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Cranberry Juice For Urinary Tract Infections? Evidence Is Still Lacking

It always somewhat surprises me how some interventions never seem to die. One therapy that refuses to be put to rest, or even to be clarified, is the use of cranberry juice for urinary tract infections (UTIs). PubMed references go back to 1962, and there are over 100 references. Firm conclusions are still lacking.

There is a reasonable, but incomplete, basic science behind the use of the cranberry juice for UTIs. E. coli , the most common cause of UTIs, causes infection in the bladder by binding to the uroepithelial cells. To do this, they make  fimbriae,  proteinaceous fibers on the bacterial cell wall. Fimbriae are adhesins that attach to specific sugar based receptors on uroepithelial cells. Think Velcro. Being able to stick to cells is an important virulence factor for bacteria, but not a critical one — it is not the sine qua non of bladder infections.

Are all E. coli causing UTIs fimbriated? No. It is the minority of E. coli that cause UTI that have fimbria, and the presence of fimbriae may be more important for the development of pyelonephritis (kidney infection) than cystitis (bladder infection). Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Science-Based Medicine*

Vaginal Steam Baths: A Medical Opinion

A spa in California is offering vaginal steam baths, in which spa-goers squat or sit on open stools over a tub of hot steam, as a cure-all for menstrual, digestion, and mood disorders:

The V-Steam: Inspired by an ancient ritual practiced for many years in Korea. The steam from the herbal tea rises and absorbs into your skin & orifice. This steaming treatment stimulates the production of hormones to maintain uterine health, aids regular menstrual cycles, helps correct digestive disorders while soothing the nervous system. The natural antibiotic and anti-fungal properties are said to help maintain internal health as well as keeping your skin looking young. (30 min: $50. Series of 6: $180.)

It’s a douche, folks. A $50 douche made with mugwort and 13 other herbs and having a fancy Korean name: Chai-Yok. True, the water gets up there as steam, and if you don’t squat just right over the steam bath, I imagine it may not get up there at all. But in the end, it’s a douche.

We docs strongly advise against douching since we know that women who do it have higher rates of vaginal and pelvic infections. Not to mention that the vaginal mucosa is highly-absorptive surface, meaning anything you put in there is likely to end up in the rest of your body. And so I ask: What herbs are they using, at what doses, and what side effects might they have? Not to mention what might be growing in those wooden tubs they have you squatting over? Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at tbtam*

UTI and “Eat, Pray, Love”

Eat, Pray, LoveI really didn’t expect to like Eat, Pray, Love. In fact, since its publication in 2006, I’d been avoiding it like the plague. “Typical new-agey, Oprah-y, girly-book,” I thought. Nothing in it to speak to me.

Then I saw the trailer for the movie, and I was hooked –- probably because I, like mostly everyone, love Julia Roberts. I immediately downloaded the book on my iPhone using the Kindle App and began to read.

First, let me say that Elizabeth Gilbert writes exceptionally well, and the book is actually a joy to read. I, of course, loved the Italy eating part. But more surprising to me, I wasn’t turned off by the whole yoga, Guru, find-yourself stuff. This is because Gilbert writes it all with a reporter’s curiosity and a skeptic’s eye, and frames it not as a belief system, but as a tool for self-discovery and peace. (Plus, I’m really good at skimming if I get bored.)

Too bad Gilbert’s curiosity and skepticism does not extend to the healthcare she receives while in Bali. She accepts the curative powers of a warm leaf placed on an oozing, infected cut without even wondering what leaf it might be or how it might have worked. Was it the heat (most likely) or something else (possibly)? I was dying to know.

She Xeroxes pages and pages of traditional medical treatments without sharing a single one with us in any meaningful way. While I’m pretty sure 99 percent of what was in there was bunk, there might be a few gems that would serve medical science. Unless Lizzie made a second copy, we’ll never know, will we?

But it was the UTI that really got to me. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at tbtam*

Herbal Remedy For UTI? If You’re A Lab Rat, Maybe

Lab ratA patient came into the office the other day carrying a small clipping from a reputable women’s health newsletter touting new research on an herbal remedy for urinary tract infection. Having recurrent bladder infections, my patient naturally was wondering if this was something she should try.

The article was entitled “Herbal Remedy Effective for Urinary Tract Infections” and began with this startling revelation:

The common herbal extract forskolin can greatly reduce urinary tract infections and could potentially help antibiotics kill the bacteria that cause most bladder infections. 

But the article advised that the “popular” remedy was not FDA approved for this indication, so you should “ask your doctor.” Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at The Blog that Ate Manhattan*

A Patient Encounter With Dr. Idiot

Earlier this week, I had a bit of a medical issue.  Painful urination, high blood sugars, and the constant need to pee.  (Ladies, I know you already know what’s up.)  Urinary tract infection looming large.  I was livid, because it was the day before I was scheduled to travel for this week’s business.

I haven’t got time for the pain, so I called my primary care physician, Dr. CT.  “Hi Nurse of Dr. CT!  It’s Kerri Sparling.  Listen, I’m pretty sure I either have a kidney stone or a urinary tract infection, and I need to rule it out before I leave for a week-long business trip.”

Dr. CT was on jury duty.  Damnit.  So I had to call a local walk-in clinic, instead.

The clinic was a hole in the wall.  Part of a strip mall structure.  My confidence wasn’t high, but my blood sugars were and my whole body was screaming for attention, so I knew I had to follow through.

The receptionist was very nice.  The nurse was even nicer.  They took my blood pressure (110/74), my temperature (98.8) and a urine sample (ew). THIS is not for urine, people!

I should have known from the moment the sample cup was given to me that it wasn’t going to be a fun visit.  The very kind nurse handed me this  —>

That is not a urine sample cup.  That’s like a party cup that you use for lemonade on a hot summer day.  Not for pee.  Oh God.

And then the doctor came in.  For the sake of anonymity, we’ll call him Dr. Idiot.

“Hi.  I’m Dr. Idiot.”

“Hi, I’m Kerri.”

“Kerri, I see you are here for pain when urinating.  Are you urinating frequently?  You see, you are spilling a significant amount of urine.  I believe we may have found the source of your troubles.”

He closed his file, proud of himself.

“Dr. Idiot?  On my chart there I wrote that I have type 1 diabetes.  I know my blood sugar is elevated right now, which sucks but at least it’s not a surprise.  But that’s not why I’m here.  I actually suspect that …”

He cut me off.

“I think we need to address this first problem.  You are aware of your diabetes, you say?  How many times a month do you check your sugar?  You know, with the glucose machine and the finger pricker?”

If I wore bifocals, it’s at this point that I would have slid them down my nose and given him a hard, Sam Eagle-type stare.

“I test about 12 – 15 times a day.  But the real reason …”

“You mean a month,”  he corrected me.

“No, I mean a day.  I have type 1 diabetes.  I wear a continuous glucose sensor.  And also an insulin pump.  I’m very aware of my condition, and I’m also very aware that it’s slipping out of control today because of this other issue, the pain issue.  Can we talk about that?”

He looked at my chart again.  “So you don’t use a meter?”

“Sir, I use a meter.  And a machine that reads the glucose levels of my interstitial fluid.  This is in addition to my insulin pump.  I don’t mean to be rude but …”

Now he gave me a hard look.  “Why the interstitial fluid?  Why not the blood directly?  I mean, you could have more precise readings with the blood.”  He picked up my Dexcom from the chair next to me and pressed a few buttons to light up the screen.  (Mind you, he did not have permission to touch it, but I’m again not saying anything.)

“You mean like a pick line?  I don’t know.  I’m sorry.  Ask them?”

“Yes, but it would make much more sense and …”

I just about lost it.

“I’m sorry.  I didn’t come here to talk about that.  I want to talk about the issue I’m here for.  Which is not diabetes.  Or your ambitions to know more about CGMs.  Please can we address what I’m here for?”

“The sugar in your urine.”  With finality, he says this.

“NO.  The fact that I think I have a UTI or a kidney stone.  Please.  Help.  Me?”

I kid you not – we went ’round and ’round about this for another ten minutes.  He didn’t believe me that I was at least sort of familiar with diabetes.  His ignorance included, but wasn’t limited to, the following statements:

  • “High sugar causes frequent urination.  Maybe that’s why you are peeing often?”  (Not because I was drinking a liter of water per hour to flush my system?  Nooo, couldn’t be that.)
  • “Did you have weight loss surgery?”
  • “Grape juice also causes high blood sugar.”
  • “That thing should really be pulling blood samples.  Pointless otherwise.”  (Meaning my Dexcom.)
  • “The urinalysis won’t be back until Friday, and in the meantime you should start on a regimen of insulin immediately.”
  • And also:  “I didn’t peg you for a pink girl.”  (Are.  You.  Serious??)

The end result, after an escalating argument that involved me yelling, “Stop.  Talking about my diabetes and PLEASE focus why I’m here!” was a prescription for Macrobid that I could elect to take if my symptoms didn’t alleviate, and the instructions to call back on Friday for official lab results.

“Thank you.  Really.  Can I go now?”

He at least had the decency to look ashamed.

I’ve had some wonderful doctors over the last 30 years, and my health is better for it.  But this guy?  Complete disappointment.

*This blog post was originally published at Six Until Me.*

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