Cystitis & Urinary Tract Infections

Cystitis & Urinary Tract Infections

Cystitis is an inflammation of the bladder, usually caused by an infectious organism (such as the bacteria E. coli) travelling up the urethra and attaching itself to the mucous membranes lining the bladder. It is more common in women than men, and in some cases can occur repeatedly, or progress into infection elsewhere in the urinary tract, such as the kidneys.


  • Burning pain on urination
  • Frequent urge to urinate, even when there is no real need - this may be exacerbated at night
  • Urine may be dark or cloudy with a strong or offensive smell
  • Fever and abdominal pain may also occur
  • If the symptoms above are accompanied by pain in the back or lower abdominal region, the kidneys may have become infected. Seek medical attention urgently
  • In older people, urinary tract infections can cause incontinence, Fatigue and confusion. Because these symptoms are sometimes regarded as a 'normal' consequence of ageing, it is possible for urinary tract infections to remain undiagnosed in this age group, increasing the risk of complications
  • Interstitial cystitis is a painful bladder condition that is not caused by infection. The symptoms are similar to those of infectious cystitis, but are more persistent and often more severe


  • Cystitis and other urinary tract infections are commonly caused by the bacteria E. coli, which can enter the urinary tract via the urethral opening
  • Women are more prone to cystitis than men, in part because of the proximity of the urethra to the vagina and anus, which allows for the easy transfer of bacteria
  • Cystitis may be triggered by pregnancy, sexual intercourse, and trauma or irritation to the genitalia
  • Structural abnormalities of the urinary tract may also predispose some people to cystitis
  • Increased susceptibility to cystitis may occur as a consequence of chronic health problems such as diabetes, HIV/AIDS and some auto-immune diseases
  • The cause of interstitial cystitis is unknown

Nutritional & Herbal Support

  • Cranberries contain compounds that discourage the adherence of E. coli and other harmful bacteria to the bladder wall. It has been clinically proven to assist in the management of cystitis, relieving the symptoms, and reducing the frequency of recurrent infections. Look for a formula providing the equivalent of 17,000 mg of fresh cranberries per capsule, and take one dose per day as a preventative measure, or two capsules per day for the treatment of an infection
  • Garlic has potent antibiotic and immune-boosting properties, and has traditionally been used to promote resistance and fight infections. Look for a product containing the equivalent of 3 g of fresh garlic bulb. Parsley is sometimes taken at the same time to reduce the odour of garlic
  • Vitamin C supports Immunity, helps fight infections and helps reduce inflammation
  • Zinc has many roles in the immune system, and inadequate intake may lower resistance to infection. Supplementation may be particularly beneficial for older people, because the ability to absorb zinc declines with age
  • Taking probiotic supplements such as Lactobacillus acidophilus, Lactobacillus plantarum and Bifidobacterium longum helps restore the balance of intestinal and vaginal bacteria, and may be particularly beneficial if you've taken antibiotics to help treat a urinary tract infection. Oligofructose (sometimes called fructo-oligosaccharides) can be taken at the same time as probiotics to encourage and support re-colonisation by the friendly bacteria

Diet & Lifestyle advice

  • Consult your doctor if you suspect you have a kidney infection, or if a urinary tract infection persists for longer than 24 hours. It is also important to seek medical advice if you experience recurrent episodes of cystitis
  • Drink at least two litres of water every day to cleanse your urinary tract. It is important to urinate frequently - even if it is painful to do so. Drinking marshmallow or corn silk herbal teas may help to soothe the pain and relieve inflammation. On the other hand, avoid alcohol, caffeine and carbonated beverages
  • Wear loose cotton underwear and avoid pantyhose and other tight synthetic fabrics
  • After going to the toilet, wipe from front to back to avoid transferring faecal bacteria into the urinary tract
  • Urinate directly after intercourse
  • Don't use scented products in the bath or shower

If symptoms persist consult your healthcare professional. Information provided is of a general nature and should not replace that of your healthcare professional.

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