Do you struggle with frequent urinary tract infections (UTIs) and ask yourself, “Why does my UTI keep coming back?!” You wonder what is it that keeps causing this intense urge to pee and pain. It’s so inconvenient, uncomfortable and may be affecting work and life altogether. You are tired of doing urine tests, making doctor’s appointments and maybe you have taken multiple rounds of antibiotics at this point.
This article will explain the difference between Interstitial Cystitis vs UTIs, how to find out which one you have, and how to naturally treat UTI and IC symptoms. If you’re experiencing more itching-like symptoms, read my previous article on “UTI vs. Yeast Infection.”
Since these two health issues are very similar, they often get confused and misdiagnosed. Below I break it down for you, interstitial cystitis vs UTI.
Urinary tract infections (UTI) occur when bacteria (usually E. coli) infect parts of your urinary tract, typically your bladder, but can also impact your urethra and even kidneys. If left untreated, a UTI can lead to inflammation of the bladder and cause cystitis.
But worse, if UTIs spread to your kidneys, causing kidney infections. This can lead to kidney damage, infection in your bloodstream, and can be serious if not treated in a timely manner. If you begin to feel back pain (located where your kidneys are), or experience fever, please seek medical care as soon as possible.
Pain/burning sensation while urinating
Lower abdominal pain
Frequent urge to urinate
Accidental urinary leakage
Cloudy and smelly urine
Feeling fatigued/ just not well
Interstitial cystitis, on the other hand, is a painful bladder condition that is caused by inflammation, infection, immune dysfunction, or other root causes like mycotoxins or co-infections. While UTIs usually quickly resolve with antibiotic therapy or natural herbs, IC will not resolve with antibiotics and can be chronic if the root cause is not addressed.
Reduced bladder capacity
Feeling like you constantly need to pee
Pain during sex
You can see how the symptoms of IC and UTI symptoms are almost identical. So how do you know which one you have? So, should you be asking yourself, “Why does my UTI keep coming back?,” or “Why does my cystitis symptoms keep coming back?”
Discuss all symptoms with your provider
Deep dive into medical history
Physical examination (such as a pelvic exam)
Urinalysis with culture
Rule out other conditions or underlying infections
In women who have interstitial cystitis, urine culture results will be negative, meaning that no E. coli bacteria are found in the urine as with a urinary tract infection
Most times, it will be a UTI. In fact, 50-60% of women already experienced at least one UTI in their life!
Since the female urethra (the “tube” your urine comes out of) is closer to the anus than in men, and since it’s also a lot shorter, it’s easier for bacteria to travel into your bladder and cause infection.
If you experience frequent UTIs there is an underlying reason why. If you address the contributing factors, you can avoid future frequent UTI symptoms or IC symptoms in the future.
Sexual activity (Not urinating after sexual intercourse)
Frequent antibiotic use, by changing gut microbiota
Use of diaphragm birth control pills
Imbalanced gut microbiome
pH imbalance, allowing harmful bacteria to grow
Weakened immune system
Frequent bacteria exposure/environment for bacteria growth (wearing damp bathing suits all day, working out in tight leggings, and not changing for a couple of hours afterward)
High sugar intake (E. coli thrive on sugar)
Chronic inflammation (poor diet of processed foods, excess sugar, stress)
Food sensitivities or allergies
Toxicity to mold, heavy metals, or other chemicals
Parasites or tick-borne illnesses (Lyme)
Nervous system dysregulation (impacting the nerves to your bladder)
Abnormalities in bladder structure
Pelvic floor evaluation and pelvic floor physical therapy
Focus on eating an anti-inflammatory diet- no processed foods, inflammatory oils, and excess sugars. Instead focus on eating colorful fruits and vegetables, protein, healthy fats, and greens.
Learn how to manage your stress- incorporate nature walks, grounding, therapy, journaling, prayer, meditation, yoga, and/or regular movement into your day.
Don’t hold in your pee! When you gotta go, go!
Invest in some nice organic cotton underwear. You’ll thank me later!
Pass on the thongs. I know, I know. You don’t want your underwear line to show through your leggings (that’s what oversized sweaters are for). Speaking of leggings… Make sure you allow some airflow too! Change into some flowy pants when you’re lounging around the house.
Focus on gut health Grab my FREE “Healthy Gut Happy Life” Ebook here.
Skip on the scented soap, spray, and douching. These can actually cause more harm than good.
Urinate before and after having sex
Wipe front-to-back after bowel movements. This prevents harmful bacteria from your rectum from spreading to the urethra.
Avoid sugars: white flour, high fructose corn syrup, refined carbohydrates, and that nightly snack of Oreos…yes, go put it back in the pantry.
Skip the coffee, caffeinated drinks, and yes, even wine. These can be dehydrating, increasing your risk for UTIs.
Drink up…on water that is! This helps flush out those pesky bacteria from your urinary system. Choose filtered water to avoid extra toxins. I love Aquasana.
Drink unsweetened cranberry juice (keyword: unsweetened!- no need for that extra sugar)
Increase your omega-fat intake. Salmon, sardines, avocados, and olive oil)
Take a probiotic: Taking a probiotic that includes Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium can help cut recurrent UTIs by about half. You can find a probiotic HERE on my store!
Consider doing a stool test to eradicate pathogenic bacteria (Check out my signature gut program, Get Your Gut Right)
Consider using cranberry extract and D mannose supplements. Two of my favorite supplements for UTI prevention and treatment can be found here. The brand is Designs for Health.
Address Pelvic floor dysfunction
Wondering, “Why does my UTI keep coming back?” If you continue to struggle with frequent UTI or cystitis symptoms, please implement these tips above and see if you notice any relief. If not, teaming up with a functional healthcare provider may be necessary to get to the root of your specific issues.
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