Could a hidden infection be causing your UTI’s?
“Hey mum/bestie/social media, some sympathy please. I have ANOTHER bladder infection. Feels like the last one was only 5 minutes ago. What do you think? Am I unhealthy, unlucky or is this something else I can blame on hormones?”
“Aw, poor you. Get back to the doctor. They’ll give you antibiotics and, in the meantime, get some cranberry juice down you.”
This echoes in your head as you walk away knowing you hate drinking all that sugar in cranberry juice. Plus, this will be your third, fourth, maybe the fifth course of antibiotics. And, you dread the idea of getting Thrush again.
So, if antibiotics aren’t curing your UTI’s what’s really going on?
Let’s introduce a new word into the conversation to see if we can change things up. Have you heard of a biofilm? If not, that’s ok, even your GP may not have heard of it. If they have, and they haven’t brought it up during a consultation, they haven’t connected the dots yet. Here’s the good news — you can get educated about biofilms right here and guide them to a new strategy next time you visit.
The biofilm story
Bacteria that cause UTIs, like all living organisms, want to survive and multiply. Bacteria are smart. To keep themselves safe and to thrive, they stick to surfaces and clump together in colonies. Then they insulate themselves within a slimy, sticky, impenetrable layer. This layer is known as a biofilm. Bacterial biofilm communities can develop into long-term, hard to treat infections.
“The reason that biofilm formation is a great cause of concern is that, within a biofilm, bacteria are more resistant to antibiotics and other major disinfectants that you could use to control them,” said A.C. Matin, a professor of microbiology and immunology at Stanford University.
The problem with biofilms
#1 — Biofilms render antibiotics ineffective
A biofilm barrier renders antibiotic action ineffective. Trying to treat a persistent bacterial infection that’s hiding in a biofilm is like trying to clean a sticky mess off the kitchen floor by throwing water at it. You need to find the right tools for the job, or it will just stay there. There is no current medication that treats an infection embedded in a biofilm.
#2 — Biofilms make infections harder to detect
Infections go undiagnosed because most standard tests can’t identify bacteria protected by biofilms. The bacteria become dormant for a while, regroup and grow into larger colonies. Eventually, they proliferate in the bladder lining, get out of control, and you experience acute symptoms. This looks like a new infection and is often treated as such but it’s the same infection going through a repetitive cycle. If you are getting more than one or 2 infections a year, biofilms might be shielding a chronic infection in your bladder, even if your tests are coming back negative.
#3 — Biofilms may be a result of antibiotic overuse
If your immune cells can not find bad bacteria it can not fight off a bacterial infection NATURALLY. Biofilm matrix gives bacteria the super-power to resist antibiotics. This is a serious problem for your body because the more the bacteria comes into contact with the antibiotic the more it protects itself, and the more it needs to protect itself, the more resistant it gets.
Resistance creates an environment where bacteria gets stronger, multiply and thrive.
The more antibiotics the bacteria encounters the more self-protective (resistant) the bacteria becomes. And the stronger the bacteria gets at resisting the antibiotic the more the bacteria can grow. It’s a vicious, and predictable cycle that can overwhelm your system and gives biofilms a chance to form and develop..
#4 — Biofilms are natural to the body
Now let’s be clear, bacteria are always present in your body. Therefore, it makes sense that biofilms are always there too. We can’t get rid of biofilm completely. Generally speaking, they don’t cause issues. Problems arise when your inner environment encourages biofilm formation and thereby bacterial overgrowth..
Why is your bladder the perfect environment for bacterial overgrowth?
Urine is one of the waste products of the body. It often includes bacteria that has travelled from other areas.
E-coli is one of the main bacteria that cause bladder infections. It’s common in the gut and usually stays there. However, if you have a sweet tooth and eat a lot of sugar, this feeds the E. coli. It multiplies and starts looking for new places to inhabit, like your bladder. If this happens under normal circumstances, you have other bacteria in your bladder that will fight off the E. coli and keep things in balance. If you’re taking regular broad-spectrum antibiotics, they don’t discriminate between the bacteria causing a problem and the ones doing the defending. Antibiotics cut a swathe through all your body’s bacteria and this can interrupt your essential, protective bacteria processes.
In addition, a high-sugar diet means your pee is more acidic and contains sugar. To the E. coli, your bladder suddenly looks like an ideal place to hang out. Now, think of your bladder like a balloon that fills with urine instead of air. When your bladder is full, just like a balloon it is inflated and smooth on the inside – right? BUT once your bladder is empty and deflates it has folds in the lining where bacteria can get caught and hide. This is how bacteria embeds itself into your bladder lining and starts to form colonies of biofilms.
What can you do to make it harder for biofilm to form and create all the issues described above? First step, don’t immediately reach for the antibiotics. In consultation with your GP, you can try methods to disrupt and break down the biofilms so that the infection-causing bacteria is exposed. Then your own immune system and protective bacteria have a better chance to bring you long-term relief.
Biofilms and the UTI cycle rely on microorganisms cooperating via a mechanism called quorum sensing. Disrupting this process can break the cycle. There are several natural quorum-sensing disruptors that can make a big difference. These include:
- oregano oil
- apple cider vinegar
- manuka honey
- certain enzymes
- Ginko Biloba
Minerals like zinc, magnesium and colloidal silver may have been shown effective. Here at PeeSting we have created a biofilm disruptor supplement, made with natural ingredients, that targets and dissolves the sticky substances holding the biofilm together.
If you have chronic uti symptoms, take the proper medical advice. Where possible, get in touch with a qualified herbalist or naturopath to help you find the right balance. Know that your input is important too. Your instincts and any research you’ve done have every right to be part of conversations about your health.
Working with your medical team
When you’re talking to the doctor, ask about biofilms and see if your symptoms fit the pattern. Take information with you in case they aren’t up to speed about this relatively new area of study. Find out if they can refer you to a specialist to get better testing.
In the meantime, commit to your health and do what you can to introduce biofilm disruptors into your diet. Even with medical support, you could be in for a long journey as biofilms are difficult to treat. Prevention is a much better option.
Staying one step ahead
Look at your habits with a critical and non-judgemental eye to find a way to support your body and fend off UTIs. There is no one-size-fits-all recommendation for better health. Try some of these methods and see if they work for you:
- drink herbal teas aimed at UTI relief such as ginger or Cat’s claw
- drink lots of water — at least 2 litres a day
- take D-mannose as protection against certain types of UTI
- investigate methods of contraception that do not disrupt your hormone balance
- do not have sex while you have a UTI
- avoid using tampons if possible
- ensure that you go to the toilet whenever you need to — don’t hold it in until the last minute.
- use quality probiotics and prebiotics to protect and fortify your gut health
Say goodbye to these habits:
- excessive caffeine
- overconsumption of alcohol
- wearing tight jeans or underwear
- high-sugar diet
- using perfumed soap or body wash
- using antibiotics as a first level of defence.
Bear in mind that your body works as a complete system. You might have to think outside the box to find the solution. Bloating, skin issues, bad breath or body odour, persistent food sensitivities and poor concentration are all signs of long-term gut problems. Investigate and address these and you may say goodbye to your UTIs at the same time.
It’s great to have medical guidance, holistic support and the advice of good friends. Always remember, you are the central healer for yourself. Only you can know exactly what’s going on for you and how you feel on a daily basis. Trust your instincts and keep pushing if you think you need a different approach. Find out as much as you can and go for it.
Pursuing health might not get you perfection but it will always get you closer. For informative and forward-thinking articles to support your journey. join us on Instagram and visit our learning centre to get honest information about effective bladder and urinary tract health.