There it is again: the stabbing in the lower abdomen and the burning when passing water. Every tenth woman experiences this situation once or twice per year. «Unfortunately, it counts as normal for us that patients come to us several times a year due to recurrent bladder inflammation», says Marlies von Siebenthal, specialist in bladder and pelvic disorders at the Bladder Centre Frauenfeld. Every second woman suffers at some point in her life from a bladder inflammation. Is the infection just part of being a woman? «Yes and no. It is bad though, when the symptoms keep recurring and reduce the quality of life.»
Stress hits the bladder
Your grandparents’ advice to dress warmly in order to avoid catching a bladder inflammation, may have been meant well. However, the deportment has virtually no effect on the illness. The cause is something else: the short urethra in women which is located close to the anus and makes it easier for Escherichia coli bacteria from the large bowel to ascend to the urethra – for example during sexual intercourse, when using tampons or if, after going to the toilet, one uses the paper to wipe from back to front instead of the other way around.
The infection can also be triggered by an imbalance in the pelvic region: «For example due to excessive hygiene», says von Siebenthal. Too much washing, the use of wet wipes, alcohol-containing shower gels or certain contraceptive measures favour bladder inflammation. «String-slips and tight-fitting clothing can irritate the vaginal skin and dry it out.» With healthy defence mechanisms, the body will protect itself. But if there is cracked, thin skin and mucosa in the pelvic region then this protection will fail. «Even fear can favour bladder inflammation», says von Siebenthal. If women feel irritation in the vaginal area, they immediately think of a looming bladder inflammation. Stress hormones then reduce the immune defences and it may actually result in an inflammation. «Where it hits other people in their gut, it hits our patients in their bladder.»
Water, juice, tea: drink a lot
Von Siebenthal recommends drinking lots as prevention, particularly water and bilberry juice. If you get the feeling that inflammation is looming, then teas, which contain herbs such as bearberries, birch and goldenrod may help due to their diuretic and anti-inflammatory effects. Spagyric spray, kidney- and bladder-dragées or Schüssler salts may also be effective. In addition, you should take some rest, and apply either a hot water bottle or a warm compress. «Before you use antibiotics, you should try to promote your own defence mechanisms with plant products and an anti-inflammatory analgesic», advises von Siebenthal. When is a visit to the doctor unavoidable? «If the pains last more than three days, if fever develops or if blood appears in the urine.»
Tanja Zimmermann from St. Gallen who works as an herbalist and Jin-Shin-Jyutsu practitioner shows her patients how they can stimulate self-defence mechanisms and restore equilibrium in body, mind and spirit. An important marker of health for Zimmermann is the acid-base balance: «Often an imbalance, say over-acidification, can favour women’s problems.» Over-acidification can occur on the one hand from a diet too rich in carbohydrates and sugars, on the other from inactivity and stress. In bladder problems she also makes the case for lots of fluids, but also for lukewarm to warm drinks, so that the organism does not first have to bring these up to body temperature. Zimmermann sees the long-term preventative success in basic nutrition: vegetables, fruit, uncarbonated water and herbal tea and little cereal, meat or dairy products.
Basic nutrition also helps with fungal vaginosis says the herbalist. One should also ensure that underclothes are made from wool and that hygiene articles are not made from synthetic fibres. In the early stages one can dip a tampon in Quark or natural yoghurt, add one or two drops of natural essential lavender oil and place this inside. Or take hipbaths and shower with water enriched with two or three drops of lavender oil.
The latter also works well to relieve abdominal pains during menstruation. «When you have pains during your period, dissolve the lavender oil in some rape oil or olive oil then rub this onto your belly and back. Also drink lady’s mantle, yarrow or camomile tea.»
Warmth and relaxation: these are the magic words for menstrual pains according to the herbalist. A hot water bottle or a cherry stone pouch on the belly often works wonders. «And a back massage too», adds Zimmermann. That is the man’s job.
Source: St. Galler daily paper