Yoga For Managing Urinary Tract Infections
Urinary tract infections or UTIs are microbial infections of the urinary tract in humans. Women get more urinary tract infections than men do. The infection could be more or less severe depending on the location of the manifestation of the infection. Symptoms include burning sensation and pain, and a changed appearance of urine, and urine that is accompanied by a strong odor. UTIs are common and could be recurring, severe and even life-threatening if preventive measures are not taken. Prevention usually includes medications and hygiene. This article recommends some yogic practices that effectively help manage ongoing infections and some practices that help prevent further ones.
Introduction On an average, a person urinates around 5-7 times a day, with a total of at least 800 ml of urine eliminated per day. Now imagine if it happens more frequently, and with a burning sensation every time. This is a characteristic feature of the condition we are discussing - urinary tract infections. Urinary tract infections or UTIs are not only painful, annoying and uncomfortable, but they can also affect the kidneys adversely if care is not taken to treat them at the earliest. Urinary tract infections can be more or less severe depending upon the part of the urinary tract that is affected. Lower tract infections are characterized by mostly external symptoms while an infection that has spread to the upper part of the tract causes more severe symptoms. Let us first look at which organs 'upper' and 'lower' sections of the urinary tract include.
The Human Urinary Tract The human urinary tract consists of the kidneys, the ureters, the urinary bladder and the urethra. The kidneys are two hand-sized organs located symmetrically in the lower abdominal region with two thin tubes called ureters, exiting the kidneys and connecting them with the urinary bladder. The urinary bladder is a muscular pouch with a sphincter at its bottom, and the urethra, the opening of the bladder. The kidneys and the ureters are considered the upper part i.e. the upper urinary tract, while the urinary bladder, the urethra, and the urinary sphincter are considered the lower urinary tract. In males the prostate also takes part in health and disease of the lower urinary tract.
Symptoms The following signs confirm an ongoing infection of the urinary tract: Burning sensation: when urine streams sexist the body it feels like it is burning the skin that it touches. This feeling could be prolonged i.e. can be felt even when one is not urinating. Frequent urination: urination is frequent. Lesser urine volume: small volumes of urine are discarded many times a day. Blood in urine: it could be a sign that the infection is getting severe. Opaque urine: urine could appear whitish. Pungently odorous urine: the odor of urine feels abnormal. Painful urination: urine stream damages the skin around the urethral opening due to frequent urination and increased concentration of the urine. Internal pain with urination: the inside of the urinary tract may also feel painful while, before or after urination. If the infection could not be managed in time, it spreads to the upper organs, which is a more severe condition and has the following symptoms in addition to those mentioned above: Fever: the body's natural immune response towards foreign particles having entered the body. Fatigue and body ache: a part of natural immune response. Vomiting and nausea: a part of natural immune response, indicating severe infection.
Causes: Lifestyle, Physical Various factors contribute to the development of any condition in an individual. Those could originate from one's lifestyle or routine, or be triggered by their anatomical and physiological constitution. On this basis we see causes of a disease as lifestyle factors or physical factors.
Lifestyle factors Bacterial/ Viral invasion from bacteria/ viruses present in improperly washed underwear, public toilet seats etc. Sexual transmission of these microbes is also possible especially when protection is not used. Holding urination not only irritates the skin of the urethral opening but also makes the urethral muscle lose its tone which in long term reduces the effectiveness of the local immune mechanism present at the urethral opening.
Physical Factors Weak immunity: an ineffective or sluggish immune response allows growth of environmental bacteria inside the lower urinary tract. Other infections: simultaneous other infections such as sexually transmitted ones, or overgrowth or lack of healthy natural microbes can also cause other UTIs.
Risk Factors Some factors decide the severity and susceptibility of a condition affecting a particular individual. Those factors are: Anatomical susceptibility: women have a wider and complex urethral opening where many glands are present in close proximity to each other. Therefore infections are not only more likely in women but they also stay for longer. Sexual activity: being sexually active increases one's chance of contracting urinary tract infections since it exposes them to the additional microbes that their partner is carrying. Menopause: the healthy vaginal bacteria cease in amount and activity after menopause since the woman is no longer fertile. This puts her at an increased risk of getting UTIs since the protective layer present at the compound urethral-vaginal opening is not as effective after menopause. Previous UTIs: UTIs may keep visiting you frequently because the first one may not have been treated or eliminated completely; it was possibly just suppressed.
Diagnosis Urine tests are most common and effective to check for presence of microbes in the urine sample. Urine tests for UTIs are essentially done on a sample that was collected midstream, to avoid the microbes that were present around the skin that were washed by the initial flow of urine.
Complications Chronic UTIs Kidney damage Pregnancy complications Blood infection
Treatment Conventionally, antibiotic and antiviral medications are used to eliminate ongoing infections depending on the microbe that has caused infection. However, they disturb the natural and beneficial composition of healthy bodily microbes too, and result in other infections or imbalances such as yeast overgrowth. Therefore, a yoga routine is recommended for preventing as well as minimizing infections.
Yoga For Preventing Urinary Disorders These practices strengthen the urinary tract and boost the efficiency of the local and beneficial microbes present naturally at the urethral and anal openings. They should be practiced as a part of regular yoga routine and compulsorily if one has had UTIs in the past. These can be done at a small gap after meals. 1. Malasana Stand on the mat/ floor/ carpet/ with the feet slightly wider than normal. Join both hands in a Namaste with a deep inhalation. With a steady exhalation, slowly squat down in a wide squat. The toes should point outwards. Fit the elbows inside the knees. The forearms should be parallel to the ground. The back should be relaxed and straight. You can now close your eyes. This is the final position. Resume normal breathing. Stay in this position for 7-10 seconds The knees and the elbows should press against each other in the final position. Release the pose and repeat five times. 2. Vajrasana Kneel on a thick mat/ folded blanket/ carpet or your bed. Keep the feet close together with the soles upwards. Lower the buttocks and place them snugly between the feet. Keep the spine straight. Put the palms on the knees and close the eyes. No part of the body should be strained, tense or uncomfortable. Practice deep breathing. Sit in Vajrasana like this for around thirty minutes. 3. Gomukhasana Sit on your mat/ bed with the legs outstretched. Lift the right leg and bend the left leg and slide it under the right leg. Bend the right leg too and place it over the bent left leg. Both feet should be at opposite sides of the body. Place both feet as close to the thighs of the opposite legs as possible. Keep the spine straight yet relaxed. Place the left hand on the right knee. Place the right hand on the left hand. Close the eyes. Practice deep breathing. After a few respirations raise both arms to the sides. Bend the left arm such that the hand rests behind the right back. Bend the right arm similarly and place the right hand on the left hand. Hold both hands with each other. This is the final position. Stay like this for at least a minute in the beginning. Release the hands. Practice 5-6 times.
Yoga For Eliminating An Ongoing UTI These practices shall prevent the spread of an ongoing infection and minimize its severity. It can also eliminate it completely. Practice 1 should be done several times a day whereas practice 2 should be done on an empty stomach only. 1. Naman Pranamasana Sit on the mat/ carpet/ bed in vajrasana as the starting position. Hold both legs just above the ankles. Start rising and bend forward to place the forehead on the mat/ carpet/ bed. If required place a folded towel or a small pillow under the face. The pelvis shall remain suspended in the air; it won't touch the mat/ ground. Bring the chin close to the chest. This is the final position. Stay like this for 5-10 seconds practicing normal breathing. Release the legs and place the hands on the mat with the arms extended. Glide backwards without getting up and rest the buttocks on the feet. Repeat three to five times. 2. Vasti Kriya The person should be adept in uddiyana bandha. Wash the whole perianal region with mild soap and water. Fill a tub of clean water at room temperature or slightly more than that. Squat so low that the urethral opening is dipped in the water. Practice uddiyana bandha. Practice thrice. Wipe the water and dry the skin before putting on clothing. Practice Shavasana. Perform as many times a week as recommended by your therapist.
Lifestyle/Dietary Tips Adapting a lifestyle that cuts out the physical factors contributing to worsening of any condition multiplies the benefits of a yoga routine by several times. The following tips are extremely beneficial for everyone with any or all symptoms of a disorder relating to excretory health: Enough hydration: drinking enough (around 8-10 glasses) water per day reduces the concentration and the burning sensation caused by urination within an hour, and also reduces the chances of contracting infections in the long term. Hygiene maintenance: practices like wearing clean and breathable underwear, avoiding dirty restrooms and washing the anus rather than wiping it, are extremely helpful in not only preventing but also easing ongoing UTIs. Hygiene after and during intercourse: using lubricated condoms during intercourse and urinating just after the intercourse prevents UTIs for both males and females. Balanced diet: a diet balanced in all respects i.e. having all macro and micronutrients in the required amounts is essential for the body's immune system to function well and deal with microbial infections.
Conclusion Although a UTI is less of a disease but more of a lifestyle disorder - and a very uncomfortable one; but it doesn't mean that it can be managed only with strong medications that could disturb the natural constitution of the body's flora. The yoga practices described here are not only preventive of UTIs but should also be practiced as personal hygiene regularly. However, any practices that have the word 'kriya' in their name should ideally be begun under supervision of a yoga therapist. Also, if the individual has multiple conditions, they should tell this to their therapist before the commencement of any regime. The tips suggested here are effective and enough but aren't all-inclusive. One should take all possible care of their hygiene especially regarding the sex organs.