Leukocytes in Urine and Stool: Causes, Solutions, and More

Leukocytes in Urine and Stool – Causes and Possible Solutions

If you have leukocytes in the urine (especially high levels), it means that you have some kind of infection or disease in the urinary tract. In this case you have to treat the infection to prevent damage to your bladder or your kidneys. In this article I’ll cover the most common causes of leukocytes in urine and stool with possible treatment options.

Leukocytes are also called white blood cells (WBCs) and they make up about 1% of an adult’s blood. These blood cells play an important role in our immune system by fighting disease and infections. Leukocytes act in a similar way to how guards would defend an ancient city. At the first sign of an invasion, the guards would assemble and then attack the invaders. When we have an infection, white blood cells ‘travel’ to the affected area to destroy and break down the ‘invaders’.

Doctors usually perform a blood test of white blood cell (WBC) count to measure the number of white blood cells in your body. Elevated white blood cell count is a sign that your body is fighting an infection. More specifically, testing the number of leukocytes in urine and stool can help doctors to see if there are infections associated with our digestive or urinary systems.

Your urinary system is composed of different parts such as the kidney, bladder, urethra, and ureters. So leukocytes in your urine could mean that there is an infectious disease in any of these body parts.

Doctors may use chemical test strips to detect substances known as leukocyte esterase and nitrite in the urine. Both of these substances could indicate an infection.

High levels of leukocytes in urine with or without nitrites could mean that you suffer from a disease such as urinary tract infection, bladder inflammation, enlarged prostate, diabetes, or kidney stones.

What are Leukocytes

Leukocytes are made up of different types of white blood cells, each with their own specific role in the body’s immune system. Altogether there are 5 different types of white blood cells:

Neutrophils – These are the first white blood cells (WBCs) to travel to where an infection is. They “swallow up” bacterial or fungal infections and when they die they turn into pus which stems the infection.1

Monocytes – They respond to inflammation and they attack the foreign matter. They are also important for boosting the immune system. The journal Clinical Infectious Diseases also says that monocytes release cytokines which cause fever2, which is another way the body fights infection (read more about fever in my article on how to break a fever: the top 5 natural ways).

Lymphocytes – There are 3 types of lymphocytes – B cells, T cells, and Natural Killer (NK) cells. The B cells are responsible for creating antibodies, and attacking ‘foreign matter.’ The T cells attack cells in the body which are infected.3 Low lymphocyte count (Lymphocytopenia) could indicate that you are at greater risk of developing infections.

Basophils – The Journal of Immunology says that this type of leukocyte releases histamine as part of the body’s response to allergens and is also associated with asthma.4
Read more about antihistamines in my article about the best natural antihistamines to fight allergic reactions.

Eosinophils – Similar to basophils, eosinophils become active against allergens and infections.5

Let’s look at the possible causes of leukocytes (white blood cells) in urine and stool.

Leukocytes in Urine – Possible Causes

Usually, the kidneys don’t allow any kind of blood cell to pass into the urine. Therefore, the presence of white blood cells in the urine means that there is some kind of infection or disease.

When doctors use a dipstick test for urine infection, these detect certain chemicals in the urine.

Chemical test strips can pick up substances known as leukocyte esterase and nitrite in the urine. Both of which are potential indicators of infection.

Let’s have a look at some of the most common causes of leukocytes in urine.

Urinary Tract Infections

Urinary tract infections (UTI) are a common cause of white blood cells (leukocytes) in urine and cloudy urine. UTIs can happen when bacteria (most commonly Escherichia coli, or E.coli bacteria strain) enter the urinary tract and cause infections. Because a woman’s urethra is shorter than men’s, they are more at risk of suffering from UTIs.

According to BioMed Central, the best way to check for a urinary tract infection is to test the number of white blood cells in the urine.6

It is important to treat UTI as soon as possible because the infection can spread, causing further complications. One of the best natural ways to help deal with a urinary tract infection is to keep well hydrated. This will help to flush out infections, but you have to remember to go to the bathroom frequently and not ‘hold it in.’

A traditional remedy to help prevent recurrences of UTIs is drinking cranberry juice or taking cranberry supplements. A study published by The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that consuming cranberry juice lowered the number of repeat episodes of UTI in women.7

To find out about other ways to treat urinary tract infections, please read my article on how to treat urinary tract infection (UTI) naturally.

Related articles: Squamous Epithelial Cells in Urine: What Does It Mean? and Crystals in Urine: Causes and Effective Natural Treatments

Bladder Inflammation

Bladder inflammation (also called interstitial cystitis) can also cause leukocytes in urine.8 Some of the symptoms of bladder inflammation are pain in your lower tummy region, feeling pressure and pain in your bladder, needing to pee frequently and cloudy urine with sediment.

Dr. Michael W. Smith at WebMD suggests that in the early stages of the condition you should try to retrain your bladder to hold more pee. For example, try to go without peeing for 45 minutes instead of 30 minutes. It is also important not to wear tight clothing and to try and identify triggers that can make you pee.9

The Interstitial Cystitis Association (ICA) says that bladder retraining will help to control your urge to urinate and improve your symptoms, once your pain is under control.

Leukocytes in Urine during Pregnancy

During pregnancy, women may be more prone to urinary tract infections. This is because of hormonal changes in the urinary tract and because it can be more difficult to completely empty the bladder, thus leading to infections. Therefore, white blood cells could show up in urine during routine testing.

It is important to treat any kind of urinary tract infection (UTI) during pregnancy. Dr. John Delzell from the University of Missouri-Columbia School of Medicine said that these infections can lead to inflammation of the bladder or pyelonephritis, a condition which can infect the kidneys.10 This is a serious condition which can also affect the unborn child.

To avoid UTIs during pregnancy, Dr. Nivin Todd recommends drinking at least 8 glasses of water a day, to wipe from front to back, wear cotton underwear, and shower instead of taking a bath.11

Other Causes of Leukocytes in Urine

There are other conditions which can result in white blood cells in urine:

Kidney Stones. The journal Urology published a report showing that in almost half the patients who had kidney stones removed showed a high urine leukocyte count.12 Symptoms of a kidney stone include severe flank pain and blood in the urine (medical term is hematuria).

If you suffer from kidney stones, read my articles on how to treat kidney stones naturally and how to use apple cider vinegar (ACV) for kidney stones.

Enlarged prostate. Men who have an enlarged prostate can have a higher white blood cell count in their urine.13

Diabetes. People with diabetes can experience more urinary tract infections than people without diabetes. UTI in people with diabetes can also be more difficult to treat.14

Using a catheter. Using a catheter can allow germs and bacteria to enter the bladder and cause infections.

Symptoms of Leukocytes in Urine

In addition to having high leukocytes in urine, you may also suffer from other symptoms:

  • Cloudy urine with or without pain
  • Blood in the urine (medical term is hematuria).
  • Pain in your lower tummy region (pelvic area)
  • Feeling pressure and pain in your bladder
  • Needing to pee frequently
  • Pain when you pee
  • Ammonia smell in urine
  • Fever
  • Chills

Leukocytes in Urine but no Infection

If you have white blood cells in your urine without an infection present, you may suffer from sterile pyuria.

Sterile pyuria describes a conditions where a laboratory examination detects leukocytes in urine without bacteria.

According to the New England Journal of Medicine, sterile pyuria is a common health condition affecting 13.9% of women and 2.9% of men. The frequency of detection of sterile pyuria was 23% among inpatients.

There are quite a few causes of sterile pyuria such as sexually transmitted disease (STD), fungal infections as well as viral infections.

How to Treat Leukocytes in Urine

The treatment for white blood cells in urine usually depends on the cause of the infection. For example, doctors may prescribe antibiotics if you suffer from a urinary tract infection (UTI).

There are a few tips that can help you recover faster from the symptoms of leukocytes in urine:

  • Drink diluted apple cider vinegar
  • Drink plenty of water
  • Urinate when you have to go and don’t hold your pee

Leukocytes in Stool

Leukocytes can also show up in your stools if you have a digestive tract disorder. As with the urinary system, there should not be any white blood cells in stools. The number of leukocytes in stool can indicate the type of condition a person is suffering from.

Inflammatory Diarrhea

Inflammatory diarrhea can be caused by bacteria such as Clostridium difficile (C. diff.), salmonella, shigella, or campylobacter. In these cases, a doctor can test your stools for white blood cells which will confirm inflammation in the digestive tract.15

Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)

Ulcerative Colitis is an inflammatory bowel disease affecting the large intestine and which has to be managed properly. It can cause disruption to daily activities because of frequent bouts of diarrhea or liquid stool, mucus in stool, thin narrow stool, pain, and fatigue. The presence of leukocytes in your stool can help doctors determine if you have ulcerative colitis or another type of infection.16

Crohn’s Disease can affect any part of the digestive tract and cause inflammation and swelling. The presence of white blood cells in stool can be an indicator that there is an inflammation in the digestive tract.

Inflammatory bowel disease can be difficult to treat and many doctors recommend trying to identify triggers in your diet and lifestyle.

A study published in the journal Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology reviewed many studies on diet and inflammatory bowel disease.17 They found that high-fat diets seemed to be a common factor in many people with IBD. It was also found that a diet with high levels of meat (especially red meat), eggs, protein, and alcohol can cause a relapse of inflammatory bowel disease.

The Mayo Clinic reports that many people with inflammatory bowel disease have difficulty digesting dairy products. They also recommend to eat small meals and drink plenty of fluids.18 The journal Digestive Diseases and Sciences noted that many patients reported that yogurt, rice, and bananas frequently helped to improve bouts of inflammatory bowel disease.19

So, if you have IBD, you could try to keep a food diary to try to identify certain foods that cause the symptoms and then cut, or reduce these foods from your diet.

Read my other related articles:
1. How to Make Yourself Pee: Natural Ways That Actually Work
2. Here’s What Your Stool Can Tell You About Your Health
3. Here Is Why You Have a Green Poop
4. What Can Your Urine Tell You about Your Health



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