Half of all women will get a urinary tract infection (UTI) sometime in their life. Some women have trouble with recurrent UTIs. You know you might have one if there is burning during urination, increased urgency and frequency, foul smell to the urine and sometimes the appearance of blood in the urine. Big bummer!
Unfortunately, anatomical realities make women more prone to UTIs than men. The majority of UTIs are not serious, however sometimes infection can travel upwards to the kidney, which is serious. So it is important not to ignore a UTI.
How to prevent a Urinary Tract Infection
- Don’t put off going to the bathroom. Urination flushes germs away from bladder. Holding your urine too long gives germs time to grow.
- Drink lots of liquids, especially water. Most women urinate about 6 – 7 times per day. Water dilutes the urine and soothes the bladder. When you’re dehydrated, the urine concentrates, which causes irritation and allows germs to grow in the bladder. Coffee, tea, and carbonated drinks also irritate the bladder. Sugar and refined grains promote germ growth, which contribute to infection.
- A diet high in colorful fresh fruits and vegetables can help prevent UTI. The good bacteria in yogurt, kefir, naturally fermented sauerkraut, and kimchi, and probiotic supplements also keep you healthy, supporting the immune system by increasing healthy germs that make antibodies to protect you from infection.
- Wipe from front to back so that germs from the anus will stay away from the urethra. Bidets (more popular in Europe – you can get an attachment for your toilet!) and wet wipes are your friend after a bowel movement.
- Wear loose clothing and cotton underwear! Airing out your lady-business prevents growth of bad bacteria, since germs prefer a damp environment. Wash up before sex, and pee ASAP after sex.
- If you use a diaphragm for birth control, don’t leave it in longer than 6-8 hours.
- Use plenty of lubricant to minimize friction injury. If you use condoms, try a pH balanced lubricant like “Good Clean Love”.
- After menopause women may need vaginal estrogen to strengthen the skin of the bladder and urethra. A healthcare provider can prescribe vaginal estrogen.
What to do if you have the signs of a UTI
There are home urine tests for UTI such as “Azo Test strips.” But the best test is a urine culture, done by a healthcare provider. Bacteria other than E. Coli may need professional help to eradicate. Symptoms such as fever, shivering, and flank pain may mean a kidney infection and call for urgent treatment with antibiotics. Antibiotics, however, can kill the healthy, helpful bacteria in your body, which ironically can promote other types of infections. Since E. Coli causes most UTIs, prompt treatment with over the counter remedies can be effective.
At the first signs of UTI:
- Flush the bladder by drinking lots of water.
- Take D-Mannose several times per day for several days. It blocks E. Coli from clinging to the bladder wall.
- Take Vitamin C 1000mg, 2-3 times per day for several days , and especially before going to bed to inhibit bacteria in the urinary tract from growing.
- Cranberry tablets or cranberry juice without sugar can also prevent E. Coli from clinging to the bladder wall. Take several times per day.
- Echinacea Tincture by dropperful can be taken every 2 hours or so for a few days.
There are many other herbs that may be effective but you might want to talk with someone experienced in herbal medicine and urine infections.
Seek professional help if:
- you are pregnant and have a UTI
- the symptoms do not resolve within 3 days
- you have recurrent infections
- you have a fever and a UTI
Mary Barnett is a Certified Nurse Midwife/Advanced Practice Registered Nurse. She currently sees patients at Peoples Wellness Center Central.