People don't talk much about recurrent UTIs, which can become so severe that they are life-limiting in many ways. To those who have never suffered it's often seen as just another 'hidden illness' and the true pain and misery are misunderstood. It is estimated that up to 92 million people will suffer a UTI globally every year, and in less developed countries these can be fatal.
On a personal level, recurrent UTIs are a curse nothing more nothing less! They are never far from my mind as they control and influence so much in my daily routine. Simple things like my morning coffee, a glass of wine, a spin class, even sex (!) are tarnished by the worry of a dreaded infection.
Shivers, palpitations, passing blood and the worst burning pain imaginable can hit me when I least expect it. I can still clearly remember my very first infection, at around the age of 13. I thought I was dying, passing pure blood and crying on the toilet for hours on end! Eurgh! After 3 babies I'd honestly rather give birth. I never leave the house without cystitis sachets, bicarbonate of soda (yes I drink that) and painkillers. To say it affects my quality of life, is at time very much minimising the issue.
As I've gotten older I can see a pattern in my triggers and can begin to at least take some control. I love coffee but my bladder doesn't. It's the same with wine and chocolate! Of course, they are all the blooming things I enjoy! Sometimes, if I am VERY careful and extremely lucky, I can go a few months without an infection. At other times I can have 2/3 infections back-to-back which inevitably then leads to a kidney infection. It is something that I've learnt to live with, but also live in fear of.
Through so much constant infection and treatment with medication, I'm now resistant to all but one antibiotic. And, that one antibiotic makes me feel like I've done ten rounds with Mike Tyson! My finest hour on the said antibiotic was collapsing at my 6 year old sons nativity play. Poor Henry, there he was playing Joseph, and his mum steals the spotlight... haha!
This summer it just became too much. I wasn't coping with the continual impact on my health, life and wellbeing any more. After 4 infections back-to-back, the doctor referred me for a 'bladder stretch'. You knows things are bad when you're actually excited at having your bladder and urethra stretched with a delightful instrument, all while watching it on a big screen!
At around the same time, while chatting with a nurse friend, she happened to mention a supplement called D-mannose that claims to be as effective as long term antibiotics. The supplement had recently been added to the NICE Guidelines by Public Health England, and is something healthcare professionals have started to actively recommend for UTI self care.
I did a bit of research and came across a company called Birch & Wilde. They combine D-Mannose with Cranberry Extract. At this point, I was willing to try anything! I started taking just 2 capsules per day, straight after my operation. Truth be told, I was still expecting a horrid infection.... but nothing! Now, three months down the line, and I am very pleased to report that I've had no antibiotics since... for me that's unbelievably amazing! It actually feels a little miraculous after so many years of suffering without much hope. On a few occasions I've felt the slightest twinge of an onset of infection (I recognise the slightest sign by now!). So, as recommended, I have doubled up on the dose, and all signs disappeared.
You can read more about D-Mannose, what it is and how it could help you, in the Birch & Wilde blog here: D-Mannose De-Mystified - What is it and how will you benefit?
Of all the things that I hoped I might pass onto my girls, UTIs were most definitely NOT on the list. My poor Maisie was in hospital last week with her first UTI. It was agonising to watch. The only reassuring thing is, I now know how to help her, and I'm hoping I can start her on a lower dose of D-mannose as a preventative measure ASAP. The last thing I want is for her to suffer like me.
It's a bit of a taboo subject and not something people like taking about, but so many people suffer, many constantly. I really hope by sharing my story I can hopefully help others find some relief through the magic of this amazing D-mannose supplement.
Lots of love and healthy best wishes, Kim xx