidneys.

Register of Chinese Herbal Medicine, www.rchm.co.uk,  01603 927420

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Sleep tight

sleep problems

Almost of half of women in the UK don’t get a good night’s sleep.*  Sleep is a very precious thing and we only think about its quality when we aren’t getting enough.

A key reason for not sleeping well is worrying. It keeps the brain whizzing round and round at night, while all we want to do is sleep.  This month’s competition prize is for a set of Rescue Night products, that are invaluable when it comes to calming down and getting a good night. Go to: Rescue Night Competition.

HEALTHY SOUL TIP: Wear earplugs if the person next to you snores!!

Researchers found that the cells in the brain allow us to sleep  are eroded as we get older. A  study of 45 elderly people from the age of 65 until they died at around 89, found that people with fewer neurons in the ‘sleep switch’ area of the brain complained of sleepless nights.

Why we need a good night

Few people realise the importance of a good night’s sleep – during the night while we are dreaming our bodies are healing themselves. We need sleep like we need healthy food, water, exercise and clean air. In a world full of technology, caffeinated drinks and plenty to worry about, many people spend their nights tossing and turning.

N2K_Stress_2011_6mmToo  little sleep makes you feel as if you can’t cope, and can lead to anxiety, depression and serious illness.  Read Stress – The Essential Guide by Frances Ive. 

Reasons for insomnia:

• Stress and anxiety
• Menopause
• Physical discomfort
• Relationship problems
• Money worries

Sleeping tips

  • • Wind down before bed time, play relaxing music or read.
    • Have a bath with a few drops of either lavender, neroli or geranium oil in them just before going to be.
    • Avoid stimulating films just before heading upstairs.
    • Take a natural sleep aid like Rescue Night or Good Night, which don’t leave you feeling drowsy like sleeping tablets do.
  • Cut out caffeine in coffee, tea and colas –  drink decaffeinated , coffee substitutes or herbal teas.
    • Don’t drink too much alcohol – it dehydrates you and disturbs your sleep.

*Survey of over 4,100 UK adults, supported by the Sleep Apnoea Trust Association (SATA) and conducted by YouGov for ResMed Ltd.

 

 

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Electro-magnetic radiation

Technical experts may say it isn’t proven, but natural therapists and doctors believe that too much technology around you at night can disrupt your sleep. Can it really be conducive to relaxation to have mobile phones, computers, wireless networks and the like all around our homes?  Some people can literally feel the pulsing of electronic circuits, so try the following if you’re having trouble with sleeping:

• Keep mobile phones off or out of the bedroom.
• Don’t have an electronic clock right by the bed, and preferably not in the room – try a traditional clock.
• Don’t have TV in the bedroom, and certainly not on standby.
• Switch off computers and wireless networks at night.
• Turn off electric toothbrushes, and anything in the bedroom with a little red light.

Other causes

There might be other reasons for not sleeping – such as menopausal symptoms or someone making a lot of noise snoring!

• If night sweats are a problem during the menopause they will prevent sleep
• Menopause itself often contributes to insomnia – in both cases look at Coping with menopausal symptoms to find solutions
• If sleeping is a problem in winter read the article on SAD

 

Balancing hormones

SaladHow much does stress really affect the body? We all know that it plays its part in depression, heart health and other conditions, but actually it has an enormous effect on our hormones which can affect you in many different ways. Kimberley Gridley, a homeopath, nutritionist, specialises in Natural Hormone Balance for Women, based on functional medicine.

Kimberley sees women of all ages, but not surprisingly many of them have faced high levels of stress. Too much stress exhausts the adrenal glands, which provide the adrenaline for the ‘fight and flight mechanism’. Common issues are weight gain, emotional ups and downs, periods and PMT, menopause and hot flushes, fibroids and endometriosis. Many are struggling with lack of energy and tiredness, as well as Chronic Fatigue or Fibromyalgia.

In addition to saliva and blood tests to check for hormonal imbalance, Kimberley asks patients about their diet. She also runs a diagnostic test called a heart rate variability test (HRV) which indicates how the hormones are coping, how you burn calories, whether you are struggling with stress levels, and what metabolic type you are.

Functional medicine is a personalised approach to healthcare which focuses on why we have disease and getting to the root cause of the problem. Each person is treated as an individual and their particular health issues are addressed. This is in stark contrast to conventional medicine which often treats disease with drugs in a ‘one size fits all’ approach.

Once Kimberley has all this information she prescribes homeopathic or herbal remedies, vitamins and minerals, and other supplements such as Omega 3s or probiotics. She also draws up a diet that is suited to your type, but is very likely to consist of a lot of vegetables.

Kimberley practises at the Nelson’s Pharmacy at 87 Duke Street, London W1K 5PQ, 020 7079 1282, www.nelsonspharmacy.com . See Kimberley’s website  where you can get a free copy of Hormone Balancing Eating Plan: The Low GI Companion e-book.

Find out more about functional medicine by watching Dr Mark Hayman on YouTube. 

Coping with menopause without HRT

Valeriana
Valeriana courtesy of A. Vogel

It can start in  your early 40’s (or even before) or you may be 50 or even 60. Some people sail through the menopause, particularly those women in the far east who eat a lot of soya.

While HRT is very popular it has been found to increase the likelihood of both breast cancer and ovarian cancer.

Symptoms include: hot flushes and night sweats/anxious and irritable/tiredness/vaginal dryness/bladder discomfort/muscle aches/low libido/weak pelvic floor muscles.  See also Menopause – the change, not the end

 Hot flushes          

Whether they last for a few seconds or induce sweating night and day, hot flushes are a common and debilitating symptom of menopause. If night sweats are happening regularly sleep is also interrupted.

  • Wear little or nothing at night and sleep under lightweight covers;
  • Avoid caffeine, alcohol, spicy food, hot drinks and red meat;
  • Choose foods rich in naturally occurring oestrogen: soya, golden linseeds and seeds, lentils and chick peas, as well as the supplement Red Clover.

Herbal helpers

A review of five trials found that Black Cohosh reduced hot flushes in 80 per cent of menopausal women, but it isn‘t good for women who get headaches and migraine. As an alternative you could try making a tea with a teaspoonful of chopped up fresh sage leaves and boiling water as an alternative.  It would be irresponsible not to point out that there is a question over the safety of black cohosh – that it may cause liver damage, but it has not been banned. Sometimes research leading these scares is somewhat flawed but make sure you read the label and if in doubt consult a herbalist.

Other tips

Michael Dooley suggests the yoga alternate nostril breath – breathe slowly through one nostril at a time while shutting off the other one with your thumb or finger, and retain the breath to a count of four. He claims, ‘This breathing exercise was shown in a study to enable the pituitary gland to work at its best, reducing body temperature and hot flushes.‘

Homeopathy

Homeopath and author, Beth Maceoin, recommends Pulsatilla for drenching, exhausting sweats particularly at night.

 

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Aches and pains

It‘s easy to think that there‘s something else wrong – like arthritis – when aches and pains in the joints and muscles set in. It seems like old age is creeping up far too quickly, but it‘s a normal menopausal symptom.

Maryon Stewart of The Natural Health Advisory Service suggests:

  • Magnesium, potassium, and B vitamins for muscle function;
  • Glucosamine sulphate which has been shown in several clinical studies to improve pain and joint tenderness – at a dose of 400mg three times a day;
  • Evening primrose and strong fish oils with calcium to help increase the uptake of vitamins and minerals, normalise hormone function, lubricate joints and keep the heart healthy.

There are special menopause formulas which contain many of the recommended supplements, such as Menopace and Fema 45+.

Other helpers:

  • Black Cohosh for aches and pains which feel like rheumatic pain – check the label as there has been some suggestion that too much of this herb can damage the liver
  • Nettle tea to clear out uric acid.

Instead of giving up exercise because of pain weight-bearing exercise can both ease aches and pains and build up bone mass to prevent osteoporosis – walking, tennis, jogging, and skipping are all good.

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Tiredness and insomnia

Passiflora courtesy of A.Vogel Bioforce

‘Not enough sleep, stress at home and at work, lack of exercise and a poor quality diet can all reduce energy levels,’ according to Maryon Stewart of the Women‘s Nutritional Advisory Service. ‘A healthy diet with a multi-vitamin supplement containing 20 to 30mg of zinc is helpful.‘

Expert tips:

  • Ginseng for women who are tired and run down, but choose Siberian Ginseng if anxiety is also a problem;
  • Sepia homeopathic remedy ‘for mental, emotional and physical exhaustion at times of hormonal upheaval and transition’ according to Beth Maceoin.
  • A relaxing night-time tea of Chamomile  can help induce sleep but for persistently bad nights passiflora or valerian tablets and tinctures need to be taken 30 minutes before bedtime.

 

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Anxious and irritable

It‘s not surprising that night sweats, insomnia and a host of hormonal changes leave some women frazzled, anxious and uptight!

Some recommended herbs:

  • Motherwort for anxiety accompanied by palpitations;
  • St John‘s Wort* when women are feeling low – check with doctor if taking medication as well;
  • Chamomile and lemon balm teas for calming.

Aromatherapy oils can also be relaxing – put a few drops in a bath or preferably in a massage!

  • Lavender, rose and geranium oils
  • Ylang ylang on a tissue to ease depression;
  • Lavender oil can be rubbed into the skin – test it first – on the throat either side of the thyroid where it gets absorbed by the carotid artery and carried to the brain.

Other calming tips:

  • Valerian or passiflora herbs for calming;
  • Nux vom homeopathic remedy which according to Beth Maceoin, ‘Is good for anyone who sleeps badly, has headaches and craves tea, coffee, alcohol or cigarettes to keep them going.‘
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Loss of libido

There‘s so many reasons for loss of libido at this stage of life – for men and women. Young children, relationship problems, depression, overuse of prescription drugs, plenty of stress at work and home, and hormonal changes all contribute.

Now we have so many herbs at our disposal you can find some to boost sex drive (forget the Viagra!):

  • Damiana used by the Maya of Central America
  • The Chinese Horny Goat Weed;
  • The Inca‘s Maca from Peru and Korean Ginseng, which should not be used by anyone with high blood pressure.
  • Bush Flower Remedies‘ Sexuality

Aromatherapy‘s great for sensual mood building with oil burners or massage. Some oils have an aphrodisiac quality:

  • Neroli
  • Sandalwood
  • Ylang ylang
  • Patchouli
  • Jasmine
  • Rose

The Romans used to scatter rose petals over the beds of newly weds and orange blossom was used to crown brides and calm and relax them before wedding nights.

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Pelvic floor muscles

 
Having children,  intercourse and just getting old all serve to make the pelvic floor muscles weaker. This can result in incontinence, dribbling or discomfort if the walls of the vagina are collapsing on to the bladder or bowel – prolapse.

There are conventional ways of dealing with weak pelvic floor muscles, but even doctors aren’t particularly keen on surgery and it’s such a delicate part of the body that the consequences aren’t always great and the problem isn’t necessarily solved. There are various gadgets that appear that you can put inside the vagina, but quite frankly the best solution is pelvic floor exercises.

They are so easy to do and so discreet that you can practise them while you’re driving, sitting on a train, in the bath, lying in bed or anywhere! Pilates and Yoga are both good for strengthening these muscles, and it is often worth asking the teacher for specific exercises.

Vaginal dryness

A dry vagina is due to the thinning of the mucous membrane and the fact that lubricating fluid is no longer produced. It can lead to painful intercourse and a general feeling of discomfort and the problem may be worse in very hot weather.

Doctors offer pessaries and creams that contain oestrogen, but they do ask if you have breast cancer in the family. If you prefer to avoid taking oestrogen a natural plant-based moisturiser can be just as effective.  A phytoestrogen diet as highlighted above definitely helps as well.

Author of Natural Medicine, a Practical Guide to Family Health, homeopath, Beth Maceoin recommends:

  • Avoid tight jeans and nylon underwear
  • Don‘t use scented soaps or bath foams
  • Do have regular sexual activity! ‘It maintains lubrication and suppleness of the genital area and orgasm with the associated rush of blood and muscular contraction plays an essential part in maintaining moisture and flexibility of the vagina!’

Helpful products

There are some very helpful products on the market at long last to help women with this problem. Some of them are lubricants to use when anticipating making love, while others are pessaries and vaginal gel which are inserted into the vagina overnight to make it more moist generally.  There are also some supplements taken as oral capsules which may prevent the area from drying up.

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Bladder discomfort

Vaginal dryness and prolapse or weak pelvic floor muscles can contribute to bladder discomfort and sometimes it’s really hard to know what is the cause. Another possibility is that the lack of oestrogen in the body can also cause cystitis – eating soya which contains phytoestrogens could help.If the bladder is being squashed by the walls of the vagina it may produce a dragging pain rather like period pain and can lead to considerable discomfort. Without having surgery there isn’t much that can be done except Pelvic Floor Muscle exercises (see above).Vaginal dryness needs to be addressed as well because it can mean that the vagina tissues tear during intercourse, causing infection which spreads to the bladder.If infection in the bladder is a regular problem there are many things that can be tried including:

Uva ursi, a herbal remedy which soothes bladder infections

Compounds in cranberries (proanthocyanidins – PACs) attach themselves to bacteria (which are mainly E-coli) preventing them from adhering to cells in the bladder – try supplements or Ocean Spray’s Cranberry Plus Grape, Apple and Cranberry Juice which contains no artificial sweeteners or sugar.

Avoid sugar and yeast – often the problem can be linked to Candida – see Candida in this section and eat plenty of fresh vegetables, wholegrains and pulses.

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Further information:

British Institute f

Painful, heavy, irregular periods?

woman very attractiveAnyone whose periods are extremely painful every month, who has stopped having periods or who is suffering from heavy periods should see a doctor. Complementary therapies and self-help tips can be a solution once serious problems, such as endometriosis, fibroids, or cancer, have been ruled out.  Complementary therapies can, however,  help for both endometriosis and fibroids (see Hysterectomies – are they really necessary?).

Painful periods

Many women experience pain at the start of their periods – back pain, low abdomen pain, feeling sick and sweaty, exhausted and feeling generally unwell.

Periods can be painful for a variety of reasons but if they are consistently causing you considerable pain it is essential to visit a doctor and be examined to ensure that nothing serious is wrong such as endometriosis or pelvic inflammatory disease. Once you are sure that there are no other problems some self-help can ease some of the symptoms.

Taking a painkiller may be the answer to relieving the pain but it isn’t removing the cause. Periods may be painful because of other factors such as deficiency in certain nutrients, being overweight, or a general unhealthy state. By improving diet and general health it is possible that periods will settle down and not cause any problems. However, from around 40 onwards in the peri-menopausal stage periods do change and may become heavier and more painful. Similarly at the start of having periods a young girl often experiences a lot of pain which goes away as she gets older.

Nutrition

It might seem a touch repetitive but healthy eating benefits the body in so many ways and can considerably improve periods for women. To find out more about eating healthily look in Nutrition/You Are What You Eat.

A healthy diet consists of:

  • organic fruit and vegetables
  • wholegrains like brown rice
  • pulses such as lentils
  • nuts and seeds
  • oily fish – herrings, mackerel, tuna, salmon and sardines
  • (organic) chicken and turkey
  • plenty of water – preferably filtered or spring water

Deficient in vitamins or minerals?

Few women have enough nutrients in their diet, however healthily they eat, and therefore the body is not in a fit state to cope with periods often causing pain and other symptoms at that time of the month.

A staggering 96 per cent of women aged 19 to 24 and 91 per cent 19 to 64 year old women have well below the recommended intake of iron, according to research by the Food Standards Agency and Dept of Health. The figures are also very low for magnesium, copper, calcium, zinc, iodine, folic acid, Vitamin A and other vitamins. Therefore it is well worth taking a multivitamin which is specifically for women of menstruating age.

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Aromatherapy oils

  • Clary sage is a very pungent aromatherapy oil that can do wonders for period discomfort – just a few drops in a bath with lavender oil can soothe period pain in the lower abdomen and back.
  • A few drops of lavender, clary sage and chamomile oil in an egg cup of carrier oil such as almond oil massaged into the lower belly can also ease pain.
  • In her book Aromatherapy for Women Maggie Tisserand suggests one drop of clary sage in a glass of water with honey to ease pain – we are wary about suggesting this because ingestion of aromatherapy oils is not advised, but having tried it and found it extremely soothing it’s worth passing on.
  • You can make up a mixture in 30ml of massage oil (olive oil, jojoba oil, or almond oil) of two drops of peppermint oil, 10 drops of clary sage oil, two of chamomile and five of geranium.
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Self-help

  • Warmth is great for soothing pain – so snuggle up with a hot water bottle.
  • Contrary to old-fashioned thinking doing some exercise actually improves pain rather than making it worse.
  • Drink chamomile tea to calm the system.
  • Relaxation is helpful for persistently uncomfortable periods – consider Yoga and/or Meditation – see Therapies and Mind Body Spirit/Mind/Live Long, Stay Young

Complementary therapies

These may help for all kinds of problems with periods and once you have been checked out medically to ensure that there is nothing serious wrong it is worth trying any of these:

  • Acupuncture
  • Cranial osteopathy
  • Reflexology
  • Homeopathy
  • Herbal medicine
  • Chinese Herbal Medicine
  • Naturopathy
  • Nutrition

For information about these and how to find practitioners look at Therapies

Heavy periods

Women are very aware when their periods have changed and they are having to use more sanitary wear than normal.

This can be due to the onset of menopause but it is always worth a visit to the doctor to rule out any serious problems. Until recently most women with heavy periods had their wombs removed – it is worth reading the article in the Women’s Health section on Hysterectomies as many have been performed unnecessarily and there are alternative ways of dealing with some problems such as fibroids.

An Aromatherapy Mix

Make up a mixture of 30 drops of cypress oil, three drops of rose oil, 25 of chamomile and 20 of geranium and mix together. Then put five or six drops of the mixture into your bath, making sure the oil has properly dispersed – some people mix it with milk to make it disperse better.

No periods

It’s important to ensure the obvious reasons why periods might stop – that you’re not pregnant!

Otherwise they can stop because of losing too much weight, high stress levels or illness. Therefore it is vital that you see a doctor to rule out serious health problems or pregnancy!

Irregular Periods

Again there may be many reasons for irregular periods but is worth a look at lifestyle.

Are you drinking too much, smoking and not eating regularly and healthily?

It is important to seek professional help for all of these problems – initially from a doctor and if the problem is not resolved or you do not wish to take prescription drugs, try seeing a qualified practitioner in any of the following (always check their qualifications):

  • Homeopathy
  • Herbal Medicine
  • Reflexology
  • Nutrition
  • Chinese Herbal Medicine

For information about the relevant associations and how to find practitioners look at Therapies

CONTACTS:

Natural Health Advisory Service Ltd,  01273 487366 ,  www.naturalhealthas.com.

Dr Marilyn Glenville has clinics in London and Tunbridge Wells: 08705 329244  www.marilynglenville.com. Postal consultations available.