The Pelvic Floor – it’s more than just kegels!

Women’s Health week is celebrated every year to promote and create further awareness around common issues affecting women.

This year I was delighted to be invited to speak at the Epworth Freemason’s on pelvic floor health to both staff and those suffering from pelvic floor dysfunction.    I covered a number of topics, including pelvic floor function and anatomy, pelvic floor appropriate exercise, and why pelvic floor health is not just all about pelvic floor strengthening exercise.

Something that we find very commonly in many women who have had some form of pelvic floor dysfunction or injury is that the muscles may not be working effectively.  A healthy muscle needs to be able to relax as effectively as it can contract, and the pelvic floor is no exception!

One of the most important things in pelvic floor rehabilitation is that we fully assess the pelvic floor function and retrain all of the components appropriately.  This may mean we need to teach the muscles how to relax first before we can strengthen them.  This is called down-training and there are a number of different techniques we can use to teach the muscles this skill.

Another important factor is to consider all of the other muscles that are involved in optimal pelvic floor strength.  These include; your lower back muscles, abdominal muscles, groin and glut muscles, and the diaphragm.  Did you know that even the way you breath may affect how the pelvic floor muscles function!  By looking at all the different components of a health functioning pelvic floor we are able to assess and address those contributing factors, often leading to a more successful outcome!

As you can see there are a large number of areas to investigate when it comes to pelvic floor dysfunction and this is why a thorough assessment with a specialised women’s health physiotherapist is of paramount importance!  So pop in for an assessment if this applies to you and get started on appropriate pelvic floor rehab!

B Physio Grad Cert (Pelvic Floor) image022

Clinical Pilates Instructor


Pain in Children and Adolescents

Pain in Children and Adolescents

Children are often seen in the Clifton Hill Physiotherapy clinic with complaints of pain in varied parts of their body – back, knees, ankles or feet are just some of the places children will present with pain. Often the examination will find a specific condition, or changes to strength and flexibility, due to growth or previous injury, that can be rectified with an exercise programme of strengthening and stretching activities.

However, this is not always the case, and we do see children who experience pain that is often felt in the absence of any tissue damage, or muscle weakness or tightness. Our improved knowledge of the way our brain works can provide us with an explanation for how a child can experience pain in the absence of any damage to the body’s tissues.

Factors that can influence a child’s pain include

Previous experiences of pain
Exposure to pain within the family or school environment
Fear of movement causing tissue damage
Other stresses at home or school including
Academic achievement
Performance expectations
The team at Clifton Hill Physiotherapy has extensive experience managing children’s pain, and identifying when the above factors might be contributing to your child’s pain. The assessment of the child’s musculoskeletal status, plus investigating any psychosocial issues that maybe present will allow us to make the best recommendation for your child. Our assessment will also include asking special questions that will identify if further tests are required. Often education regarding pain, including reassurance and de-threatening the child’s movement and activity, is enough to manage and resolve the pain. If the pain has been more persistent and the child has reduced their activity for an extended period, this needs to be in conjunction with an exercise programme that helps to gradually condition the body to normal activity.

Brendon Egan, Physiotherapist

About Brendan

Brendan is an experienced paediatric Physiotherapist having spent over sixteen years working at the Royal Children’s Hospital treating children and adolescents with a range of conditions. He has presented at national and international conferences and is co-author and editor of a book on sporting choices for boys with Haemophilia.

Brendan’s particular expertise is paediatric musculoskeletal issues with many years of experience treating children with persistent pain, haemophilia, juvenile arthritis, scoliosis and burns management. Other interests include advising families on developmental issues such as flat feet, knock knees and torticollis/wry neck. Children and adolescents requiring rehabilitation following trauma, fractures and surgery would also benefit from Brendan’s expertise.

Women’s health week tips from Rosie

Rosie Purdue, Clifton Hill Physiotherapy’s women’s health expert, gave an informative presentation today on women and exercise, toStrong_women celebrate women’s health week.
We want to send a special thank you to the women and lovely babes who joined us for the comprehensive talk and morning tea; and for asking great questions and sharing stories….keeping the sisterhood strong!
And remember:
  • Exercise for your body and mind
  • 30 mins moderate exercise most days
  • Keep your pelvic floor muscles strong
  • Safely exercise before, during and after pregnancy
  • See your specialist before returning to sport
  • If you’re concerned, seek help


It’s Women’s Health week

It’s Women’s Health week, so let’s celebrate Women, Exercise and Pregnancy during Sep 5-9

Clifton Hill Physiotherapy is teaming up with The Jean Hailles Foundation to promote women and their health during women’s health week.

Women are often told to exercise comfortably when they are pregnant. This is certainly true to a point; women should absolutely listen to their bodies, but the recommended guidelines are actually more precise than this. In fact, it is recommended that women do 30 mins of moderate intensity, safe exercise, most days a week.

Moderate exercise means you are breathing heavily, can hold a short conversation and are somewhat comfortable, but the exercise is becoming more challenging. 30 minutes does not have to be done all in one go either; you can break this up during the day. It is important to stay fit and healthy during your pregnancy for your baby’s health but also so that you are comfortable, remain active and give yourself the best chance for recovery.

Apart from the obvious postural and hormonal changes that the mother goes through, there are also significant changes to the heart, lungs, kidneys and gastrointestinal systems. One important change is that pregnant women produce a hormone called relaxin. Relaxin allows the ligaments in the body to stretch and this hormone is great because it allows your pelvis to adapt to the growing baby. Relaxin is in the bloodstream and therefore it is throughout the entire body, not just the pelvis. Consequently, your newfound flexibility may be counteracted by your muscles tightening and this will cause a different strain on your body.

The combination of all these changes means that the mother needs to be educated about how much and what type of exercise she should be doing. This is very important that the mother and baby stay safe, fit and healthy. These are some of the basic recommendations for pre and post-natal exercise:

First trimester: Correct pelvic floor exercises, proper technique for core exercises, fix any postural imbalances and continue exercising.

Second trimester: Correct pelvic floor exercises, no exercising on your back, no heavy lifting, no new exercise (except Pilates), prevent pelvic pain, maintain muscle strength, improve deep core strength.

Third trimester: Pelvic floor exercises, no exercising on your back or tummy, maintain fitness and strength.

Post-natal:  Whether you had a natural or caesarean delivery, the first 6 weeks is gentle. Enjoy being a mum and focus on walking, pelvic floor exercises and correct deep core exercises. It is best to get your tummy and pelvic floor muscles checked by a physio before returning to exercise. When your baby is 12 weeks old and you have been cleared by your health professional, you can slowly return to your normal exercise routine.

At Clifton Hill Physiotherapy, Pilates & Rehab we have expert Physiotherapists to safely guide your fitness and rehab through the ante natal to the post natal period, including pre-natal pilates and mums and bubs post-natal classes. Call 9486 1918 for more information.

To help celebrate Women’s Health week Clifton Hill Physiotherapy is hosting a FREE seminar to learn about the importance of exercise and pregnancy at our clinic, from 10am – 12pm, at 101-103 Queens Parade.

Spaces are strictly limited and RSVP by Tuesday 29 August is essential. If you’d like to attend email 

Seminar flyer information

Rosie Purdue

Women’s Health physiotherapist

Good life with osteoarthritis in Denmark (GLA:D)

Osteoarthritis is the most common lifestyle disease in people over 65 years of age, more common than heart disease and diabetes. It is also very common in younger people, especially in the years following acute traumatic injury. As such it causes significant burden to many Australian’s and their families in the form of pain, daily disability and restrictions in meaningful activity participation such as sports or social outings.

IMG_5474A common question physiotherapists receive from their patients is, “how did I get osteoarthritis?”. There are a number of risk factors, including previous injury, decreased muscle strength, joint loading behaviours, genetic influences and many more. Unfortunately, it is a chronic disease and requires attention for long term management and maintenance of function and participation.

Many are aware of the overwhelmingly valuable benefit that physical activity and exercise can provide for holistic wellbeing, however there is strong evidence advocating exercise therapy and education as the best first line treatment for joint osteoarthritis.

It is a common misconception that by continuing to exercise when arthritis pain presents is harmful and will accelerate joint degeneration. This is untrue, and appropriately performed exercise will in fact have a protective effect from worsening symptoms. The challenge of prescribing the most appropriate exercise behaviours is dictated by many factors specific to each individual and their experiences. Exercise also needs to reflect the ambitions of each individual, so a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach is not the most appropriate method for achieving a specific set of goals.

IMG_5476Clifton Hill Physiotherapy/Pilates and Rehab is proud to be able to offer a GLA:D program (Good life with osteoarthritis, Denmark) for thorough osteoarthritis management and understanding. GLA:D is a new program which specifically targets hip and knee osteoarthritis by offering supervised group exercise coupled with an educational component, which helps participants to understand their pain and how to self-manage this chronic condition. Developed from the programs implemented in Denmark and Canada, it is the best first line treatment of hip and knee arthritis. It provides the opportunity to start your arthritis management journey under the safe supervision of our professionally trained GLA:D physiotherapists.

If hip or knee osteoarthritis is troubling you, contact our reception for more information, alternatively visit the GLA:D Australia website;

5 top foods to nourish your gut bacteria

5 top foods to nourish your gut bacteria

Our digestive systems are the unsung workaholics of our bodies, toiling around the clock to break down and absorb nutrients from the food and fluids we consume.

Within this ongoing cycle, our large intestine – often referred to as our gut – is the office hero. Though perhaps we should say office heroes, because it is actually the populations of tiny organisms that live in our gut that keep us healthy.

These microorganisms are also known as the microbiota, gut flora or gut bacteria. And strange as it may seem, your gut is home to a lot of them – billions, in fact. There many different types of gut bacteria, with most of us having more than 1000 different species.

Even though we can’t see them with the naked eye, we cannot underestimate the important role that our gut bacteria play in not only our digestive health, but our immune system and mental health. Part of their duties also involve the absorption of essential nutrients, protecting us from harmful bacteria and even influencing inflammation.

We spoke to Jean Hailes naturopath Sandra Villella about how to support your digestive system through eating everyday foods. Here are her five top foods to nourish your gut bacteria:

  1. Brown rice

The nutrients in brown rice encourage the growth and activity of healthy gut bacteria. Red and black rice are also good options for the gut and, luckily, are becoming more available in some supermarkets.

Wherever possible, opt for brown rice over white rice and get the benefits from this healthy wholegrain.

  1. Oats

Oats contain a unique type of fibre that nourishes and restores healthy gut bacteria. This makes oats a great food to eat every day and they are especially suited to breakfast – porridges, muesli or a smoothie with oats.

  1. Linseeds/ flaxseeds

These tiny brown, tan or golden-coloured seeds are high in fibre and can help to create an environment within the gut in which the healthy bacteria want to grow and live.

To ensure freshness and to get the most benefit from this food, Sandra recommends freshly grinding your linseeds at home in a coffee grinder or spice grinder, and storing the ground seeds for up to two weeks in an airtight container in the fridge.

You can get more linseeds into your daily diet by trying out Sandra’s latest recipe, Buckwheat porridge, or her Linseed, banana and date muffins, or simply sprinkle a tablespoon or two of ground seeds over your porridge in the morning.

  1. Prebiotic foods

Prebiotics (note: not probiotics) are a type of nutrient that are very beneficial for promoting gut health. Essentially, prebiotics are fuel for healthy gut bacteria, so it’s important to eat enough prebiotics to keep the populations alive and healthy.

Prebiotics occur naturally in a number of everyday foods, such as:

  • garlic, onions, leeks and spring onions
  • asparagus, artichokes and beetroot
  • broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, watercress and kale
  • legumes such as chickpeas, lentils and red kidney beans.


  1. Yoghurt & kefir

Another way to help keep your populations of good bacteria healthy is by eating them! Yoghurts often contain healthy gut bacteria, but it’s important to check the labels.

Good products will not only specify the type of good bacteria, but also the quantity of good bacteria. Sandra recommends eating yoghurt that contain around one billion good bacteria per serve.

Kefir is another type of food, similar to yoghurt, containing even greater amounts of healthy bacteria. Kefir is available in some health food stores, or some people make it at home. It can be quite sour to taste, but many people enjoy it as part of their breakfast – added to smoothies or with fruit.

A gut-healthy recipe

We hope you can start including more of these foods in your daily diet. If you’re still not sure where to start, Sandra has designed a delicious recipe filled with colourful whole foods and some of these ingredients to nourish and restore your healthy gut bacteria: Aduki bean salad. You could also try out her Bircher muesli recipe.

As a leaving thought, did you know that up to 60% of digestive health conditions are associated with stress? So while it’s important to eat a balanced diet rich with gut-nourishing foods, it’s also important to keep your stress levels in check – a balanced lifestyle, rest and happiness are just as essential to your digestive health.

Read more about healthy living and healthy eating on the Jean Hailes website.


Published with the permission of Jean Hailes for Women’s Health
1800 JEAN HAILES (532 642)

What to eat in winter

What to eat in winter

If the colder weather has you thinking non-stop about food, why not focus on the seasonal foods that are actually good for you, instead of reaching for unhealthy choices?

Below, Jean Hailes naturopath Sandra Villella talks about her tips and winter-food winners, explaining how they can help you through the colder months and how to get more of these ingredients into your daily diet.

Change up to warm up

When winter hits and the outside temperature drops, it’s a good idea to change your food choices to suit the season, explains Sandra. “Move away from the summery health foods of cold salads and smoothies, and warm up from the inside by eating more cooked and warm foods,” she says. “Many of us do this automatically and start to crave winter-warming meals such as soups and stews in the colder months.”

You can also increase the warming power of food by adding certain herbs and spices. Ginger, cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg and allspice can be used in both sweet and savoury dishes for an added kick of warmth. Add a pinch or two of your favourites as you cook your porridge, soup or roasted vegies.

Herbal teas to help you through

Instead of warming up with another tea or coffee, Sandra suggests having your favourite herbal teas close at hand, either at work or home. “Ginger tea has been traditionally used to boost circulation, it’s anti-inflammatory and wonderfully calming to the digestive system. Real chai tea [not powdered] is another good option, it can be bought as a tea blend and is made with a combination of warming herbs and spices.”

An added bonus of drinking herbal teas in winter is that they help you to stay hydrated if you don’t feel like drinking water in the colder weather.

Pumpkin, sweet potato & carrots

To satisfy the ‘carb’ cravings that often come with winter, Sandra suggests including these orange-coloured options.

Pumpkin, sweet potato and carrots are excellent sources of beta-carotene, a nutrient that the body can convert to vitamin A and use to aid our immune system. It helps to form our body’s first line of defence against colds, viruses and other infections that are common in the colder months.

Sweet potatoes can be used wherever you would use regular potatoes – mashed, roasted or steamed – and contain more beneficial nutrients than their paler cousins. Roasted carrots add a naturally sweet element to other vegetables or a roast.

Sandra’s roasted pumpkin and tofu curry, aduki bean salad and Mediterranean style zucchini slice all boast the benefits of these wonderful vegies.

Start your dinner with soup

Having a small bowl of vegie soup before your main meal is a great way to boost your daily vegetable intake. It can also help to manage potential winter weight gain, by reducing the amount of food you eat in the meal overall.

Here is a basic recipe to follow: sauté some garlic and onion or leek, add all of your favourite soup vegetables and a good stock, simmer until done. Serve with an optional dollop of pesto.

Soups can also form the whole meal and makes excellent leftovers for lunch. Sandra’s cauliflower and cannellini bean soup is a delicious and extremely quick meal to prepare, especially suited for the winter months when cauliflower is in season. Some of her other favourite combinations are lentil, barley and vegetable, chicken and vegetable, and lamb shanks and vegetable.

For soups that take a little longer to make, Sandra recommends making a big batch and freezing easy-portioned sizes for the weeks ahead.

Don’t skip the protein

A key nutrient to pay attention to during winter is zinc. This mineral helps our immune system to recognise and destroy invading bacteria and viruses, so being low in zinc can make you more likely to pick up winter bugs.

Protein foods are the best sources of zinc, says Sandra.

“Always include a fist-sized portion of protein at every meal,” she says. “Animal sources of protein are meats, eggs, fish and dairy. Lower amounts are found in vegetable sources such as pulses/legumes; for example beans, chickpeas and lentils, as well as seeds and nuts.

“The zinc in these vegetable sources is more available if they are sprouted, so soaking overnight in water starts this sprouting process.”

Find out more about healthy eating and access more recipes and quick tips by visiting the Jean Hailes Kitchen.

Published with the permission of Jean Hailes for Women’s Health
1800 JEAN HAILES (532 642)

Good Life with Arthritis (GLA:D)

GLA:D (Good Life with Arthritis: Denmark) Program at Clifton Hill Physiotherapy

An exercise and education program for people with hip or knee osteoarthritis (OA) symptoms.IMG_5471

The GLA:D program is an exercise and education program developed by researchers in Denmark for people with hip or knee osteoarthritis symptoms.

Results from the GLA:D program in Denmark have shown:

  • Symptom progression reduction of 32%
  • Less pain
  • Reduced use of joint related pain killers
  • Less people on sick leave
  • High levels of satisfaction with the program
  • Increased levels of physical activity 12 months after starting the program

On the success of the GLA:D program in Denmark, this program has been implemented in other countries, and most recently it has been launched in Australia.

The GLA:D Australia program consists of:

  • A first appointment explaining the program and collecting data on your current functional ability
  • Two education session which teach you about OA, how the GLA:D Australia exercises improve joint stability, and how to retain this improved joint stability outside of the program
  • Group neuromuscular training sessions twice a week for six weeks to improve muscle control of the joint which leads to a reduction in symptoms and improved quality of life

IMG_5473OA is the most lifestyle disease in individuals 65 years of age and older, but can also affect individuals as young as 30 years of age. Current national and international clinical guidelines recommend patient education, exercise and weight loss as the first line of treatment for OA. In Australia, treatment usually focuses on surgery. The GLA:D Australia program offers a better and safer alternative. The GLA:D program is unique in that the education and exercises provided can be applied to everyday activities. By strengthening and correcting daily movement patterns, participants will train their bodies to move more effectively, prevent symptom progression and reduce pain.

At Clifton Hill Physiotherapy we started offering the GLA:D Australia program as one of our services just after Easter this year, making us one of the first practices in the country to implement this program which reflects the latest evidence in OA research. We are currently running the exercise sessions for this program at 10.30am on Mondays and Thursdays, and we will look launch some extra session times soon in response to demand. All GLA:D sessions at Clifton Hill Physiotherapy are currently run by Cathy Derham and Billy Williams, Physiotherapists trained in the GLA:D program.

Bladder health 101

Bladder health 101: tips to improve bladder control

We all have one. Yet the health of our bladder isn’t something many of us give much thought to – at least, not until something goes wrong with it!

It’s important to know how to take care of your bladder, and to get the right advice for your age and life stage. Throughout your life, your daily habits and practices can put you in a better position to avoid bladder leakage or loss of bladder control, also known as urinary incontinence.

Here, Jean Hailes’ own bladder guru, continence and pelvic floor physiotherapist Janetta Webb, explains how to treat your bladder well at every life stage.

For young women (and all women needing to know the basics)

Don’t go to the toilet if you don’t need to go. Many girls and young women are taught to empty their bladders before they go out, before long car trips, or when they arrive at their destination. Instead, listen to your body’s messages and pay attention to your natural urges. Your bladder works best when it can tell you when it needs to be emptied, rather than the other way around!

You can’t get an infection from a toilet seat, so please sit down. Your bladder empties itself much better when you are seated and relaxed on the toilet. If you need to, use a disposable toilet seat cover, but don’t get into the habit of hovering over the toilet.

Don’t strain to empty your bladder. When urinating, relax, take your time and let your bladder set the pace.

Any bladder leakage in young women and girls shouldn’t be ignored. If you (or your daughter) get any sort of bladder leakage – for example, when playing sport, laughing, sneezing or jumping on a trampoline – visit your GP and get it treated early.

Bowel health affects bladder health. Being constipated is a common cause of urinary incontinence in girls and young women. Keep your bowels in check by staying hydrated, eating a diet rich in fibre and whole foods (such as fruits, vegetables and wholegrains) and exercising regularly.

How much water should you be drinking? Unless instructed otherwise by your doctor, aim to drink 1.5-2 litres of fluids every day. This includes everything that you drink, not just water. There is no evidence to support that drinking more than this is healthier. If leakage is an issue, switch to decaffeinated coffee and tea.

For pregnant women

Up to half of pregnant women experience urinary incontinence, so special attention needs to be given to your bladder (and urinary system) during this time.

Dedicate a daily session to your pelvic floor. To avoid incontinence in pregnancy, learn how to correctly exercise your pelvic floor muscles (the ‘sling’ of muscles that support the bladder, bowel and womb). Set aside a dedicated time to do your pelvic floor exercises every day, while doing nothing else.

Squeeze at pressure points. Additionally, get into the habit of squeezing your pelvic floor muscles while doing activities that put more pressure on your bladder; for example coughing, sneezing, bending or lifting.

Change is normal. It’s normal for pregnant women to urinate more frequently and to need to use the toilet during the night. But watch out for constipation, which is common during pregnancy (see tips above regarding bowel health and fluid intake).

Don’t ignore pain. Lower back pain or pelvic joint pain during pregnancy can impact your pelvic floor. Seek a referral to a physiotherapist who specifically treats these conditions – find one by visiting the Australian Physiotherapy Association website.

Keeping fit is key. However, make sure it’s pregnancy-appropriate exercise.

For postpartum women

The first few days and weeks after birth are a crucial time for your pelvic floor. While you’re in hospital after the birth, lie down and rest as much as possible. Start your pelvic floor exercises as soon as you can do so comfortably, without any pain.

Get some extra support. Postnatal compression garments give extra support. Additionally, when first using your bowels after giving birth, and in the first few weeks after, support your perineum with your hand.

Exercise caution with heavy loads. Try to avoid lifting anything heavier than your baby in the first six weeks after birth.

Return to a healthy fitness as soon as you are comfortable. One of the best exercises is walking. But if you experience bladder leakage with any exercise (such as jogging or gym workouts), it’s your body telling you that you are not yet ready for that particular form of exercise. Again, seek treatment for leakage early.

A note for breastfeeding mums. Breastfeeding keeps your levels of the hormone oestrogen low. As oestrogen supports bladder control, you will therefore rely even more on good pelvic floor strength.

For menopausal & postmenopausal women

Incontinence issues often arise in menopause. This is due to the falling levels of oestrogen, which can impact bladder control. Incontinence is also more common after gynaecological surgery.

Night-time bladder habits. If you wake during the night because of insomnia or night sweats, don’t just go to the toilet for ‘something to do’, or to help you get back to sleep. Empty your bladder only when needed.

Urinary tract infections are more common in midlife women. This is because of the reduction of oestrogen. Seek advice from your GP.

Tips for healthy ageing

Maintain your levels of fitness. The fitter you are, the better your flexibility, strength and endurance will be. This not only means you’ll be more able to maintain pelvic floor strength, but also helps with the practicalities of making it to the toilet in time.

Get back pain and hip pain treated. Don’t allow pain to limit your mobility.

Learn more about bladder health and urinary continence by visiting the Jean Hailes Bladder & bowel webpages.

Published with the permission of Jean Hailes for Women’s Health
1800 JEAN HAILES (532 642)

Your guide to UTIs

Your guide to UTIs

Are UTIs (urinary tract infections) just part of being a woman? Something we have to put up with? By the time they turn 24 years of age, one in three women will have had a UTI, and they affect more than 50% of all women during their lifetime.

Recurrent UTIs are also common, with some women getting an infection again and again, impacting many aspects of life – from sex and relationships, to work or study.

UTIs can affect any part of the urinary system, with the bladder being the most common site. A UTI affecting the bladder is also known as cystitis, or a bladder infection.

Read on to find out what causes a UTI, how to manage and treat a UTI and how to reduce their frequency of recurrent UTIs.

Causes & risk factors

Jean Hailes gynaecologist Dr Judith MacNaughton explains the causes of UTIs and why women are more at risk than men. “UTIs are caused by bacteria that enter the body, usually through the tube where urine comes out [the urethra],” she says. “In women, this tube is much shorter than in men, and it’s a lot closer to the bottom, where bacteria live. This means that these bugs don’t have as far to travel and therefore the risk of getting a UTI is higher.”

While UTIs can happen to anyone, they are more commonly seen in women who are sexually active or menopausal, or those with health conditions such as diabetes or urinary incontinence. It is important to note that these factors do not directly cause UTIs, but may play a part and add insight as to why they are occurring.

Women using spermicides or diaphragms as contraception are also more at risk of UTIs and may want to consider alternative options if they get recurrent UTIs.

Signs & symptoms

While not every UTI causes signs and symptoms, when they do, they may include:

Management & treatment

If you are experiencing these symptoms or suspect you have a UTI, it is important to make an appointment with your GP as soon as possible. Your doctor will likely ask you for a urine sample and, if an infection is present, prescribe a course of antibiotics.


Antibiotics are very effective at treating UTIs. It’s important to follow your doctor’s instructions and take the full course of antibiotics, even if your symptoms clear up sooner. This helps decrease the risk of the UTI coming back.

“A good option for women with recurrent UTIs is to take a smaller dose of antibiotics ongoing, or as a preventative after they have sex, if sex is a trigger for them,” says Dr MacNaughton. “There is also another medication called Hiprex, which suppresses and eliminates the bacteria that can cause UTIs. However, both these options need to be discussed with your doctor.”

Many women treat UTIs at home with urinary alkalinisers (powder sachets available over the counter at chemists). While these products can help to relieve some of the symptoms of UTIs such as painful and frequent urination, Dr MacNaughton reminds us that they don’t actually treat the infection, and that a proven UTI should always be treated with antibiotics.

Changing times

At menopause, many things are changing, and some women find they get more UTIs than before. This is usually due to a drop in levels of the hormone oestrogen. Oestrogen levels decrease during menopause and the vaginal and vulval tissues are often affected – becoming thinner, drier and more susceptible to infection.

“If this seems like it’s happening to you, speak to your doctor about the suitability of a topical oestrogen cream [oral oestrogen is not effective for UTIs] and ensure you use a natural lubrication for sex,” says Dr MacNaughton.

The phytoestrogens in soy and linseeds may also improve vaginal dryness. See Jean Hailes naturopath Sandra Villella’s Linseed, banana and date muffins recipe for an easy way to get the required amount of phytoestrogen in your daily diet.

The case for cranberry

There is conflicting information on whether cranberries can reduce the frequency of UTIs. Some research suggests that cranberry supplements are useful; however, as Sandra says, it’s important for women to know that not all cranberry supplements are the same. Research suggests that it depends on the amount of certain compounds in the cranberry supplement. These key compounds are called proanthocyanidins, or PACs.

“PACs may help with recurrent UTIs, as they prevent the unfriendly bacteria from sticking to the walls of the urinary tract. If they don’t stick, they don’t grow – instead they are flushed out and the infection may not occur,” says Sandra.

In line with the research, Sandra recommends checking the labels on supplements for one that contains a daily dose of 36mg of PACs. “Don’t worry too much about the total amount of cranberry fruit in the supplement; more is not necessarily better – it’s the amount of PACs in it that you really want to pay attention to,” she says. “Good products will specify.”

New kid on the block

Another supplement option called Mannose, or D-Mannose, is showing promise in the management of recurrent UTIs. Mannose is a natural sugar that occurs in many fruits, and a recent study found that taking it in the form of a supplement was similar to an antibiotic in its effectiveness for reducing UTIs.

As always, discuss any supplements you are taking, or thinking about taking, with your GP and a qualified naturopath.

Additional tips

These self-help tips may help to reduce the frequency of UTIs:

  • Wipe yourself gently from front to back (urethra to anus) after going to the toilet
  • Drink plenty of water and fluids
  • Treat vaginal infections such as thrush or trichomonas promptly
  • Go to the toilet when you feel the urge to urinate, rather than holding on
  • Urinate after sex, to flush the urinary system.

UTIs are common, but be cautious

It’s important to remember that although UTIs are common, they can develop into more serious kidney infections if left untreated. If your symptoms persist for more than 24 hours and include fever, chills, back pain, nausea or vomiting you should see your doctor immediately. Your symptoms should completely resolve within a few days of starting a course of antibiotics. If this is not the case, it’s important to go back to your doctor.

Also, UTIs can be more dangerous for pregnant women due to an increased risk of kidney involvement. If you are pregnant and you think you have a UTI – even with mild symptoms – see your doctor immediately.

Visit our Urinary tract infections webpages to learn more.


Published with the permission of Jean Hailes for Women’s Health
1800 JEAN HAILES (532 642)