Case Study: cystitis

This month’s case study is 40 year old ‘Hannah’ who came to the Clinic with cystitis


I had been suffering from persistent cystitis for about 6 months, with the symptoms getting gradually worse. I initially went to the pharmacist to buy some over the counter medication, but it had got so severe that I ended up visiting my GP who prescribed a course of antibiotics. He also told me to drink large quantities of cranberry juice as this is an age-old remedy for cystitis. It soon cleared up, but within a month it was back with a vengeance. All day at work I had an overwhelming urge to urinate every few minutes, normally with little urine to pass, so this obviously wasn’t great whilst trying to work as a busy PA. The pain on passing urine was so intense sometimes that I would feel sick and on a couple of occasions I actually developed a fever. I was getting so fed up with being in discomfort and it was starting to affect my social life and work life. Intercourse became difficult because this would often trigger a bout of cystitis. I had started to feel quite depressed by it all because it seemed to be ruling my life, so I decided I had to do something about it.


I was chatting to a friend who had suggested that my diet and general nutrition may influence the symptoms, so I did an internet search on nutrition and cystitis and I came across The Dr Marilyn Glenville website. It was excellent because it told me all about cystitis – what it is, how it is caused, the symptoms and both conventional and natural treatments available. My GP had never taken the time to explain this and was so quick to prescribe more antibiotics. I took on board the recommendations but knew I would need some expert guidance to keep me on track and keep me motivated!


I phoned the Dr Marilyn Glenville Clinic and spoke to a very helpful nutritionist who reassured me that they could help with my condition and talked me through what a consultation would involve. She explained that it would be an hour one-to-one and the nutritionist would go through my medical history and recommend dietary changes, including vitamins, minerals and herbs where necessary. I was very excited by this and decided to book my first consultation.


The receptionist at the Dr Marilyn Glenville Clinic posted me a comprehensive questionnaire to complete and return before my consultation, which allowed me to write down my main health concerns, symptoms I was experiencing and a ‘typical’ two day diet diary. I was horrified after filling in the diet diary to see how much chocolate I was eating, and very little vegetables and salad. I knew this was a problem but, because my job was stressful and I worked long hours, I used chocolate to get me through the day and by the time I got home I didn’t fancy preparing and cooking vegetables.


I met with the nutritionist a couple of weeks later and we went through my questionnaire in depth and she took a very detailed account of my symptoms and how I had been treating it up until now. She explained that cystitis is an inflammation of the bladder, and it can be the result of infection, irritation, or bruising, or even a combination of these three factors. Women are more prone to cystitis than men because the tube (urethra) that runs from the bladder to the outside of the body is much shorter (about 5cm/2ins) in women than it is in men (about 18cm/7ins). This means that bacteria can more easily travel to a woman’s bladder than it can a man’s. What’s more, the opening to the urethra is close to both the anus and the vagina in women (in men it’s quite a distance away), which provides even easier access for bacteria to enter the urethra and to make its way up to the bladder.


The nutritionist explained that the natural approach to dealing with cystitis involved treating the underlying cause of cystitis, while encouraging the body to heal itself. The fundamental aim is to help restore your health so that you are less susceptible to future attacks of cystitis. Taking over the counter remedies and antibiotics do not address the underlying cause – they simply deal with the symptoms.


She said that it was important to keep my system alkaline because over-acidity will aggravate the bladder. Foods that create acidity are animal proteins (found in meat and dairy), sugar, chocolate and caffeine – all of which I was consuming a lot of!


She gave me lots of practical tips on how I could incorporate more vegetables and salads on a daily basis. She noted that I was also drinking a lot of coffee – it had increased over the years, partly to help my energy and I suppose it was partly habit! She told me why coffee is not good – it’s acidic, which can irritate the bladder, and it has diuretic properties, which make us excrete valuable minerals and is dehydrating. So all in all, it was not at all good for me given my condition. She gave me lots of alternatives; both coffee substitutes and herbal teas. She also picked up on my lack of water, which is fundamental for cystitis because it dilutes the urine to help flush out harmful toxins that may be irritating the bladder. I said I found it hard to drink water so she suggested I have it warm and add some grated root ginger and Manuka honey. Manuka honey is naturally anti-bacterial and ginger is anti-inflammatory. She also recommended I drink a solution of water with bicarbonate of soda to help relieve the burning sensation.


The nutritionist recommended nutritional supplements, which she explained were specifically to address the bacterial imbalance, boost my immune system and calm the inflammation. I was put on an anti-oxidant (A, C, E, selenium and zinc) to boost immunity and help maintain healthy cells within the urinary tract. To this she added a probiotic (friendly bacteria), concentrated cranberry powder, Echinacea (for my immune system) and essential fatty acids. The cranberry powder was the equivalent of drinking a lot of juice, without the added sugar! The essential fatty acids were put in place to reduce inflammation and help the pain.


She also recommended looking into changing my bath and shower products as the harsh chemicals can irritate the area. She recommended some natural toiletries that were plant-based with essential oils.


I felt really motivated by the end of the consultation – I couldn’t wait to get started with the diet and supplements. She ordered the nutritional supplements for me to make it simpler and they arrived within a couple of days. I had never taken supplements so it was quite a challenge remembering them, but after a week it became second nature! I was so amazed to see that the more ‘unusual’ foods I had been recommended to eat were all stocked in the supermarket. This was great because it was so convenient for me, which was a huge factor. Due to my busy lifestyle, I needed everything to be simple and easy to implement. Even at work it was great because the restaurant had a salad option and homemade soups, which I had never thought about eating in the past!


The honey and ginger was amazing – I started every morning with this – it really set me up for the day. It was strange because I actually didn’t miss the coffee! As I really got into the diet I found myself actually ‘craving’ green vegetables and almost lost the taste for sugar. Within the first month the frequency of me urinating had reduced and there was definitely less pain. The whole area felt more comfortable. I generally felt better – had more energy, slept better and seemed to get less stressed at work. It wasn’t until changing my diet and taking the supplements that I realised, for so many years, I hadn’t been running on all four cylinders.


I had a follow up consultation in 6 weeks so the nutritionist could see how I was getting on. She had asked me to keep a daily diet and symptom diary so we could go through it together. She was very encouraging and said that I had done very well taking on board the changes. In the first 6 weeks I hadn’t suffered with cystitis, so for the first time in months I hadn’t taken any antibiotics.


Three months on and my diet consists mainly of fresh fruit and vegetables, fish, beans, nuts and seeds, salad and brown rice. I now look back and wonder how I ever ate so much sugar and coffee. My palate has really changed since seeing the nutritionist and I am totally converted with my toiletries – they are all natural and organic and smell wonderful. I can’t thank the team at The Dr Marilyn Glenville Clinic enough and just wish I had found out about them earlier. I have not had a bout of cystitis since!


Marilyn’s Comment


Hannah’s story is such an inspiration as it really does show how the power of nutrients can prevent such debilitating symptoms. There are times of course when medical intervention is needed, (i.e. if the infection had spread to the kidneys). However, cystitis is such a common condition that we see time and time again in the clinic and we have such good success. With the persistent symptoms Hannah was experiencing it was her body telling her to take note and listen. She could have continued taking the antibiotics and not actually addressed the root cause. Due to modern day living it sometimes feels easier to take the ‘quick fix’ but, as we can see from this case, after a while the body stops responding to the conventional treatment and symptoms can often get worse. Listen to your body – don’t ignore your symptoms, particularly if they are persistent – deal with them and take your health into your own hands.



If you would like to find out more about our clinics and the supplements and natural toiletries mentioned, then please see the Resources Page.





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