Bladder problems

Dr Cleve McIntosh on how homeopathy can help 3 common bladder problems: infections, incontinence & bedwetting

Bladder problems are common and can be a challenge to even the most  competent GP or specialist. Many will not resolve completely using  con­ventional treatment alone. Homeopathy offers tremendous relief to  those who have not found help elsewhere and should often be used first  because of the absence of side-effects.

Infections

Bladder infections, also known as urinary tract infections (UTIs) or  cystitis, are extremely common. At some time in their lives up to 20  per cent of women will have a bladder infection. Most are uncomplicated  causing mainly dis­comfort and inconvenience. Common symptoms include  burning urine, lower abdominal pain, needing to urinate more often than  usual (frequency) and feeling as if you will leak if you don’t get to  the toilet when the urge to urinate comes (urgency). To confirm the  diagnosis, rapid analysis of urine can be performed using a urine  dipstick test or a sample can be sent to a laboratory for analysis. If a  bladder infection is caused by bacteria, laboratory analysis will  usually identify which it might be. Some women have persistent symptoms  of a bladder infection, but no sign of infection on urine analysis. This  poorly understood condition has various names, including “spastic  bladder” or “urethral syndrome”, and responds very well to homeopathic  treatment.

In young children below the age of two bladder infections can be  difficult to diagnose. Symptoms are non-specific and include fever,  vomiting and not gain­ing weight. Bladder infections in young children  may need further investigations to exclude a structural abnormality  pre­disposing to bladder infections.

Homeopathic treatment

Bladder infections respond well to homeopathic treatment, which  focuses on assisting the body to fight the infec­tion and enabling it to  get on top of future infections. When antibiotics are used routinely to  treat uncomplicated bladder infections, the person is more likely to  develop recurring or chronic bladder problems needing repeated courses  or long term anti-biotics. Anti­biotics should be reserved for  compli­cated infections such as those affecting the kidneys and in  vulnerable patients, such as those with diabetes, abnormal kidneys or  pregnant women. Many blad­der infections will improve after a few days  just by drinking more water, tak­ing vitamin C and garlic capsules.  Cranberry juice, stinging nettle and dan­delion teas are also helpful.

Recurrent cystitis can be prevented by emptying the bladder as soon  as the urge is felt. It is also important to empty the bladder before  putting pressure on it, such as during sex or cycling.

Staphysagria is very useful for treat­ing “honeymoon cystitis”, a  term used to describe bladder infections which develop after having sex.  When needing to urinate, the woman might feel she has to get to the  toilet as fast as she can or else she might leak. At an emotional level,  there may be suppressed anger and resentment. However, this is often so  deep that the person is unaware of it, and the only clue to the  homeopath might be, for example, an abusive rela­tionship that they are  trapped in.

Infections characterised by an intense, scalding pain when passing  urine may be helped by Cantharis. There may be blood in the urine and  there is a sensa­tion of not being able to fully empty the bladder or  the rectum. Unexpectedly, the irritation of the bladder may increase  sexual desire in the person.

Bladder pain which comes on sud­denly and intensely, with an  extremely urgent need to pass urine, points to Pulsatilla. The person  may crave open air and moving about, and feel worse indoors. Generally,  they dislike fatty or rich foods. Emotionally, they may be very  affectionate and crave physical closeness and become tearful or weepy.

Case study

Four year-old Sue had developed recur­rent bladder infections eight  months before, soon after her younger sister was born. Her mother had  taken her to numerous specialists and she had had various tests. For the  previous five months she had been on antibiotics continuously and there  were no bladder or urinary symptoms. She was a very clingy and needy  child who always wanted to be held. After four weeks of Pulsatilla 30c  once daily, there was little change. At her next consultation, it  emerged that she was often bullied at her pre-school, so her  prescription was changed to Staphysagria 30c daily for four weeks. Her  mother stopped her antibiotics and she has not had another bladder  infec­tion in the last two years.

Incontinence

Incontinence is the leakage of urine when one does not mean to  urinate. It affects about five per cent of women and can have an  enormous impact on the social life and emotional health of those who are  affected by it. There are various types of incontinence, all of which  can be made worse by bladder infections, which should be considered  before a diagnosis is made.

Stress incontinence

Leaking urine when one coughs, sneezes, runs, lifts something, laughs or  does any­thing which increases the pressure on the bladder inside the  abdomen is the most common form of incontinence. Men who have had  prostate surgery and women who have had many children or are  post-menopausal are more at risk. Effective non-drug treatment includes  pelvic floor exercises and weight reduc­tion in those who are  overweight. Hormonal therapy, medication which acts on the nerves  controlling the bladder and surgery are also used.

Homeopathic treatment

Natrum muriaticum is good for stress incontinence. The person might  also have vaginal dryness and pain on inter­course, with an aversion to  sex. Many of the symptoms might be worse from direct or bright sun and  around 10am. There may also be a marked craving for or dislike of salt.  The symptoms may develop after grief, particularly where the person  feels sad yet unable to weep or move on.

Apis is valuable for stress incontin­ence that is better in cooler  weather. It may be associated with bladder infec­tions with severe  burning pain when passing urine. People needing Apis may feel generally  worse when hot. They enjoy exercise which makes them feel better. They  are active, vital people who may be jealous and controlling.

Urge incontinence

Urge incontinence – leaking urine when one has a need to urinate but  doesn’t get to the toilet in time – can be a symptom of “overactive  bladder syndrome” when one needs to urinate often and without much  warning. It is a complex condition in which the bladder muscle contracts  before it is full.

Overactive bladder syndrome may improve by cutting down on foods and  drinks containing caffeine, such as chocolate, tea, coffee and cola.  “Bladder training” – trying to gradually increase the time between  wanting to pass urine and actually urinating – is also helpful.

Homeopathic treatment

Sepia is a very important remedy in older women in particular where  urge incon­tinence is associated with a sensation of the uterus  prolapsing, “of everything falling out below”. There may also be an  itchy, sore vagina with a white dis­charge. Chilliness, sensitivity to  cold and feeling better after aerobic exercise are also common.

Nux vomica patients have frequent urging yet are unable empty their  bladder satisfyingly. Like Sepia, they are chilly and sensitive to cold.  Their symp­toms may be worse for periods of over­work or indulgence in  alcohol, over­eating, tobacco or coffee. They can be impatient,  irritable and pedantic, yet very hard working.

Case study

At 23 Lindi had been having bladder problems for several years. She  had an urgent need to pass urine every half-hour during the day, yet was  only able to pass very little urine each time. She wet her bed every  night and woke up many times to pass urine. During sex, she would always  leak urine, despite having tried to empty her bladder beforehand. She  was very emotionally closed and revealed little about herself. If she  was upset about something she would with­draw to cry alone. After three  weekly doses of Natrum muriaticum 200c she only needed to urinate every  four hours and was able to pass a satisfying amount each time. She then  took Natrum muri­aticum 1M weekly for eight more weeks. The frequent  need to pass urine during the day completely resolved, she no longer wet  her bed and she only woke up once each night to urinate. She had no  leaking during sex either.

Bedwetting

When discussing nocturnal enuresis, bedwetting, it’s important to  remember that children learn to control their bladders at different  ages. At least 15 per cent of normal five year olds and seven per cent  of normal seven year olds are still wetting their beds, and a smaller  percentage of these children continue to wet their beds well into  adolescence. Unless they are severely learning disabled or have a  neurological illness, all child­ren will eventually stop wetting their  bed regularly. In young children, it may be appropriate to wait before  starting treat­ment while using a waterproof mattress protector. In  older children it is better to actively treat the problem – bedwetting  can be very distressing to an older child and may affect their self  esteem and cause psychological prob­lems later. In addition, parents  have extra work washing sheets and getting up at night, which may cause  exhaus­tion and resentment.

In most children who are wetting their bed, no cause will be found.  It is very rare to find a physical problem in a child who is growing  normally and doing well at school. For peace of mind, getting a medical  opinion can be valu­able in excluding the easily treatable, rare or  serious causes of bedwetting.

Pain when urinating, pain in the kid­ney (which is felt in the back  on the side just above the waist), fever or blood in the urine are all  symptoms which may suggest a problem such as an infection of the urinary  tract. Bedwetting accom­panied by increased thirst may be caused by  diabetes. Bedwetting in a child who was previously dry needs to be  carefully assessed, as there may be emotional stress (at home or at  school for example) which brought on the bedwetting.

Conventional treatment

Parents may be offered conventional drugs to treat bedwetting.  However, it is important to be aware of their side-effects and  limitations in order to be able to weigh up the benefits and risks.  Desmopressin, if used every night, is effective in reducing bedwetting.  How­ever, it does have a long list of side-effects and as soon as it is  stopped, the bed-wetting recurs. Tricyclic antidepressants are sometimes  also used as one of their side-effects is urinary retention. They are  much cheaper than desmopressin, but can cause behaviour problems and  rarely, but tragically, fatal heart problems.

Bedwetting alarm

The most effective treatment is the bed-wetting alarm, sometimes called  the enuresis alarm or the bell and pad alarm. Bedwetting alarms provide a  long-term and drug-free solution. Within six weeks most children will  be completely dry and stay that way. It requires commitment and careful  supervision, but it has a higher success rate than conventional drugs  and the child has the confidence of knowing they are unlikely to wet  their bed again and do not have to rely on drugs.

There are a variety of bedwetting alarms available, but the basic  design is that of an alarm, which is linked to a tiny sensor in the  underwear that is trig­gered as soon as the child starts passing urine.  It is best if the child and a parent share a room for a few weeks while  using the alarm as sometimes the child will be so deeply asleep, that  they are not woken immediately by the alarm yet the parent will  definitely wake up. The parent then needs to wake the child straight  away to take him or her to the toilet to finish passing urine. The  child’s brain soon learns to wake the child automatically just before he  starts to urinate.

Homeopathic treatment

Homeopathic medication is effective and safe although it should only be  used in conjunction with or after a bedwetting alarm has been tried.

Causticum is a useful remedy for numerous bladder problems, including  bedwetting. The child may describe dreaming of urinating when they wet  the bed. They may be sensitive to the cold and draughts and feel  generally better in rainy, cloudy or damp weather. The child may be very  intense, sincere and sym­pathetic and have strong feelings about  justice or ecological issues. As adoles­cents, they may become  idealistic and rebellious. They may have a stammer and show slightly  obsessive tendencies of checking and rechecking tasks.

Mercurius symptoms are all worse at night. Children needing Mercurius  are sensitive to minor changes in tem­perature, both hot and cold. They  per­spire at night and salivate, even drooling onto the pillow. Bad  breath and a metal­lic taste in the mouth are also typical. The child  may be withdrawn and shy, but sometimes is also precocious.

Beside wetting their bed, children needing Baryta carbonica will  sometimes have recurrent sore throats and tonsil­litis. In between  throat infections, their tonsils may remain massively enlarged. They may  also have swollen lymph glands in the neck. They may lack self  confidence, can be quite anxious and need constant reassurance. They may  have been diagnosed with attention deficit disorder, but without  hyper­activity.

Case study

Margaret, at 16, had been wetting her bed almost every night since  birth. She seemed intense and serious. She would wet her bed within a  few hours of retiring and she preferred overcast weather. Unfortunately  the family was living in poverty and could not afford a bedwetting alarm  so she was managed purely homeopathically. She was given Causticum 6c  every evening. Within a month she was only wetting her bed every fifth  night and she seemed more relaxed and friendly.

Cleve McIntosh MBChB(UCT) DMH(SA)  MCFP(SA) MFHom is a specialist family physician and homeopath in private  practice in Acornhoek, South Africa.