When it comes to urological issues, social stigma can cause many to suffer in silence. Of course, it’s important for people to consult their healthcare provider to get the care they need, but the good news is that there are many natural options that can be used to help maintain urological health to ward off concerns in the first place—or to help alleviate concerns under the guidance of a healthcare provider. Here, a look at the category.

Common Concerns

Lower Urinary Tract Symptoms (LUTS) encompasses major bladder control concerns, including overactive bladder (OAB), urinary incontinence (UI) and stress urinary incontinence. An estimated 50 million American are affected, according to information from Seipel Group, founded by CEO Tracey Seipel, N.D., who has conducted research on natural formulations to address LUTS (1).

OAB, which affects men and women, includes symptoms of urinary urgency, increased urinary frequency and urgency urinary incontinence. UI affects more women than men and is typically the result of weakened pelvic floor muscles due to pressure being placed on the pelvic floor, often as a result of pregnancy, obesity, or constipation. Symptoms include frequency, urgency with urge incontinence, nocturia, and painful urination, as well as small voided volumes (2). More active Baby Boomers are seeking treatment for UI, although many suffer in silence. As Seipel Group reports, it is estimated that only 33% of sufferers have been diagnosed (1).

Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs) affect men and women but women are more prone and likely to be diagnosed with it. Between 20% and 30% of women who have had a UTI will experience a recurrence, and around 25% will develop ongoing recurrent episodes with implications for individual well–being and healthcare costs (3).

Interstitial Cystitis (IC) is a chronic condition of the bladder wall that frequently goes undiagnosed. IC can cause feelings of pain and pressure in the bladder area. Along with this pain are lower urinary tract symptoms, which could include urinary urgency, pain during intercourse, and recurring pelvic pain. As women’s health expert Donnica Moore, M.D., reports on her site www.DrDonnica.com, 90% of IC patients are women (4).

Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia (BPH) refers to an enlarged prostate, a common condition that affects older men. About half of men between ages 51 and 60 have been diagnosed with BPH and up to 90% of men over age 80 have it (5). Aging and a family history of BPH increases risk, as do obesity and inactivity. Needing to urinate frequently is a common symptom. Other symptoms include feeling that the bladder is full even right after urinating, urgency and needing to push or strain to urinate.

Prostatitis is a condition that affects men and is a common infection of the prostate gland. In an article on Dr. Josh Axe’s Food is Medicine blog, Christine Ruggeri, CHHC, explains that there are four categories of prostatitis: Acute bacterial prostatitis, chronic bacterial prostatitis (recurring infections in the prostate and urinary symptoms that come and go for many months), asymptomatic inflammatory prostatitis, and chronic prostatitis, which is the most common form, accounting for 90% of cases and affecting an estimated 10 to 15% of men in the U.S. (6).

Natural Remedies for Urological Health

Herbs: As researchers noted in new science published in the journal BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine, plant-based medicines have been documented both empirically and in emerging scientific research to have varying benefits in reducing bladder symptoms. In the study, the researchers, including Dr. Seipel, looked at a proprietary combination of phytomedicine extracts including Crataeva nurvala stem bark, Equisetem arvense stem and Lindera aggregata root (brand name Urox) in reducing symptoms of OAB and UI. At week 8, urinary day frequency and episodes of nocturia were significantly lower in the herbal group. Symptoms of urgency and total incontinence were also lower, and the herbal group reported significant improvements in quality of life (7).

For prostate health and urinary dysfunction, Ruggeri points to saw palmetto. “According to the research,” she writes, “saw palmetto can actually bind to receptors in the lower urinary tract, thereby improving urinary symptoms of prostatitis like overactive bladder and BPH symptoms. Researchers indicate that it has no known drug interactions and doesn’t cause any adverse side effects.” She recommends products standardized to contain 85 to 95% fatty acids and sterols (6).

Berries: Cranberries have been recommended for urinary problems for years, and research supports the fruit’s effectiveness. Pharmacist Sherry Torkos, author of over a dozen books on natural health and healing, has explained in WholeFoods: “Unlike antibiotics, which kill bacteria, cranberry works by changing the bacterial structure and preventing adhesion to tissues so it works effectively for prevention without the risk of developing antibiotic resistance” (8).

Cranberries capsules contain a substance that prevents bacteria from sticking to the bladder wall, decreasing the risk for recurrent infection, explains Christiane Northrup, M.D., a leading authority in the field of women’s health, on her website, drnorthrup.com (9). Drinking unsweetened cranberry juice (as well as water) can help, she writes, as the extra liquid helps flush out bacteria. (For more on cranberry, watch a replay of the WholeFoods webinar “How to Select a Cranberry Ingredient for Urinary Tract Support” with Sherry Torkos (10).)

For added benefit, some formulas combine cranberry extract with phytochemicals such as anthocyanin from blueberry and hibiscus for added benefits (11). According to a report in the Harvard Health Letter, like cranberries, blueberries may also keep bacteria from attaching to the urinary tract lining (12).

Probiotics: Supplements and fermented foods help recolonize the gut with “friendly” bacteria, which can help with UTIs, says Dr. Northrup (9). Also consider “synbiotics”—any supplement containing both a pre- and probiotic. As we reported in the June issue of WholeFoods, preliminary evidence suggests that pre- and probiotics may be useful in conditions including in vaginal and urinary tract infections (13). The best bacteria for intestinal flora are not necessarily the same as the best bacteria for vaginal health, though, as Steve Lankford pointed out in a recent Health Quest podcast titled “Clinically Tested Probiotic Promotes Healthy Vaginal Microflora” (14). The discussion with Anthony Thomas, Ph.D., of Jarrow Formulas, gives an overview of the science on clinically documented probiotic strains Lactobacillus rhamnosus GR-1 and Lactobacillus reuteri RC-14.

Lycopene for Prostate Health

Studies suggest that men who eat more tomatoes are less likely to suffer from prostate cancer, Jillian Levy, CHHC, reports on draxe.com (16). She adds that cooked tomatoes are especially beneficial for fighting cancer because once cooked—especially with a source of fat, like olive oil— their rich source lycopene becomes even more available. She cites additional research showing that when men with prostate cancer take lycopene supplements, lycopene helps reduce the size of the tumors and stop the spreading of cancerous cells.

Overcoming the Stigma

As noted, it’s important that people see a healthcare provider with any urological concerns, but embarrassment does keep some from doing so. The Urology Care Foundation offers this encouragement that you can share with your customers: “You may feel embarrassed; but keep in mind, your healthcare provider is used to hearing about all kinds of problems. They are very common and there are a number of treatments available.” As the Foundation explains, this includes simple lifestyle changes, behavior modifications, and, if needed, medication, bladder retraining or surgery (15). WF

1. “Bladder Control Background,” Seipelgroup.com. Accessed 05/29/2019. http://seipelgroup.com.au/sg/bladder-control-background/.

2. Urology Care Foundation, “What is Interstitial Cystitis/Bladder Pain Syndrome?” Urologyhealth.org. Accessed 06/05/2019. https://www.urologyhealth.org/urologic-conditions/interstitial-cystitis.

3. Santosh S. Waigankar and Vimal Patel, “Role of probiotics in urogenital healthcare,” Journal of Midlife Health, 2(1), 5-10(2011). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3156505/?report=classic.

4. Donnica Moore, M.D., “Interstitial Cystitis,” Drdonnica.com. Posted 7/30/2002. Accessed 06/05/2019. http://www.drdonnica.com/display.asp?article=5140.

5. Claus G. Roehrborn, M.D., FACS, “Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia: An Overview,” Reviews in Urology, Vol. 7 Suppl 9(Suppl 9), S3-S14(2005). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1477638/.

6. Christine Ruggeri, CHHC., “8 Ways to Relieve Prostatitis Symptoms,” Draxe.com. Posted 10/03/2017. Accessed 06/05/2019. https://draxe.com/prostatitis/.

7. Niikee Schoendorfer et al., “Urox containing concentrated extracts of Crataeva nurvala stem bark, Equisetum arvense stem and Lindera aggregata root, in the treatment of symptoms of overactive bladder and urinary incontinence: a phase 2, randomized, double-blind placebo controlled trial,” BMC Complementary Alternative Medicine, 18(1), 42(2018). https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5793427/.

8. WholeFoods Magazine Staff, “Urologic Health: Understanding the category and what your inventory has to offer,” Wholefoodsmagazine.com. Posted 06/20/2017. Accessed 06/06/2019. https://wholefoodsmagazine.com/supplements/features-supplements/urologic-health/.

9. Christiane Northup, M.D., “Urinary Tract Infections in Women,” Drnorthup.com. Posted 10/09/2006. Accessed 06/06/2019. https://www.drnorthrup.com/urinary-tract-infections/.

10. WholeFoods Magazine Staff, “How to Select a Cranberry Ingredient for Urinary Tract Support,” Wholefoodsmagazine.com. Posted 04/17/2017. Accessed 06/06/2019. https://wholefoodsmagazine.com/multimedia/video/select-cranberry-ingredient-urinary-tract-support/.

11. Ridgecrest Herbals, “Gladder Bladder™: Description,” Rcherbals.com. Accessed 06/06/2019. https://www.rcherbals.com/rc/product/100051.

12. Harvard Health Letter, “Stay a step ahead of urinary tract infections,” Health.harvard.edu. Posted 02/2015. Accessed 06/06/2019. https://www.health.harvard.edu/diseases-and-conditions/stay-a-step-ahead-of-urinary-tract-infections.

13. Julia Peterman, “Beyond Probiotics: Pre-, Syn-, Post-, and Psycho-: Catching Up with Gut Science,” Wholefoodsmagazine.com. Posted 05/22/2019. Accessed 06/06/2019. https://wholefoodsmagazine.com/front-page/beyond-probiotics-pre-syn-post-and-psycho/.

14. Steve Lankford, “Clinically Tested Probiotic Promotes Healthy Vaginal Microflora,” Wholefoodsmagazine.com. Posted 11/01/2017. Accessed 06/06/2019. https://wholefoodsmagazine.com/multimedia/probiotic-healthy-vaginal-microflora/.

15. Urology Care Foundation, “Six Healthy Tip for Bladder Health Month,” Urologyhealth.org. Posted 11/08/2017. Accessed 06/06/2019. https://www.urologyhealth.org/careblog/six-healthy-tips-for-bladder-health-month.

16. Jillian Levy, CHHC, “Tomato Nutrition May Help You Fight Cancer & Inflammation,” Draxe.com. Posted 12/05/2018. Accessed 06/06/2019. https://draxe.com/tomato-nutrition/.