“Doc, we can’t keep meeting like this!” I wailed melodramatically at the poor junior GP. It was my third visit to the GP in 6 weeks, and my third prescription for antibiotics.

“W-well, there are some other options. Have you tried urinating after sex?”
“Yes I know all about peeing after sex. What else you got?”
“Do you drink lots of water?”
“Like a fish”
“Okay. Well, for chronic UTI suffers like yourself, we are able to prescribe a continuous low dose course of antibiotics. Usually, people take them just before sex, and it can be very effective for dealing with any infections before they become problematic.”

Hold the phone. An antibiotic every time you have sex? I was gobsmacked. With all that modern medicine has accomplished, was this really the best solution open to the urethrally challenged? And furthermore, had my GP and the wider medical community not heard of the dangers of antimicrobial resistance?? Needless to say, I did not accept.

I went to the Museum of America yesterday to see Jared Leto’s art installation celebrating the release of the new 30 Seconds to Mars album, America. One of the art pieces featured piles of pills and I have a love of repetition, so I thought that shooting Happy Pills would be an appropriate use of my time.
Antibiotics forever? No thanks! – Photo by JOSHUA COLEMAN / Unsplash

Because I hated taking antibiotics. Until that point in my life, I had only really taken them for a chest infection and the aforementioned occasional bout of mortal cystitis. Unfortunately, in the last 6 weeks, my urethra had taken it upon itself (herself?) to throw fortnightly hissy fits of epic proportions. This meant my antibiotic consumption had skyrocketed. What was going on?!

I left the GP practice cursing my vagina. As I walked to the pharmacy to pick up yet another short course of antibiotics, I resolved myself to find another solution. After I’d found a toilet, of course.

Pug in a blanket
Photo by Matthew Henry / Unsplash

Armed with my antibiotics, a hot water bottle, cranberry juice and my laptop, I curled up ready to find the miracle cure that would save me from a lifetime of compulsory antibiotic aphrodisiacs. Half an hour later, finding nothing new, I googled “Caitlin Moran cystitis” in an effort to cheer myself up. For those of you who haven’t heard of her, Caitlin Moran is an author, columnist and broadcaster, and the only woman I know of who has written candidly about the horrors of cystitis. As well as being incredibly bright and laugh-out-loud hilarious, Caitlin Moran also turned out to be my cystitis guru, lighting the path to urethral enlightenment.

(For those who don’t want to watch the full 10.38 minutes, jump to the cystitis section starting at 4.13, or even more specifically, 5.50)

My initial scepticism regarding supplements was quickly erased by my desperation. I figured it was worth a shot, and I had absolutely nothing to lose. I followed Caitlin Moran’s advice and only took a capsule of D-Mannose when I felt that familiar “twinge” of doom. Unfortunately, this didn’t prove incredibly useful and so I turned to the internet for further inspiration. After reading some more about D-Mannose and supplement taking more generally, I realised my mistake: I was approaching supplements with the same ‘make me well’ mentality with which I approached medication. Unlike medication, supplements help you build, maintain and strengthen your body so that when your urethra goes off the rails, your body is in a better position to deal with it. I made the decision to become a #RegularSupplementTaker, a title which until then I had thought was reserved exclusively for bodybuilders, athletes and hypochondriacs. A month later, cystitis-free and going strong, I was converted.

So, what is D-Mannose and how does it work?

I’m glad you asked!

D-Mannose is a naturally occurring sugar which is found in berries, many fruits and some vegetables. And it is, quite simply and in my opinion, magical. D-Mannose is similar to glucose in terms of its structure, but different in that our body only absorbs miniscule amounts of it. This means it moves through us very quickly, and this is a big part of what makes it so effective in treating UTIs like cystitis! Let me explain further.

Ninety percent of UTIs are caused by E. coli, a bacteria which is found in many parts of our bodies. E. coli can become a painful problem when it latches onto the urinary tract lining. Luckily, when D-Mannose reaches our urinary tract, the E. coli will bind to it rather than the bladder walls or lining, and because our bodies rapidly excrete D-Mannose in our pee, the attached E. coli are flushed out with it. This greatly minimises the chance that harmful bacteria will grow, leading to infection. See? Magic!

Are there any health risks?

Sugar is bad for you, right? Not necessarily! Whilst glucose is a sugar with many associated health problems, D-Mannose is a very different kind of sugar, mainly due to the fact that it doesn’t hang around. In other words, it doesn’t get absorbed into our bloodstream or cells as much, and what is left is very quickly flushed out.

Furthermore, a recent paper published in Nature has suggested that in addition to helping with UTIs, D-Mannose can actually serve to improve your health by boosting your immune system, thus helping in the prevention and treatment of autoimmune diabetes as well as asthma. Wahey!

Despite the fact that D-Mannose has only a minimal effect on blood sugar levels, this could be problematic if you have diabetes and are monitoring blood sugar levels more closely. If this applies to you, avoid taking D-Mannose until you have discussed it with your doctor.

Why can’t I just get my D-Mannose through fruit?

Mmm... grapefruit. (still from The Simpsons)

D-Mannose proved to be a game changer for me and it might just be one for you as well. So my advice to you, weary cystitis sufferer, is this: try it and see what happens! There are three main things which I would urge you to remember:

  1. When it comes to supplements, we all feel the effects differently. For some people they are instantly helpful, while for others it can take a bit longer.
  2. The magical effects of D-Mannose work alongside other prevention measures. Don’t forget that junior doctor’s advice, and keep drinking lots and peeing after sex!
  3. If you are prone to UTIs, you need to act mindfully even when everything is okay. So if the supplements work, keep taking them regularly.

Chickpea's Cranberry and D-Mannose Care Pack is now available to order online. Recommended by NICE and NHS guidelines, the supplement subscription helps those prone to recurrent cystitis to maintain improved urinary health and reduced UTI occurrences.

For more information, and to take advantage of the introductory offer, click here.