How to actually prevent and fight cystitis. Hint: It's not with Cranberry juice

Most women will know the unbearable feeling that comes with cystitis. It can feel like draining water from the Sahara desert. And the pain, oh the pain. It’s enough to make you curse the bladder Gods as you sit whimpering in a toilet cubicle.

Cystitis is an inflammation of the bladder wall and occurs when the urethra and bladder, which are normally sterile, become infected with bacteria. It can affect all sexes but unfortunately, women are more susceptible to the condition due to our shorter urethras.

It will affect 2 out of 5 women at least once in their lifetime. And once is enough. For a full three month period, I had a reoccurring infection which liked to surface at least once a week. Doctors tried to tell me I had an STD. Others said maybe I should start using lube. The majority told me to drink more cranberry juice. And many more said I was just one of the select few who was ‘prone’ to the infection.

I have tried every medical and natural remedy known to pharmacists and holistic healers in my pursuit of a happy, less acidic bladder. I would be the star of CSI: Cystitis if it were a TV show. I have become almost detective-like in my search of the triggers and subsequent combating of them.

Related: What your gut might be telling you

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Most mild-cases of the condition will clear within 1-4 days. However, if they last longer than this, or the symptoms are particularly severe, seeking medical help is a must before it turns into a nasty kidney infection.

Overprescription of antibiotics is a major issue. In my current scenario antibiotics are unable to fight my bladder infections. This is why being educated and aware of aggravators and preventative measures are so very critical.

Sex is one of the main culprits of cystitis and can make a once enjoyable experience horrendous. 90% of cystitis is caused by bacteria from the rectum which moves to the urethra and onto the bladder through the movements of intercourse. Before and after sex, make sure to wash hands and the genital area. Post-coital cuddles are a no-go until you pee. Flushing the urethra of any bacteria is the best preventative measure for an infection.

Latex allergy

Birth control such as condoms, spermicides, the copper coil, diaphragms and even oral contraceptives can increase your risk of contracting cystitis. Make sure to talk to your doctor about alternative methods and finding the right birth control to suit your needs.

After countless attempts to discover the cause of my cystitis crisis, I had my lightbulb moment when one doctor asked if I had a latex allergy. Thinking back to my kitchen assistant days, I contracted a rash each time I wore latex gloves, but the connection to latex condoms was never made in my brain. Thus, once latex condoms were taken out of the equation, the severity and reoccurrence of the condition decreased drastically.

Diet can augment cystitis. When a flare-up occurs, avoid caffeine, carbonated drinks, and spicy foods. In my experience eating more wholesome foods, lots of leafy greens and vegetables and less refined sugar have helped to calm the symptoms.

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Alcohol can not only cause a total re-evaluation of your life choices but also incremental toilet trouble. My latest bout of urinary hell took place after a hefty night out. Vodka is not your bladders friend. It dehydrates you and makes urine more concentrated which can cause infection.

Over the counter

Over the counter solutions such as Cystopurin can be your soulmate. They particularly help to ease that excruciating continuous sting that comes with cystitis.

Contrary to your mother's belief, cranberry juice does not work. The majority of juice drinks on the market contain added sugar which will only exacerbate the bacteria. In contrast, cranberry supplements are a comprehensive choice and can act as a long-term deterrent as the ingredients in cranberries make it more arduous for bacteria to stick to the bladder wall. Other measures including wiping front to back after going to the toilet and wearing cotton underwear can protect you also.

The importance of drinking water cannot be stressed enough. Of all the antidotes that I have tested, water has been the salvation and guardian angel in my cystitis desert. At the first sign of a prickle, I drink 2-3 litres of water to wash the infection away. This, along with a hot water bottle and paracetamol will ease the initial discomfort.

Many don't realise just how debilitating cystitis can be. Spending hours in the bathroom, sitting in discomfort and avoiding sex don't add any quality to life. If you have invested in every tried and tested remedy and you still suffer from a recurrence of cystitis; see your doctor. There may be an underlying issue that needs to be addressed. It may take weeks, or months, or longer to get to the root of the issue but the benefits to your overall health will be boundless. And the cursing of the Gods in the toilet cubicle might finally stop.

Edaein O' Connell is not a registered doctor, if you have any symptoms of concern, go and see your G.P. 

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