Smorgasbord Health 2017 – Top to Toe – The Kidneys and Urinary Tract Health


Smorgasbord Health 2017

On Monday my post was on the kidneys and how they function. I also looked at one of the most painful conditions… Kidney stones. Today I want to continue with the urinary tract as problems with kidney function have a direct impact on the health of this essential waste pathway out of the body.

The Urinary Tract

Kidneys - locationThe urinary tract consists of a number of different organs that produce, store and excrete urine from the body. These include the kidneys, ureters, bladder and the urethra.

I covered the main function of the kidneys in the previous article. The waste products and other contents of the urine flow through ureters, one in each kidney, and into the bladder, where it is stored until there is an urge to get rid of it.

When you urinate, muscles in the bladder wall help push the urine out of the bladder, through the urethra and out of the body. In between urinating the sphincter, another muscle, keeps the urethra closed to prevent the urine from flowing constantly.

Normally your urine is sterile without any bacterial contamination. However, the mix of minerals, sugars and warmth make it a perfect environment to nourish and grow bacteria which is where the urinary tract infections come in.

Our defence systems are very refined and normally bacteria are prevented from getting into the urine in a number of ways. When the sphincter is in the closed position, bacteria are unable to gain entry to the bladder. The urethra in both men and women is quite long and difficult for bacteria to negotiate, but a woman’s is shorter which is why urinary tract infections are more common in women.

Also, every time you urinate you are flushing out the urethra as well as emptying the bladder completely. There are valves that prevent any urine from back washing into the kidneys so even if the bladder and urethra are infected, the bacteria should not be able to gain access to the kidneys.

With such good defences why do we get urinary tract infections?

The most common way to get a urinary tract infection is by bacterial contamination from our stools. For example, babies who wear nappies are exposed to bacteria that can enter the body and contaminate the urethra. Young babies and children have very immature immune systems and it does not take long for the bacteria to infect the soft tissue. As we potty-train babies, it is the girls that are more likely to become infected unless they are trained at a very early age to wipe front to back, so preventing any bacteria from reaching the vagina.

As we get older and become more sexually active, bacteria can be pushed into the vagina and in unprotected sex this can affect both males and females. Urinating after sex does help but careful hygiene is always critical, although not necessarily adhered to in young adults.

An important thing to remember about the bladder is that it is very elastic. It is not a good idea to go all day without emptying it as it will stretch and sag around the entrance to the urethra. This causes urine to collect and is a breeding ground for bacteria and also an ideal environment for stones to collect. If the problem is not rectified it may result in having to use catheters to empty the bladder, which is both inconvenient and can lead to further infections.

Are there different infections of the urinary tract?

Each separate part of the urinary tract can become infected and if left untreated can eventually affect the kidneys.

Cystitis is the infection that most women are more familiar with. It is an infection of the bladder and the most common form of infection is by bacterial contamination. There are cases where use of perfumed personal deodorants, soaps and creams have caused problems but it is more likely to be an infection that has moved up the urethra, through the sphincter and into the bladder. Because this is such a common condition and one to be avoided as it is both painful and can lead to complications in the kidneys; I will cover in more detail in the next post next Tuesday.

One of the problems that can lead to bacteria gaining a hold in the bladder is the habit of holding onto urine rather than responding to the natural stimulus. Urinating is designed to empty waste products out of the body and despite being sterile; it only takes a very small amount of bacteria to gain access to this perfect environment to cause an infection.

One of the causes of this is the habit of not sitting down but crouching over public toilets because of the possibility of infection. Ironically, this very act causes the bladder to retain urine and increases the risk of infection.

Urethritis is an infection of the urethra and can be the result of poor hygiene allowing bacteria to infiltrate the urethra or can be the result of a sexually transmitted infection.

Ureteritis is an infection of one of the ureters and can be caused by bacteria that enter the kidneys in the blood stream or if the valves preventing back wash from the bladder are not working correctly.

Pyelonephritis is an actual kidney infection and can be caused, again, by infection in the bloodstream, or if an infection in the urine, from the bladder, has remained untreated.

What are the symptoms of a urinary tract infection?

Those of us who have suffered from cystitis will have no difficulty in recognising the initial symptoms. Characteristically there is a burning sensation during urination and this can be accompanied by a fever, low abdominal pain and discolouration of the urine.

Urethritis is usually indicated with burning right at the beginning of urination since the infection is closer to the exit.

If your kidneys have become infected then you are likely to suffer from pain just below your rib cage at the back. These would be accompanied by the above symptoms and additionally there may be blood in the urine.

It is very important that you recognise symptoms at an early stage and do something about them before complications set in. You do not want your kidneys to become infected as this can lead to scarring and damage to the filtering system. This will affect your general health, as waste products will build up and your kidneys can fail. This will lead to the need for dialysis to clean the blood artificially and will eventually require a kidney transplant.

As I mentioned in the article on the kidneys, they play an important role in maintaining correct blood pressure. If kidneys are sufficiently damaged this balance will be affected and could lead to dramatic drops in blood pressure – which could lead to fainting – or rises in pressure leading to strokes and heart attacks.

What is the normal conventional treatment for urinary tract infections?

If you are suffering from symptoms that could be any of the urinary tract infections you need to act as quickly as possible. Go to a doctor and take a sample with you so the bacteria can be identified. As analysis can take two or three days to accomplish, the doctor will usually prescribe a broad spectrum antibiotic immediately and change to a more specific type later if needed.

If there is a concern that the infection has taken a stronger hold and may have infected the other parts of the urinary tract such as the kidneys, other tests will be carried out and treatment prescribed.

In some cases an ultrasound scan will be done to determine if there are structural problems with the urethra or valves that could allow bacteria to gain entry to the bladder and the kidneys. If it is proved that there is a reflux action from the bladder to the kidneys surgery may be carried out to correct the fault.

Can diet help prevent occurrences of urinary tract infections?

As far as diet is concerned there are a couple of foods that have been shown to help prevent urinary tract infections and cranberries in particular are recognised as being effective.

cranberries_background_200742Native American Indians have used herbal remedies for centuries and they used cranberries to treat urinary tract infections amongst other bacterial conditions. Modern research has revealed that cranberries, and their cousins, blueberries, have a component that protects soft tissue from bacterial infections.

Cranberries contain the highest quantity of proanthocyanidins (PACs) which inhibit the adhesion of bacteria to soft tissue. The most likely culprit of urinary tract infections is Escherichia Coli or E. Coli bacteria and the PACs prevent it from sticking to the surface of the urinary tract and reproducing leading to infection.

Research has shown that if you drink a glass of cranberry juice it will begin working effectively in two hours and the effects will last for 10 hours. This means that if you drink two glasses per day, one in the morning and one at about 8.00 at night you will achieve 24-hour protection.

Staying Hydrated.

It is important that you maintain the correct fluid levels and therefore drinking plenty of pure water is essential. This will pass through the kidneys and flush out any bacteria through the bladder and the urethra and out of the body.

Immune System function

green teaIt is important to boost your immune system with a diet that includes foods that have been shown to be anti-bacterial. – Such as onions, garlic and green tea. If you have a healthy, well-functioning immune system you will be less prone to be infected in the first place and your system will be more efficient is killing infections and getting rid of them through the waste disposal systems.

You will find the “Healthy Eating Plan for the Kidneys and Urinary Tract” helpful as it is designed to help minimise the risk of urinary tract infections and to maximise the health of your kidneys. I will post that on Saturday.

Here is the link to yesterday’s post on the kidneys which you might find useful to read as well.

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/2016/03/22/smorgasbord-health-how-the-kidneys-work-and-kidney-stones/

©sallycronin Just Food for Health 1998 -2017

Please feel free to comment and share. If you have a question for me about any posts including this one and would prefer not to put in the comments then please email me on sally.cronin@moyhill.com

Thanks Sally

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The Medicine Woman’s Treasure Chest – Artichoke Extract and as a food.


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I used to find it very daunting when invited to dinner with friends to discover a wonderfully fresh and fragrant artichoke heart on a plate in front of me. It is one of those more fiddly  foods to eat and certainly it is a job for your fingers rather than your knife and fork. As a vegetable the artichoke is very nutritious and has been used since at least Roman times as a digestive aid. It was not however, until the 16th century that the therapeutic benefits for the liver and in particular jaundice were fully appreciated.

As doctors became more intrigued with the older herbal remedies they began to experiment with the bulb of the artichoke and other parts of plant that had not been eaten previously and used them to create extracts. The leaves of the artichoke were found to be particularly potent and they were prescribed for jaundice patients successfully. Since then the extract has been found to be effective for maintaining healthy cholesterol levels too.

It is understandable that today when we go to the doctor they are going to prescribe a pharmaceutical product rather than a bottle of herbal tincture… After all there are no patents available on plant medicine; you have to add a unique ingredient. However, most of our modern day medicines still use derivatives of plants for their manufacture and it is worth consulting a qualified herbalist to explore the original format as an option.

Artichoke is a phytopharmaceutical and has been the subject of quite extensive research with clinical effects being documented. It is recognised as an antioxidant that protects the liver, bile production and cholesterol lowering. It is entirely possible that the natural form of this plant may be just as or more effective than a synthesized product.

One of the main active components of the leaves has been identified as Cynarin and was the first to be extracted in the 1930s. It is only a trace element in the fresh leaves but undergoes significant changes as the leaves go through the drying and extraction process. The potency of the artichoke however, does not come from just one component and other elements such as chlorogenic acid, an antioxidant have been identified as being equally powerful.

The main use of the extract is to improve the digestive process and to enhance liver function and more recently as a natural way to lower high LDL cholesterol which is the more unhealthy type. Cholesterol has an important role to play in the body including hormone production and brain health but if our diet is unhealthy, the LDL or Low Density Lipoprotein becomes oxidised (usually from a high sugar diet) and its smaller particles attach to the walls of the arteries and form clumps that block blood flow. The dual effect of the artichoke extract is to not only act as an antioxidant preventing the oxidation by free radicals in the first place, but also to lower the level of the LDL.

The Liver

Our liver is the largest waste organ inside our body and as such comes under enormous pressure if we have a poor diet. We as humans are built to deal with many toxins. In the early part of human evolution we ate a lot of foods that were contaminated or possibly toxic; our livers are very proficient in removing these dangerous additives as quickly as possible. The digestive system is designed so that the stomach acid dissolves the food and as you will know if you have ever suffered from food poisoning there is usually a very quick response to contaminated food!

However, some of the toxin might still get through as far as the liver and it needs to be excreted from the body as effectively as possible. This is where bile enters the formula. It is manufactured in the liver and stored in the gallbladder. You may be surprised to learn that the liver produces around about 2 pints of bile per day and this is secreted into the small intestine where it processes the fats we have consumed and ensures that fat soluble vitamins are absorbed effectively. Bile is also essential for detoxing the liver as it carries the toxins away into the intestine to be eliminated from the body.

There are a number of clinical studies ongoing into the benefits of artichoke extract and it will be interesting to see the results of these in coming years.

In a nutshell.

Artichoke extract can be used to stimulate bile flow from the liver which may help reduce the symptoms of heartburn, protect the LDL cholesterol from oxidation and lower levels, Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), improve kidney function, fluid retention, bladder infections and improve liver function.

Gallstones and gallbladder disease is not uncommon especially as we get older and have not had the best diet. It can also be a familial condition and we have it in our family. Artichoke may prevent the formation of gallstones and improve bile flow which is very important for the removal of toxins and long-term health.

Some cultures also use artichoke extract for lowering blood pressure and blood sugar or as a tonic.

As a food Artichokes contain many essential nutrients.

FOLATE: FOLIC ACID; Folic acid is a B vitamin essential for cell replication and growth. It helps form the building blocks of DNA the body’s genetic information which is why it is recommended prior to conception and during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy to ensure the rapidly growing and replicating cells of the foetus are normal. This helps prevent low birth weight and abnormalities such as Heart defects or lip and palate malformations. It also helps prevent complications during pregnancy such as pre-eclampsia

It is essential for transporting co-enzymes needed for amino acid metabolism in the body and is necessary for a functioning nervous system.

VITAMIN C: ASCORBIC ACID; An antioxidant that protects LDL cholesterol (low-density lipoprotein) from oxidative damage, leading to hardening of the arteries. May also protect against heart disease reducing the hardening of arteries and the tendency of platelets to clump together blocking them. Vitamin C is necessary to form collagen, which acts like glue strengthening parts of the body such as muscles and blood vessels. It aids with healing and is a natural anti-histamine.

It is essential for the action of the Immune system and plays a part in the actions of the white blood cells and anti-bodies. It protects other antioxidants A and E from free radical damage and is involved in the production of some adrenal hormones

VITAMIN K: PHYLLOQUINONE; Necessary for proper bone formation and blood clotting, preventing calcification in our blood vessels and maintaining a healthy neurological system including in the brain.

MANGANESE: Needed for healthy skin, bone and cartilage formation as well as glucose tolerance. Also forms part of the antioxidant superoxide dismutase, which helps prevent free radical damage. It is also needed for the efficient metabolism of cholesterol, amino acids and fatty acids. It may aid in weight loss as our body more efficiently processes the foods that we eat.

POTASSIUM: This is the main cation (positively charged electrolyte). It reacts with sodium and chloride to maintain a perfect working environment in and around each cell. It allows the transmission of nerve impulses and helps maintain the correct fluid balance in the body. It also regulates levels of acidity and alkalinity in the body. It is also required for carbohydrate and protein metabolism. It is connected to normal heart rhythms and to keep Blood Pressure within a healthy range.

So as you can see plenty of great reasons to eat artichokes at least once a week and if like me you find the preparation and eating of this nutritious vegetable a bit of a problem then here is a ‘How To’ from Youtube.

Thanks to Shadow of Juniper Hill

©sallygeorginacronin Just Food For Health 2009

You will find other posts in this series here.

https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/medicine-womans-treasure-chest-herbs-and-spices/

Thanks for dropping by and I am always delighted with your feedback and please feel free to share the information.

 

Health Bite of the Day – The Kidneys – Kidney Stones – described as the most excrutiating pain known to man!


Health Bite of the Day – The Kidneys – Kidney Stones – described as the most excrutiating pain known to man!.

via Health Bite of the Day – The Kidneys – Kidney Stones – described as the most excrutiating pain known to man!.