Natural Support for Bladder Problems

Linda J. Dobberstein, Chiropractor, Board Certified in Clinical Nutrition

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Natural Support for Bladder Problems
Bladder urgency, frequent urination, pelvic pain and knowing where every bathroom is in your daily routine reflect a growing and going problem. Television commercials about bladder support products populate the airwaves now more than ever. Bladder and urinary irritation problems have been recognized for over a century, but it is still a great mystery. In the last few years, there has been greater understanding about this often disabling concern. This understanding offers insight into tangible natural tools for keeping the bladder healthy and support if there are concerns.

Interstitial cystitis (IC), bladder pain syndrome (BPS), overactive bladder, and urologic chronic pain pelvic syndrome are some of the disorders that reflect bladder and urinary tract disorders. These disorders cause pain with urination or in the pelvic region, urinary frequency, burning, irritation, and night-time urination. Each disorder has its own nuance, yet there are common factors that apply to these bladder and urinary tract disorders.

Interstitial cystitis and bladder pain syndrome can occur at any age and in both women and men. Women tend to suffer more with these disorders. An estimated 3.3 to 7.9 million women and 1.6 million men in the US have pelvic pain, urinary urgency or frequency related to interstitial cystitis or painful bladder syndrome. Loss of health from these bladder problems when they are severe have been measured similar to a person with end-stage kidney failure and on dialysis.

Related Disorders


Several health concerns lead to or coexist with these bladder problems. These include diabetes, bladder outlet obstruction like bladder stones or enlarged prostate, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, stroke, brain injury, depression, stress, autoimmune disorders, and others. Science is finding that there are changes not only to the bladder and urinary tract, but also in the brain and spinal cord with inflammatory chemicals. Interstitial cystitis and bladder pain syndrome) are more common in those who have other autoimmune disorders, especially allergies, rheumatoid arthritis and inflammatory bowel disease. The specific link has yet to be found.

Genetics and IC


There are many theories as to why interstitial cystitis or overactive bladder occurs. There is some genetic predisposition towards these concerns especially if a direct family member has the same concern. Researchers studying this family link found a higher percentage of concerns with fibromyalgia and constipation. This suggests underlying genetic factors connected with interstitial cystitis/painful bladder syndrome with fibromyalgia and constipation problems.

Candida Linked with Bladder Problems


Infectious causes of these bladder disorders have been looked at extensively over the years. Researchers have not been able to determine the infectious agent in all cases, but evidence exists for some cases. Recent findings have demonstrated a change in the urinary tract flora during flare up of bladder pain disorders. Researchers found much higher presence of fungal overgrowth, i.e. Candida and Saccharomyces, rather than an obvious bacterial overgrowth.

The last several decades have a seen a rise in fungal urinary tract infections or candiduria. This correlates with the rise in antibiotic use, high processed food intake, and a diet void in nutrient-dense foods. Candida infections correlate with more invasive bladder support like catheterization when needed for hospitalizations, or significant illness. The catheters allow fungi to harbor and collectively grow, creating candiduria, and can easily trigger or worsen IC/BPS.

Bacterial Injury and IC/BPS


Bacterial infections are not out of the picture for causing these bladder problems, but it is in a different context than a benign urinary tract infection. Isolated studies confirm the presence of nanobacteria or nano-particle-sized bacteria within the bladder or urine of patients with interstitial cystitis. E. coli is a suspected candidate for IC and BPS, but not only because of an infection. Even after the E. coli infection has been taken care of, the immune system has been awakened provoking a battle with painful inflammatory chemicals leaving tissue injury within the bladder and urethral linings, but also ramping up the nervous system. It becomes a wide-spread smoldering fire of chronic inflammation triggered after the initial blast.

The common bacteria, H. pylori, that infects over half of the world’s population is also suspect in bladder problems. Researchers believe that it is due to the damage that H. pylori causes to the lining of the bladder and urethral tubes. Quenching the H. pylori injury is of particular importance because it has been linked with injury in other parts of the body. Scientists have found H. pylori can induce blood vessel or vascular lining damage that increases the risk of coronary heart disease. New research suggests that there are increased heart disease rates in individuals who have interstitial cystitis or bladder pain syndrome.

Treatment Resistance and IC/BPS


In a recent case report on IC, urinary tract infections, and treatment resistance, two women had exhausted medical treatment and developed long standing antibiotic resistance and yet had no relief for chronic bladder pain, dysfunction, and infections. More out of an act of desperation, their physicians from the Lebanese American University in Lebanon gave the women a combination of parsley, garlic, L-arginine, cranberry extract, and probiotics. Within a short time on the natural remedies, the women experienced great relief in symptoms, despite repetitively failing standard medical treatment. They also experienced a restoration of health and had no further recurrence for at least 12 months, which was the length of time of monitoring and reported in this article.

Another study reported on chronic intractable medical problems with bladder problems with Candida albicans and H. pylori. The study’s authors found that these treatment resistant problems did best with caprylic acid. The caprylic acid was found superior to the powerful anti-fungal drug Diflucan. In their report, they also found that caprylic acid protected and increased normal cell telomeres thirty times more than Diflucan. This is a major testimony to the benefit and protection of natural plant-based compounds and cellular health. In addition, there is increasing treatment resistance for candida-related urinary tract infections and IC/BPS, making medical management of these concerns difficult at best.

Bladder Structure Changes


The lining of the bladder is epithelial cells. These cell types are similar to our skin cells. Epithelial cells in our skin slough off and new cells replenish the layers of skin. The urinary bladder has this same natural repair process. It has been found over the years that many IC/BPC patients have an impairment of this bladder repair mechanism. The cells slough off, but new protective cells are not replenished as fast as they should be.

This process and bladder lining is heavily dependent upon the compound glycosaminoglycans (GAGs). GAGs protect the bladder wall from inflammation and irritants. When there are insufficient GAGs, there is infiltration of toxins through the bladder wall that induces mast cells to release high levels of irritating chemicals. These chemicals, including histamine, arachidonic acid or PGE2, and several other chemokines provoke inflammation and pain when released in excess.

Optimal support of GAGs synthesis and reducing mast cell activation are key factors to reduce inflammation and improve the bladder lining. GAG compounds are used by the body for structure. Gut, skin, and cartilage health require adequate GAGs. Common GAG forms are glucosamine, n-acetyl-d- glucosamine and hyaluronic acid. Researchers have found clear benefit of these natural structural building blocks to protect the bladder, reduce pain and ease other debilitating symptoms of interstitial cystitis and other bladder pain problems.

Inhibiting mast cell breakdown is another key factor for improving bladder irritation. When mast cells breakdown, they release high levels of histamine, serotonin, thromboxane, prostaglandins, and other compounds that, when in excess, provoke irritation and inflammation. These mast cells cause powerful immune reactions and play fundamental roles in a large number of inflammatory diseases, especially interstitial cystitis, atherosclerosis, asthma, and rheumatoid arthritis.

There are several compounds that are known to reduce mast cell breakdown. These include vitamin D, quercetin, lactoferrin, natural vitamin E, and curcumin. These nutrients may be easily combined with any GAG-supporting compound and any natural fungal or bacterial support compound.

Bladder cells also release several compounds like phospholipase A2 that trigger the presence of arachidonic acid (AA). AA and phospholipase A2 trigger inflammation when in excess. A diet rich in omega-3 fish oils and pine nut oil has been shown to decrease AA and phospholipase A2. Recent research confirms that several bladder disorders like IC/ BPS and bladder cancer, prostate cancer, chronic prostatitis, bladder or urinary tract stones are indeed linked with this imbalanced essential fatty acid intake.

Scientists have confirmed that high omega-6 fatty acid intake is significantly out of balance with the omega-3 fatty acids and most definitively contributes to the disease progression. The greater the intake of plant-based omega-6 oils and insufficient omega-3 fish oils, the worse the bladder disease and pain. Omega-6 oils are the common vegetable oils such as corn, soybean, safflower, canola, sunflower, etc. The best omega-3 oils come from deep cold water small fish like sardines, mackerel, and anchovies, etc.

In the age of modern medicine and 21st Century lifestyles, a retrospective look may help shed some light into why bladder problems are increasing. Medicine is finally on board with the presence of Candida problems contributing to urinary tract infections. Other infections like H. Pylori that cause inflammatory reactions are part of the problem too. The medical treatment of IC/BPS ranges from several different types of drugs, physical therapy, bladder treatment devices, and even surgery and surgical removal of the bladder. Consider protecting your bladder before reaching the point of invasive treatments that require the removal of vital body parts.

There is no doubt in my mind that the changes of our food supply and dietary habits have increased the incidence of bladder pain and inflammation problems. Antibiotics, high carbohydrate intake, high intake of omega-6 plant oils relative to omega-3 fish oils, processed foods versus foods that naturally contain GAGs like bone broth, chicken soup with the bones, loss of fermented foods, insufficient sunlight and low vitamin D are just some of the factors that can easily change the health of the body and bladder.

These factors don’t have to contribute to a life sentence of debilitating bladder pain and dysfunction and the nightly sleep disruption. Thankfully, plant-based natural approaches do not develop treatment resistance in these bladder disorders related to infections. Natural caprylic acid, lactoferrin, and cranberry extract provide safe immune modulating effects to keep overgrowth of germs like Candida and H. pylori in check. Glucosamine or hyaluronic acid support GAGs and protect that bladder wall from breakdown. Several nutrients like vitamin D and E, quercetin, and curcumin help to keep mast cells stable preventing noxious irritating chemicals from provoking more inflammation. Fish oil and pine nut oil help reduce excess damaging arachidonic acid and phospholipase A2. Wonderful resources exist that help bladder health for the men, women, and children who need catheterization or have a history of bladder/urinary tract problems, or for women who are pregnant or those who have the occasional twinge. Evaluate where you are with your bladder health. If you have a going problem that is growing, take charge of restoring your health today.

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