A urinary tract infection or UTI is an infection that happens in the kidneys, ureter, bladder, and/or urethra.
A UTI is caused by bacteria (usually E.coli) and the problem is ten times more common in women than men.
If you recover from a UTI and then experience another episode within a six-month period, there are some things you can do to prevent more bacteria from growing in the urinary tract.
You can use the following tips to help reduce your risks of recurring UTI:
1. Don’t use scented bath products.
Any scented bath washes, bubble baths, soaps, and shower gels can irritate the urinary tract opening. Use mild, unscented bath products and remember to rinse the area well with clean water after bathing.
2. Wear clothing that breathes.
Keep the genital area clean and dry by wearing cotton undergarments and loose-fitting clothing that breathes (natural fibers like cotton, hemp, silk, and linen). You should avoid wearing tight pants, pantyhose, and underwear made from synthetics because these retain moisture, providing an environment conducive to bacterial growth.
3. Use unscented feminine hygiene products.
Tampons and sanitary napkins should be unscented. Scented feminine hygiene products can cause severe irritation in the genital area–aggravating the urethra–and should be avoided. Opt for pads rather than tampons when you can, as tampons can push bacteria directly into your body.
4. Wipe from front to back.
It is important for women to wash and wipe their genital area from front to back when showering or after urinating or defecating. This will help prevent spreading bacteria from the anus into the urethra.
5. Eat fermented foods.
Cultured foods are good for preventing recurrent urinary tract infections. In recent research done by Harvard Medical School, the dietary habits of women with UTI’s were studied. Women who consumed fermented milk products (e.g., yogurt, kefir, cheese) more than three times weekly were about 80% less likely to get a UTI than women who ate these foods less than once per week. Other good choices: sauerkraut, kimchi, miso, pickles (made without vinegar), and kambucha.
6. Avoid using certain feminine hygiene products.
There is no scientific evidence that shows douching will increase (or decrease) the risk of a woman developing a urinary tract infection. If you do douche, use only water and vinegar as recommended and avoid overuse because it can irritate the urinary tract. Other feminine hygiene products like deodorant sprays and powders should be avoided entirely. If you are susceptible to UTI, avoid spermicides as well.
There are many myths going around about cranberries in the treatment of UTI–there are conflicting studies. While there is evidence that a phytochemical found in cranberries known as A-type proanthocyanidins prevents bacteria from sticking to the walls of the urinary tract, drinking a glass of cranberry juice (or taking a supplement) a day may not have enough of it to make any difference. Cranberry fruit/juice (not cranberry juice “cocktail” which is loaded with sugar) is still good for you but don’t expect it to cure your UTI overnight.
8. Drink lots of water.
The best way to prevent recurrent UTI’s is to make sure the kidneys are flushed of bacteria by drinking enough water. Drinking plenty of water helps to keep the whole urinary tract clean.
Most UTI’s can be successfully treated with antibiotics and most symptoms will go away within a day or two after starting treatment. Due to dangerous overuse of antibiotics, however, you’re better off not getting them in the first place. The information above will help to prevent recurrence.
If you experience signs of a UTI that don’t dissipate after a few days (lower abdominal pain, burning while urinating, itching, a feeling of constantly having to urinate, and irritation), do seek treatment. If left to its own over the course of time, infection can lead to sepsis, kidney damage, or scarring.