I am constantly amazed by the human body. Because we are human beings, we can’t avoid getting sick, but our body has an amazing capacity to repair and renew. Take our kidneys for example. I remember being in hospital with my dad when the consultant told him his kidneys were on the brink of failing. Hearing this, my father determinedly drank his way through three-plus litres of water a day, despite being too weak to eat. I know how much he drank because we had to go and get him mineral water – he wouldn’t touch the chlorinated water the hospital gave him. The consultant was amazed that in two days his kidneys were back up and running again perfectly. What amazed me further was that the consultant said he hadn’t told Dad to drink that much water, despite knowing it was the best thing to do, because ‘patients generally found it too difficult’. I was speechless at the notion that operations and long term drug prescriptions were considered easier than encouraging a patient to try drinking water which might actually flush out their kidneys naturally.
Christmas is coming, and I’m sure I should be writing about something more cheerful that taking care of your kidneys! But I was amazed recently at the number of people coming into Organico with either kidney infections or cystitis, so I decided to focus on how we can prevent these uncomfortable conditions naturally rather than having to suffer over the holiday season.
Nearly 20 years ago when I was working in a healthfood shop in Glanmire when a woman came rushing in and told me she had cystitis, which was causing uncomfortable burning and stinging. She explained that she had to give a presentation that afternoon so she needed something that would work quickly. Immediately in fact. I could tell she didn’t want an in-depth consultation about diet and coffee consumption so I suggested Cantharis 30, a homeopathic remedy for burning stinging pains, and she rushed off again. Later that day she came back and thanked me, saying that the Cantharis worked immediately and her presentation had gone well. Naturally enough she was thrilled – and so was I. This was one of my most satisfying early experiences of working in a Healthfood shop, however now that I’m older and wiser I know that that was just luck. Experience has taught me that unless you are a trained homeopath it’s very difficult to prescribe a homeopathic remedy, even though when you get it right, the results can be amazing.
Other popular remedies include Goldenrod Tea (we all call it Kidney tea in Organico it’s so useful for kidney complaints). It’s a mixture of cleansing herbs in teabag form including Goldenrod, Birch leaves, knotgrass, horsetail and wild pansy, and comes from the herbal medicine company A.Vogel, who make extremely high quality herbal products. Goldenrod (a plant with gorgeous golden flowers which you can grow if you like) is an astringent and a diuretic, which makes it very beneficial for the urinary system. Birch leaves also have a history of use for kidney and UT problems, as well as gout and water retention. We recommend making a large teapot of Goldenrod tea and drinking it throughout the day for as long as you need to in case of infection (and for up to a week afterwards). For preventative purposes the tea can be drunk a couple of times a week to keep the whole urinary system flushed out and happy.
Cranberry is another very potent option that works for lots of people. According to Urologist Dr. Adrienne Carmack who has a holistic approach in her practise, meaning she uses natural remedies, as well as conventional medicines:
“Both cranberry juice and tablets have been proven in multiple scientific studies to be as effective as daily low dose antibiotics (the standard treatment offered by most urologists) for preventing recurrent UTIs (cystitis). The most important time of day to take tablets is bedtime, so that the cranberry product will remain in the urine during the time that it sits in the bladder the longest, when bacteria are most able to grow and establish an infection.”
Personally I think cranberry tablets are more useful than juice – most juices contain sugar which has very detrimental effects on cystitis, so I suggest cranberry capsules washed down with lots of water. The practical benefit is that you can always have them to hand, even on a Saturday night when you suddenly feel symptoms coming on. You can take cranberry in capsule form on it’s own if you feel an infection coming on, or else combined with probiotics as a low dose preventative if you suffer from recurring infections.
When cranberry does not work, at Organico we find that D Mannose can be a very useful alternative. D Mannose is a naturally occurring sugar that is related to glucose, which ‘sticks’ to the bacteria that cause cystitis and cause them to be rinsed away, meaning they cannot hang around and cause trouble. D Mannose comes in capsule and powder form, and is safe for longterm use. Dr Jonathon Wright, one of the first GPs in the states to use D Mannose in the US, suggests the following dosages:
1. For treatment of Cystitis: One teaspoon (about two grams) for adults, half to one teaspoon for children, dissolved in a glass of water and repeated every two to three hours. Continue for two to three days after symptoms have disappeared.
2. For preventing recurring infections: Start with the dosages listed above for treatment, then gradually reduce the dose, if possible.
Drinking a large glass of warm water with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice every morning may help prevent kidney stones by preventing the constituents that make up stones from binding together. Drinking water is excellent for your kidneys – and if you feel they need more support you could consider a course of a herbal tincture called Solidago, which is a stronger version of our Kidney Tea and was specifically developed with kidneys in mind.
And finally – to prevent infections, look after your immune system: A healthy immune system helps the body resist infections. Reduce or cut out sugar and sweet foods. Reduce white bread and white pasta. Vitamin C can be taken 1000 mg a day on a regular basis, and four times a day when an infection is present. Zinc can be taken 30 mg a day regularly and 60 mg a day when infected. Echinacea can be taken three times a day when an infection is present and should be continued for a week to two weeks afterwards.
As with any medical condition, please do consult your GP if you are concerned that you might have cystitis or a kidney infection. The advice in this column is not meant to replace medical advice.
Organico is open up to 4.30pm on Christmas Eve, and the shop re-opens on Tuesday, December 29 at 9.30am. We have a Vintage Christmas Fair upstairs in the Cafe on December 5, so call in! The Cafe re-opens on Tuesday, January 5. Have a lovely Christmas everybody!