Your bladder, like the rest of your body, is controlled by your brain. That’s why, if you’re one of the 2.3 million people worldwide who have multiple sclerosis, you’ve probably experienced a bladder infection.
Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a chronic disease of the central nervous system. A shocking 80% of MS patients struggle with bladder dysfunction, from holding in urine to emptying it out. When urine leaks out of the bladder or sits stagnant inside it, bacteria can spread and cause a urinary tract infection (UTI).
UTIs are associated with high hospitalization and mortality rates for MS patients, making them a major risk for people living with the disease. What’s more? UTIs can actually make the condition worse, causing more neurological damage and deterioration. Especially when the infection comes back again and again.
This is exactly what happened to Alaina.
Meet Alaina: an MS warrior and chronic UTI survivor
Alaina was diagnosed with MS back in 2015. She had two relapses after her diagnosis, but her health was otherwise stable. That is until she started getting urinary tract infections.
“I wasn’t getting a lot of them but then all of the sudden they became more frequent and got a lot worse. I went from having a UTI here and there to having chronic UTIs.”
For the bladder to work properly, sphincter muscles at the top and bottom of the urethra have to contract and release. MS can disrupt the nerve signals that control those muscles, causing multiple sclerosis incontinence. In other words, urine stops flowing freely through your urinary tract and bacteria stops getting regularly flushed out of your system.
Nerve damage can sometimes push urine the wrong way, spreading infection from the bladder to the kidney. On top of it all, some treatments for MS, like steroids, can make the immune system weaker and less equipped to fight off infections.
It’s no wonder why chronic UTIs are so common for MS patients like Alaina, resulting in symptoms such as:
- Frequent urination (especially at night)
- Burning sensation when you pee
- Releasing small amounts of urine uncontrollably
- Bloody or cloudy urine with a bad smell
- Increased spasticity and involuntary muscle stiffness for MS patients
- Abdominal pain
These MS urinary symptoms can happen even without an infection, which makes it easy for UTIs in MS patients to go unnoticed. If left untreated, the infection can spread to the kidneys and even the blood, where it can cause a life-threatening condition called sepsis.
In Alaina’s case, her chronic UTIs led to her bladder becoming severely inflamed, also known as cystitis.
“I ended up having a severe bladder infection that resulted in me having cystitis for 6 months. It basically left me bedridden. This was the most painful and debilitating experience I have ever had.”
Although Alaina’s cystitis was being treated, nothing seemed to be working. She was in constant pain and discomfort.
“It felt like a knife was stabbing my bladder. I had very bad nerve pain in the vaginal region that was torture. It also killed to be peeing lots of blood all the time. This pain was constant. I very rarely had downtime with no pain.”
This took an immense toll on her physical and mental health. On top of the complications of multiple sclerosis, Alaina was unable to enjoy life.
“I screamed and yelled every day, almost all day long. And I never could sleep. I would be up all night in pain.”
Once diagnosed, the first course of treatment for a UTI is antibiotics. In most cases, antibiotics can cure an infection within a week or so. But for people with recurrent or chronic UTIs, like Alaina, constant drug use can cause antibiotic resistance. No matter how many prescriptions her doctors gave her, Alaina’s cystitis raged on.
“My doctors kept wanting to cover up the pain with meds like a Band-Aid, so I decided to see a naturopath who specializes in bladder health.”
Dr. Ashley Girard, Alaina’s naturopathic doctor, used a multi-faceted approach to treat Alaina’s condition. We asked her to explain why Alaina’s previous treatments were not working and why a more natural approach could finally cure her cystitis.
"When Alaina first came to see me she was in a very difficult situation medically. Her MS had made her more prone to recurrent UTIs in general, and they were becoming more severe and frequent.
Three different antibiotics had failed to work, standard urine cultures were not showing an infection this time around, and her doctors were starting to consider other more serious diagnoses such as interstitial cystitis or bladder pain syndrome.
Some doctors are not aware that standard urine cultures fail to confirm an infection in approximately 30% of cases. Combine this with antibiotic-resistant organisms, and underlying immune and/or neurological dysfunction, and many women end up in this situation. Based on an analysis of her case and additional lab work it was likely she still had an infection.
By treating her in a multi-faceted approach that included diet, lifestyle, natural products and customized botanical formula, Alaina was able to return to a pain-free life. Because Alaina is more prone to UTIs due to her MS, it was imperative that she have a comprehensive evidence-based preventative strategy going forward that included a cranberry product containing the standardized amount of 36mg of proanthocyanidins.”
With the help of her naturopath, Alaina finally found a solution for her cystitis. She started taking supplements and herbs that boosted her bladder health and healed the damage that months of antibiotics and pain medicine had done. One of these magic supplements was Utiva’s Cranberry PACs Supplement.
“One of the supplements she has put me on is Utiva. Ever since I started taking them a couple of months ago, I haven’t had any infections and my bladder health feels more secure and protected.”
Every dose of Utiva’s Cranberry PACs Supplement is loaded with 36 mg of PACs, a powerful and all-natural compound derived from cranberries. PACs are clinically proven to prevent UTIs by stopping bacteria from sticking to the urinary tract lining.
By adding this supplement to her daily routine, Alaina has freed herself from chronic UTIs and constant pain.
“I am so thankful for this product and I am definitely going to stay on it for the rest of my life.”
How to prevent UTIs
Although MS and bladder problems go hand-in-hand, there are ways that you can prevent UTIs and maintain your long-term health.
While taking your Utiva supplements, try these additional UTI prevention tips for MS:
- Drink lots of fluids to keep urine flowing out of your system, preferably 8 glasses per day.
- Clean genitals and toys before and after sex.
- Wipe from front to back to avoid spreading germs forward into your urethra.
- Since a full bowel can press down on the bladder and damage its function, eat lots of vegetables to promote good bowel function.
- Keep wipes, pads, and extra underwear on hand in case of MS bladder issues, like incontinence.
- Avoid tight underwear and pants, as they can encourage bacteria growth.
- Consider pelvic floor physical therapy to improve the function of your urinary tract muscles.
- Take a daily probiotic, like Utiva’s Probiotic Power, to stimulate the good bacteria in your vagina and strengthen your immune system.
Stay educated on UTIs and MS
Multiple sclerosis is a chronic condition. But by staying in the know and taking control of your own health, you can still live a vibrant and fulfilling life with MS.
Inside our Utiva Community, you can talk to other people about their UTI struggles and how they are overcoming them. We host monthly virtual sessions with doctors and industry experts to educate and empower you to manage your own urinary health. And visit our learning hub to find all the information and resources you need to become a UTI prevention pro.
To learn more about UTI prevention and how Utiva’s doctor-recommended portfolio can help people like Alaina control their recurring UTIs, go to www.utivahealth.com.