Urinary Tract Infection: What You Should and Should Not Eat

50% of women experience a urinary tract infection (UTI) in their lifetime. It costs over 1 billion USD and results in 1 million hospitalizations. It’s common among women compared to men. UTI’s are an infection of the urinary tract involving the kidneys, ureters, bladder, and urethra. Left untreated the infection can escalate and damage the kidney and ureters, permanently leading to scarring and renal failure.

The most common cause is due to bacteria from the gastrointestinal system. The anus is usually quite close to the urethra in women. Bacteria like E.coli travel from the digestive system. These bacteria can also be introduced during sex like Chlamydia and Mycoplasma.

What to eat when you have a UTI? 

Symptoms of UTI

Some of the common symptoms of a urinary tract infection are painful urination, burning sensation on urinating, an intense urge to urinate, pressure or fullness on the bladder, discharge, nausea, vomiting, cloudy or strange smelling urine, fever and back pain. If severe then you may also see blood in the urine.  

Risk Factors

There are certain risk factors that increase the chances of getting a urinary tract infection. These include unprotected sex, intake of antibiotics, not urinating frequently, choosing baths over showers, lack of water in the diet, bacterial entry from the anus and pregnancy. Old age and gender do play a role since immunity is lower in the elderly and the urethra is shorter in women.

Foods You Should Eat When You Have A Urinary Tract Infection

Certain foods are known to help relieve symptoms of UTI.

Water

Water keeps your system hydrated and helps your body flush out toxins. Most people don’t drink enough water. Infections are caused by a buildup of bacteria and with decreased water consumption. The bacteria can be flushed out of the system with hydration.  Studies have shown that increased water intake can help in the prophylaxis and treatment of UTI’s.

Water helps flush out toxins and bacteria from your system. 

Cranberry juice

Everyone’s heard of cranberry juice as a cure for UTI’s. And the science proves it. Two randomized controlled studies prove that cranberry juice does reduce the number of symptomatic UTI’s over a twelve-month period. Unsweetened cranberry juice is best as sugar tends to worsen the infection. You can dilute 1 ounce of juice with 7 ounces of water. Cranberries have proanthocyanidins. This is a compound that prevents E.coli from multiplying within the urethra.

Cranberries prevent bacteria from multiplying. 

Pineapple

Pineapple contains bromelain. It’s a protease mixture or enzyme mixture that has been proven to have anti-inflammatory properties. It also increases wound healing and immunomodulatory effects. It’s also being studied as an anticancer agent.

Pineapple contains bromelain which has anti-inflammatory properties. 

Probiotics

Among pregnant and breastfeeding women, probiotics are often recommended. Probiotics contain healthy bacteria which help your immune system and staves off infection. Probiotics like fermented yogurt and live cultures can give you a dose of “good” bacteria.

Vitamin C

If you want to prevent a UTI infection you can take Vitamin C. It makes the urine acidic. This prevents bacteria from multiplying. With the bacteria controlled, the chances of a UTI are less.

Lemon juice

Lemon juice also contains ascorbic acid. It makes the urine acidic and controls the bacteria. You can drink lemon juice or can be used prophylactically in those who have frequent UTI’s.

Lemon juice makes the urine acidic. 

Baking soda

Urine alkalinization has been studied in female patients with lower UTI’s. In fact, in chronic patients, this alkalinization is done with sodium bicarbonate. You can use ½ tsp of baking soda in warm water and drink this in the morning. This wouldn’t be suitable for people with hypertension as it contains sodium which increases blood pressure.

Baking soda alkalinizes the urine. 

Apple Cider Vinegar

Dilute two tbsps. of apple cider vinegar in a cup of water. You can add honey to this mixture. Drink this in the morning till your infection clears. Apple cider vinegar has antimicrobial activity against E. coli, Staphylococcus aureus, and Candida albicans.

Apple cider Vinegar acidifies the urine. 

Garlic

Garlic has been studied for its effects against dyslipidemia and its antithrombotic effects. It has numerous benefits that now clinicians are considering garlic tablets as part of therapy. However, in uncomplicated urinary tract infections, it also plays a role due to its antifungal and antimicrobial properties. There is very limited scientific evidence about the usage of garlic for non-E. coli UTI.

Garlic has antimicrobial activity. 

Blueberries

A few blueberries in your diet either whole or juiced would be great till your infection clears.

Like cranberries, they also contain proanthocyanidins which help stave off E Coli.

They stave off E. coli. 

Foods to avoid

When you have a UTI there are some foods that can worsen your condition.

Sugar

Sugars can contribute to the growth of yeast which can aggravate your UTI. Any refined flour, white bread, pasta and sweet stuff can be responsible for increasing your sugar levels. Increase sugar levels also affect the immunity and hence can encourage the growth of bacteria and slows down the resolution of your infection.

Sugar will worsen your UTI. 

Caffeine

Caffeine is a stimulant and a diuretic. It is known to be a bladder irritant as it produces early urgency and increases the frequency of urination. If you have symptoms if UTI you should avoid, coffee, tea, and alcohol.

Caffeine irritates your bladder. 

Spicy food

Lay off the spice and other foods that can irritate the bladder. You don’t want a very active bladder when you you have a UTI.

Spicy food also irritates your bladder. 

Red meat

Red meat also tends to add more acid to your gut and lowers pH levels in the body. Try and avoid red meat if you have an active urinary tract infection. Eat a high fiber diet instead.

Red Meat makes will add acid to your body. 

Diagnosis and Treatment

After asking about your symptoms, and making a tentative diagnosis your doctor may want to physically examine you and order a routine urine test and a bacterial culture of your urine. This is to confirm if you have an infection. And also to determine the causative bacteria or microorganism responsible for the infection.

Usually, doctors will instruct you to submit a clean catch sample of urine. This is done by washing the area and then collecting a sample midstream. The sample is collected in a sterile container to prevent cross contamination.

Treatments are usually targeted towards the offending bacteria. And these are usually antibiotics. Bacteria that are sensitive to the antibiotics will be killed. However, with every urinary tract infection and subsequent treatment, the bacteria may develop resistance and so it’s essential that you prevent recurrent urinary tract infections.

Urine tests and culture confirm the infection and the organism.

Occasionally, UTI’s are concurrent with other chronic illnesses such as diabetes mellitus, catheterization, menopause, sexually transmitted diseases and infections. These need to be treated in order to resolve the urinary tract infection.

Depending on the microorganism, some antibiotics will be prescribed for just two days, others may require treatment for over ten days. The length varies depending on multiple factors. But either way, don’t ignore a urinary tract infection. Seek professional help and take the antibiotics prescribed. Avoid sex if you have an infection. Intercourse will likely drive the bacteria further up the urethra. Stay away from diaphragms as they tend to retain bacteria.

While not common in men, it’s often seen in men with enlarged prostates in those over 50 years of age. So if you develop a urinary tract infection, then visit a urologist and have your prostate gland checked.

Recurrent infections may be a sign of something else, like a pelvic floor dysfunction or an overactive bladder. So don’t ignore it.

Complications

If the urinary tract infections are treated promptly then complications don’t arise. But if it’s left untreated, it can have resulted in complications.

These complications include:

  • Recurrent infections are more common. These women experience > four or more UTI’s within a year. This will require long-term antibiotic therapy.
  • Permanent kidney damage due to an untreated UTI that resulted in a kidney infection
  • Increased risk of low birth weight or premature infants.
  • Urethral narrowing in men from recurrent urethritis.
  • Sepsis, a life-threatening complication of an infection.

Prevention

Go when you have to go! 

Bacteria require humidity and heat to breed. A few tips are important when it comes to preventing a urinary tract infection. These are:

  • Keeping the area clean. Hygiene is the most important step to prevent urinary tract infections.
  • Wear cotton undergarments. Nylon and lace can increase the humidity down there, encouraging the bacteria to multiply.
  • Wipe from front to back. This is so important as it prevents any bacteria from the anus to make its way to the urethra.
  • Don’t use fancy lotions and soaps for cleanup. Use plain water. The vaginal area, in general, has its own pH. It is usually self-cleaned by the colonizing bacteria. The urethra by itself is a sterile area. Using products can change the pH, kill off the “good” bacteria and introduce other organisms in what was once a sterile area.
  • Empty your urinary bladder before and after sex to get rid of the bacteria that can enter through the urethra.
  • Drink plenty of water every day. Stay hydrated, so there’s a constant flush out of toxins and bacteria from your system.
  • Take showers instead of baths.
  • Go to the bathroom when you have the urge. Don’t hold back. Bacteria breeds in the toxic fluid and the longer you hold it in, the more time they have to multiply.
  • Avoid wearing tight clothes because they trap moisture and increase bacterial growth.

Have you had a UTI? What’s worked for you?

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