The bladder is a bag-like reservoir that is used to store urine. It is located just below the kidneys and directly behind the pe...The bladder is a bag-like reservoir that is used to store urine. It is located just below the kidneys and directly behind the pelvis. The workhorse of the urinary system are the kidneys, they filter the blood and are akin to a water purification plant that cleans water for the city. The ki...
This system is highly important and often overlooked in human physiology. It is responsible for regulating blood pressure, pH (potential hydrogen) filtering the blood and also controlling the solute concentration (amount of glucose, sodium and other electrolytes floating around in the blood). The kidneys are the workhorse of this system, filtering the blood before it becomes urine and enters the bladder.
Below two types of blood vessels are shown. (1) Blue: Inferior vena cava, this brings deoxygenated blood away from the kidney and can be referred to as a vein. (2) Red: Aorta, this brings blood from the aorta to the renal arteries of the kidney, it is an artery (oxygenated blood is red - hence, arteries are red). For simplicity, the renal artery brings oxygenated blood to the kidney and renal vein brings blood away from the kidney.
What's most impressive is the kidney's ability to filter large volumes of blood. Approximately 150 litres of blood is filtered per day, if the average human body contains 5 litres this means it is filtered 30 times within a 24-hour window, fascinating, to say the least.
A simple way to think of this process is in four steps: (1) Filtration (blood enters the kidney and begins to filter water, glucose, sodium, etc.), (2) Reabsorption (reabsorb some water, sodium and glucose depending on what is needed), (3) Secretion (kidney filtrate enters the bladder) and (4) Excretion (urination)
The bladders most simplistic description - is a storage vessel for waste (filtered blood) from the kidney (i.e., urine). It has nerves that connect to the brain and also a muscle for contraction and relaxation. We can all recall a time where we are about to "burst", that nerve sends a signal from the bladder to the brain to tell us to find a bathroom fast. Men can store a little more urine than women, approx 750 ml in total. Once 300-400 ml enters the bladder a signal is sent through the spinal cord to the brain to urinate, as the bladder increases urine volume this signal intensifies, increasing the urge to urinate.
Key health aspects of Urinary System
The urinary systems main threat are urinary tract infections (UTIs). In fact, they are the most common disease of the urinary system. Data from the united states suggested 102/100,000 women experience this disease (Source: NCBI).
Importantly these diseases are not life-threatening, usually, just extremely uncomfortable. Standard treatment prescribes antibiotics to fight the bacterial infection.
While there is little research on nutrients that may help this disease, there is some worth detailing and exploring. See the next section.
How to treat UTIs?
Obviously, the answer here is to see your doctor immediately as many UTIs may be complicated and need specific medical attention and treatment.
For those that are milder in severity and uncomplicated you still need to consult your doctor, however, you can suggest or discuss some of the following evidence as a complementary treatment.
Without providing an in-depth review and description of many studies, below are the key points for this intervention.
Cranberry juice may be most effective for UTI prevention rather than treatment, at least the evidence is more robust for prevention (Source: NCBI & NCBI).
One study shows - cranberry powder (rich in the antibacterial compound) supplemented for six months can reduce UTI risk by >50% (Source: NCBI)
A recent review (2017) of randomised controlled trials (in healthy women) suggests cranberry can reduce the risk of reoccurring UTIs but has little to no efficacy for active UTIs or those currently infected (Source: NCBI).
How much do I use?
This is a difficult question as most studies use different forms (juice, powder, capsule, concentrated, normal) and contain various quantities of the main antibacterial compound.
However, a good starting place is 750ml of juice or 7.5g of concentrated powder. Higher doses may be more effective but this is difficult to determine currently. More research is needed to confirm and identify the specifics for cranberry as a complementary or standalone treatment. But it is promising.
Any food high in antibacterial compounds may help reduce the risk of UTIs and maybe also the incidence. Following a healthy balanced diet will provide an array of these compounds. In addition, grapefruit and cranberry can be included regularly as a preventative measure, but again, more research is needed to definitively conclude on this.
As a general rule try to consume 5-7 servings of fruit and vegetables a day. Importantly, if you do not consume animal products you should consult your healthcare professional to discuss and consider a vitamin B12 supplement. The main issue with vitamin B12 is everything is fine until it's not. Meaning its a silent threat to our health, we have stores in the liver that can last 1-2 years and even longer in some instances. Hence, get ahead and check your status, the first sign of vitamin B12 deficiency can, unfortunately, have already caused irreversible damage. Vitamin D is another at risk-nutrient and should be supplemented from October-March in countries of northern latitude (north of the equator, Ireland, UK, Denmark, etc.)
General and targeted supplementation should be considered for restrictive or low energy-density diets.
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