Having a urinary tract infection (UTI) can be a miserable experience. The cramping, sudden urge to urinate, and pain can derail your whole day. Not to mention that infections always seem to strike at the most inconvenient times like during a work meeting or when you are away on holiday. To reduce your chances of getting a UTI, it helps to first understand what causes it, and then what, steps to take to prevent it.
what is a uti?
A urinary tract infection is an umbrella term used to describe an infection in any part of the urinary system. UTIs are caused by various strains of bacteria that enter the body through the urethra and then spread throughout the urinary tract. The urinary tract is made up of many different parts, each with an independent function:
- Kidneys – filter blood and make urine
- Ureters – the thin tubes that carry the urine from the kidneys to the bladder
- Bladder – collects and stores the urine before it leaves the body
- Urethra – the tube that carries the urine from the bladder to where it exists the body
UTIs generally fall into three different categories depending on the site of the infection:
Urinary tract infections, of all kinds, are very common. Each year, there are approximately ten million visits to a health care provider for treatment of a urinary tract infection. It is estimated that at least 50% of women and 12% of men will have at least one UTI infection over a lifetime.
Common UTI Symptoms
The most infections involve the lower urinary tract, namely the bladder and the urethra. While symptoms can range from mild to severe, signs of the most common UTIs include:
- A strong and persistent urge to urinate, often passing only small amounts of urine
- Pain or burning sensation when urinating
- Urine that appears cloudy and can be strong smelling
- Urine that appears red or slightly brown – a sign of blood in the urine
- Pressure or pain in the pelvic area or back pain
How to Prevent a UTI
When treated promptly and properly, lower urinary tract infections rarely lead to complications. While antibiotics are standard treatment for UTIs, there are several ways to help prevent or reduce the risk of getting one:
1. Stay hydrated. Drink plenty of water and avoid caffeine, alcohol and sugary drinks. Water helps dilute your urine and flushes bacteria from your urinary tract before it can cause an infection in your system.
2. Try cranberries. Cranberries contain proanthocyanidins, which are compounds thought to prevent some bacteria from attaching to urinary tract cells. They also contain polyphenols, which have antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties that can diminish the chance of an infection. To reduce sugar intake, stick to unsweetened cranberry juice, or try supplementing with cranberry tablets.
3. Incorporate probiotics into your diet. While probiotics are known to aid digestion and support the immune system, they may also be very helpful in treating and preventing UTIs. The thought is that since bad bacteria cause a UTI, probiotics can help restore good bacteria and help reduce its recurrence. In particular, a group of probiotics called Lactobacilli is thought to:
- Prevent harmful bacteria from attaching to urinary tract cells
- Produce hydrogen peroxide in urine, which is a strong antibacterial agent
- Lower pH balance in urine, creating a less favorable environment for bad bacteria
Additionally, if antibiotics are prescribed for a UTI, probiotics can help replenish and restore healthy bacteria after a course of antibiotics is completed.
4. Increase your intake of vitamin C. As an antioxidant, vitamin C strengthens the immune system and provides protection against infection. Studies also suggest that vitamin C helps kill bacteria and lower the pH of urine. The more acidic the urine, the less likely bacteria will survive. Foods with the highest source of vitamin c include citrus fruits, strawberries, broccoli, and red bell peppers.
5. Use the restroom when you need to. Waiting too long allows the bacteria to attach to cells in the urinary tract and to start forming an infection. Also remember to wipe from front to back to help prevent bacteria from spreading to other parts of the urinary tract.
6. Practice good sexual hygiene, empty your bladder before and after intercourse and avoid using scented feminine products. Deodorant sprays, powders or other feminine products can irritate the urethra leaving it vulnerable to infection.
So rather than chasing after a cure for your UTI, why not try to prevent it instead. With just a few simple changes to your diet and hygiene habits, it is possible to reduce the chance of ever experiencing that discomfort and inconvenience again.
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