The urinary system, also known as the renal system or urinary tract, consists of the kidneys, ureters (the tubes that connect the kidneys and bladder), the bladder, and the urethra (the tube that connect the bladder to the outside of the body).
The organs in the urinary system work together to eliminate waste from the body, regulate blood volume and blood pressure, control levels of electrolytes and metabolites, and regulate blood pH. Normally, urine contains the by-products of our body’s metabolism — salts, toxins and water. Urine is also an excellent indicator of things going on in the body, for example when there is an injury, infection or inflammation, the urine can contain blood, protein or white blood cells. Glucose in the urine may be an indication of diabetes.
A functioning urinary tract is vital for our health and well-being. But when the urinary tract is not functioning well, we can suffer unpleasant symptoms.
A burning sensation while passing urine is an indicator of aggravated pitta dosha. It can be caused by a urinary tract infection (UTI), stones in the kidney or bladder, enlarged prostrate, or poor hygiene.
The presence of blood in the urine is known as haematuria. According to Ayurveda, it is a form of adhoga raktapitta. It is caused by stones or infection in the genito-urinary tract. Causes can include:
- Kidney or bladder cancer
- Irritation or swelling in the kidneys, prostate or other part of the urinary tract
- Polycystic kidney disease
- Blood clots or diseases that cause problems with blood clotting
- Sickle cell disease
- Strenuous exercise
Nephritis is inflammation of the kidneys. In Ayurveda it is called vrikka sotha. There are several types of nephritis depending on the specifics of the condition, and the symptoms that are present: acute, chronic, glomerulo, primary glomerulo, autoimmune, lupus, pyelo, and interstitial.
Both acute and chronic nephritis show oedema around the face, abdominal pain, headache, diarrhea, nausea and increased blood pressure in the morning.
Kidney stones (also known as renal stones) are generally formed by excess calcium, phosphates or oxalates around the kidney, ureter, bladder and urethra. The stones can be dissolved or dislodged. When they come down the urinary tract however, it can be excruciatingly painful.
Urinary tract infections (UTIs)
Urinary tract infections are a relatively common infection. An infection of the bladder is called cystitis and an infection of one or both kidneys is called pyelonephritis. E.coli bacteria is the most common cause of UTIs. Women tend to get UTIs more often than men, mainly because the length of their urethra is shorter than men’s, and therefore bacteria can travel the short distance from the external of the body into the areas where they can multiply and cause infection.
Inflammation of the prostrate gland results in urinary frequency and urgency, burning and painful urination, and pain in the lower genital areas. It is commonly caused by bacterial infection.
The presence of an abnormal amount of protein in the urine is known as proteinuria. The presence of protein in urine is not a problem by itself but it suggests the kidneys are not working properly. It may need detailed analysis of kidney function.
Problems in the urinary tract can be caused by ageing, illness, congenital disorders or injury. With age, changes in the kidneys’ structure and function can lead to reduced ability to remove waste from the blood. If the muscles in the ureters, bladder and urethra are not well exercised, they can tend to lose some of their strength. If the bladder muscles do not tighten enough to empty your bladder completely, it may lead to infection. A decrease in the strength of muscles of the sphincters and pelvis can also cause incontinence, the unwanted leakage of urine.
Ayurvedic management of urinary problems
Conditions affecting the urinary tract and kidneys are broadly termed Mutravahasrota Roga in Ayurveda.
Generally, the diseases affecting the bladder and urethra are known as Mutraghata. According to the Madhav Nidaan, Mutraghata has 13 kinds:
- Vatakundalika (spasmodic stricture of the bladder)
- Vatasthila (Enlargement of prostate)
- Vatavasti (Obstruction of the bladder outlet; retention of urine)
- Mutratita (Decrease in force of urinary stream; incontinence of urine)
- Mutrajathara (Distended bladder with urine and gas)
- Mutrasanga (Stricture of urethra)
- Mutrakshaya (Anuria)
- Mutragranthi (Malignant neoplasm/tumor of the bladder)
- Mutrashukra (Semen in urine)
- Usnavata (Cystitis, gonorrhea)
- Vastikundalam (Atonic condition of the bladder)
- Vidavighat (Retrovesical fistula)
- Mutrasada (Crystalluria; scanty urination)
Metabolic diseases that are characterised by excessive urination (polyuria) are usually known as prameha. Disorders of the urinary tract are caused by aggravated vata dosha. They can be treated with the help of diuretics (mutravirechana), which stimulate the flow of urine and balance the downward flow of the vata dosha.
Ayurvedic diet for urinary problems
- Reduce hot spices. Drink as much water as possible. Fresh lemon juice, fresh coconut water, orange juice, sugarcane juice, and pineapple juice are very beneficial.
- Consume seasonal fruits such as apple, grapes, peaches, berries, pomegranates, figs and plums in abundant quanties.
- Lactobacilli bacteria in curds can provide probiotics to your body and help correct any imbalances caused by bacterial infections.
- Use cinnamon as a healing spice in cooking. Drink herbal tea with cinnamon as it has an antibacterial effect on E.coli which causes infections of the urinary tract.
- Cardamom spice works wonderfully well as a diuretic. Chew on cardamom pods every day to cleanse the urinary tract, bladder, and kidneys, remove waste material, salt, excess water, impurities and combat infections.
- A soothing coriander drink will nourish and cool your urinary tract and help to flush out toxins.
- Include fiber in your diet (for example legumes such as kidney beans and horse gram are excellent sources of fibre).
- Use pink himalayan crystal salt, rock salt, or sea salt rather than conventional salt, which can burden the kidneys and bladder.
Ayurvedic lifestyle for urinary problems
- Limit exposure to extreme heat and sun.
- Do not hold the urge to urinate as it retains toxins in your system.
- Avoid dampness and moisture that can cause urinary infection.
- For incontinence, strengthen the pelvic muscles (use kegel exercises).
- Yoga asanas that strengthen the pelvic floor and urinary system include gomulkhasana (cow’s face pose), pawanmuktasana (wind-relieving pose), ardha matsendrasana (half spinal twist pose), uttanpadasana (raised leg pose), viparita karani (legs up the wall pose), mula bandha (root lock).
Panchakarma for urinary tract disorders
In Ayurveda, a balanced state of vata, pitta, and kapha doshas is responsible for good health. Urinary tract disorders are caused by the imbalance of these humours. Ayurvedic treatment for urinary tract disorders involves flushing out infection with detoxification, cleaning out blockages of the urinary tract, and adminstering herbs that tone the kidneys and normalise the functioning of the apana vayu (vata).
Panchakarma is the holistic method of elimination of the toxins and root causes of disease and purification. An experienced ayurvedic doctor will design a program tailored specifically to your needs. It may include treatments such as:
Snehapana: Oral administration of medicated ghee. It has the ability to transport therapeutically effective components to different tissues of urinary tract.
Abhyanga: This healing whole-body massage refreshes both physical and mental health, improves circulation, and unblocks channels.
Swedana: Medicated steam bath restores cell metabolism and flushes out accumulated body toxins.
Medicated enemas: A mixture of medicated herbs is administered to the colon via the anal canal.
Virechana (therapeutic purgation) – Therapeutic herbs are used to induce purgation – a complete emptying of the digestive tract.
Uttaravasti: In this treatment, ayurvedic enemas are administrated to the patient through the urethral or vaginal route.
Ayurveda offers a holistic approach and this article is intended for general education purposes only. At Vibrant Ayurveda, we begin management of your urinary tract disorder symptoms with a full assessment by one of our experienced ayurvedic doctors. The doctor will discern your specific problems and imbalances, and tailor your personalised detox therapies, herbs and dietary and lifestyle plans.
If you or anybody you know is seeking management of urinary tract disorders, make an appointment today to meet our team at either our Brisbane or Gold Coast centre.