Infections of the urinary tract such as cystitis are not generally considered serious conditions, but can be painful and can have a big impact on quality of life, especially when they re-occur often. Luckily, Chinese medicine can help to both treat and prevent cystitis and other UTIs.
Chinese Medicine For Cystitis And Other UTIs
Chinese medicine does not distinguish UTIs by disease name or location (urethritis, cystitis etc) as Western medicine does, but instead is concerned with the exact nature of the symptoms, and treats each case differently based on the individual presentation. As always, the aim is to treat the root cause and not just the symptoms.
For instance, the Chinese diagnosis of Damp-Heat often accounts for the most common symptoms. The Heat causes pain, burning sensations, low grade fever and blood in the urine. Dampness causes cloudy urine, a heavy or sinking sensation, the urge to urinate frequently and difficulty emptying the bladder.
If UTIs are frequently experienced there might be an underlying deficiency – a weakness of the body’s energy that makes it hard to fight off repeated infections. This could be a qi deficiency or a Yin or Yang deficiency, depending on the individual case.
Some cases are also complicated by Qi Stagnation – in which case symptoms can come and go, and are often worse with stress. There may be mood swings, and general aches pains and stiffness all over the body.
Herbal Medicine For UTIs
Chinese herbal medicine can be extremely helpful for cystitis and other UTIs. It can be used to treat an existing infection, and also to strengthen the system to prevent reoccurring infections. There are specific herbs that target the urinary system, such as fu ling and zhu ling – both types of mushroom – but as always, the exact choice of herbs depends on your specific symptoms.
When I was in China with my teacher Dr Feng, it was very common for people to come to clinic for treatment for urinary problems – almost 10% of the patients that I saw him treat had come primarily for help with urinary problems of some kind, especially UTIs, and a large number of the remaining cases mentioned some kind of difficulty with urination as a secondary complaint.
Here in the UK, I think we tend to accept that urinary infections and other urinary problems are just a part of life and not seek treatment unless they get really bad – this is a shame, as treatment can be very effective!
Acupuncture for UTIs
Acupuncture can also be helpful with urinary infections. For instance, a study carried out in Bergen, Norway looked at whether acupuncture could be used to prevent UTIs in women who had had 3 or more attacks in the past 12 months.
63 women were randomly divided into an acupuncture group, a sham acupuncture group and a control (no treatment). Over a 6-month observation period, 86% of the acupuncture group were free of lower urinary tract infections, compared to 58% in the sham group and 36% in the control. (Acupuncture in the prophylaxis of recurrent lower urinary tract infection in adult women, Audun Aune, Terje Alraek, Huo LiHua and Anders Baerheim, Scand J Prim Health Care 1998; 16).
In my Bristol clinic, I often use herbal medicine and acupuncture together for the treatment of cystitis and other UTIs, and this combination can have great results.
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