You have probably come home from a ride feeling pretty sore down there and wondered at what point you should be concerned and how you can prevent getting a pesky bladder infection. Getting a bladder infection is very uncomfortable and not to mention means riding the next day is off the table.

Bladder infections/urinary tract infections or medically termed cystitis are very common in women of all ages and account for more than 6 million patient visits to the doctor per year in the US . Bladder infections are caused most commonly by a few bacteria that are of the E.Coli family that naturally live in the urinary system but when they get out of their healthy balance they can cause an infection. For mountain bikers there are a few factors that can increase the risk of the healthy vaginal bacteria getting out of balance.

Here are a few big ones:

  • Long hours in a hot sweaty chamois – sweat and heat change the sensitive balance of pH (acidity of the vaginal flora) and create an environment that fosters overgrowth of the “bad” bacteria
  • Constant irritation to the sensitive vaginal tissues – abrasions replace healthy vaginal wall tissue which is needed to protect the vaginal canal through natural secretion of fluids
  • Altered blood flow to the vaginal area – blood flow is essential for healing and supplying the good bacteria with proper nutrition

Some of the more common symptoms of a urinary tract infection include: burning with urination, increased frequency, painful urination, sensation of bladder fullness or abdominal pressure, and a sense of urgency. In more serious situations, you can also get a fever with chills and fatigue, and sometimes even blood can be seen in the urine. Urinary tract infections are diagnosed by doctors (Naturopathic and medical) through confirming a set of symptoms and a test called the urine analysis. A urine analysis is done through taking a urine sample, dipping a specialized analysis stick into a sample of urine and reviewing the results. Generally, a urinary tract infection is present if there are at least one of the these three: elevated levels of leukocytes (a form of white blood cell which is increased in infections), a pH change (your urine becomes more acidic), and microscopic levels of blood detected in the urine. One of the more serious complications of a urinary tract infection is if the bacteria travels up the ureters (these are organ structures that lead from your bladder to your kidneys) and cause an infection to start in your kidneys.

Simple ways to prevent a bladder infection from occurring:

Generally, you will get some warning signs that a bladder infection is impending – burning sensation, slight increase in frequency of urination, or sensation of bladder fullness before a urinary tract infection becomes full blown. There are a few key things to do that may stop it in its tracks:

  • Increase water intake – this helps to dilute the infection and also clear it from the body. I generally recommend at least 2-4L over the next 4-6 hours if a patient comes into my office with the initial symptoms of a bladder infection
  • D-Mannose supplementation taken immediately – this is a special type of sugar that is the active ingredient in cranberry juice that helps the infection to “fall” off of the bladder wall preventing it from growing
  • Always urinate immediately after sexual intercourse – semen changes the acidity of the vaginal canal which makes it more susceptible to infection
  • Ensure proper washing of chamois after use – this is important for killing any bacteria that might reside on the chamois. Avoid re-use.
  • Wear a skirt after riding – airing out the undercarriage after lots of heat and damp sweat is one of the easiest ways to ensure the bad bacteria dies off. Usually, the “bad” bacteria grows in an environment that lacks air and oxygen. Look cute and support a good cause for your down under.
  • Use chamois cream – this helps to prevent chafing and damage of the precious vaginal tissues
  • Ensure you have a proper fitting bike seat – if you get numbness during your ride this can indicate that you are getting some nerve damage. Long term, nerve damage can actually affect vaginal sensation and sexual pleasure

It is highly recommended that if you get any of these symptoms that you seek professional medical attention immediately. There can be serious consequences if a bladder infection is not treated in a timely manner. The standard treatment for a bladder infection is a course of antibiotics for 3-7 days depending on which one you get prescribed . However, depending on severity, I have successfully treated many bladder infections with potent antibacterial herbs such as: berberis aristata (Barberry extract), Echinacea angustifolia (echinacea), Arctostaphylos uva ursi (uva ursi), and Agathosma betulina (Buchu) in combination with D- Mannose, lots of water, and proper hygiene with many of my patients who catch their symptoms very early. The use of herbs helps to prevent the over-use of antibiotics and reduces the risk of antibiotic resistance.

Keep your undercarriage happy and happy trails.

Author Bio

Robyn is a Naturopathic Physician who is passionate about mountain biking, road cycling, and working with the body’s basic mechanics. Her focus is restoring and maintaining healthy motion for individuals. When not in her office, you’ll find Robyn her turquoise Transition Smuggler with purple highlights.

 

 

 

 

 

  1. Medscape website – cystitis in women retrieved July 26, 2016 from: http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/233101-overview
  2. WebMD website – Understanding Bladder Infections: the basics – retrieved July 28, 2016 from: http://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/understanding-bladder-infections-basic-information
  3. Medscape website – cystitis in women retrieved July 26, 2016 from: http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/233101-overview
  4. Domenici L. et al. “D-mannose: a promising support for acute urinary tract infections in women: a pilot study. “ European Review for Medical and Pharmacological Sciences. 2016. Jul;20(13):2920-5. Retrieved July 26, 2016 from: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27424995
  5. American Family Physician website – Diagnosis and Management of Uncomplicated Urinary Tract Infections retrieved July 28, 2016 from: http://www.aafp.org/afp/2005/0801/p451.html