Urinary tract infections are an unpleasant experience we’re confident you’d like to avoid—especially if you’ve had one before and know how miserable they can be. Here are some practical tips to avoid them.
If you’re a woman, chances are you’ve experienced the frustration and pain of a urinary tract infection (UTI) at least once in your lifetime. Women are 30 times more likely than men to get a UTI, and the likelihood increases during menopause.
The constant need to urinate and the burning sensation that accompany the infection are caused by bacteria entering the urethra and climbing up to the bladder. If left untreated, the infection can reach the kidneys and enter the bloodstream, resulting in severe complications, a trip to the hospital, and a hefty bill. While antibiotics can clear up the infection, there are a few simple ways you can minimize your chances of getting a UTI.
Drink Plenty of H2O
Keeping yourself hydrated can help you steer clear of a variety of health issues, including UTIs. Although water can’t fight the bacteria once they reach the bladder, it can help flush out any that might have found their way into the urethra. By drinking plenty of fluids, your bladder will fill up more easily, and you’ll be able to pee more frequently and forcefully. This keeps the area clean and bacteria-free.
Furthermore, it’s important to relieve yourself any time you need to do so. Holding your urine for a long time can allow bacteria to set in and cause the infection. Drinking water often will ensure that the urine stays diluted and releases more frequently, significantly lowering your risk of contracting a UTI. It’s an economical, low-effort trick to avoid an uncomfortable situation.
Urinate Immediately After Intercourse
Bacteria easily move around and can be exchanged between partners during sex. The genitals are exposed, making the likelihood that the urethra will be invaded by unwanted microbes much higher. To lower your chances of this, make it a habit to pee right after intercourse to flush the urethra. If you have to urinate before sex, drink a full glass of water to restart the process.
Wipe Towards the Back
Infection-causing bacteria—like E. coli—that live inside your intestines tend to make a more frequent appearance around the anus. Because of its proximity to the urethra, it’s easy to carry germs from the anus when wiping from back to front, especially following a bowel movement. To minimize the chances of this, wipe from front to back. However, germs can also get trapped in skin folds or be unknowingly left behind, which is why personal hygiene is crucial in this regard. Washing thoroughly every day minimizes the risk of finding yourself in an unpleasant situation.
Reconsider Your Birth Control Method
Although its popularity has waned, the diaphragm is still the preferred method of birth control for many women. Unfortunately, despite its effectiveness against unintended pregnancies, it can increase the chance of UTIs. Not only does it encourage bacterial growth, but the ring of the diaphragm can put unnecessary pressure on the urethra, or even obstruct it. Since it’s supposed to remain in place for at least six hours following intercourse, you’ll have difficulty fully emptying your bladder during that time. This makes it easier for harmful bacteria to cause an infection.
Spermicide-treated and unlubricated condoms can also increase the risk of UTIs. They both irritate your vagina, cause inflammation, and eventually lead to changes in your pH levels, which can be a precursor of bacterial growth.
If you’re prone to UTIs and currently use a diaphragm or condoms, you may want to talk to your healthcare provider about other methods or different brands of condoms.
Avoid Irritating Feminine Products
The urethra is very sensitive, and scented feminine products—like sprays, washes, and powders—can easily irritate it and make you more prone to contracting a UTI. The vagina and urethra already cleanse themselves via regular discharge, so there’s no need to disrupt the process by using chemical products. Water is all you need.
Similarly, douching should also be avoided. It can disrupt the local pH levels and increase the chances of developing a yeast infection or bacterial vaginosis. Your sexual anatomy is autonomous and best left to its own devices.
Consider Wearing Cotton Underwear and Loose Clothing
While the proven-through-studies verdict is still out on whether underwear material or design has a significant impact on the rate of UTIs, doctors still recommend wearing breathable cotton and avoiding tight clothing, especially in warmer climates.
Give Yogurt or Kefir a Try
Yogurt and kefir (fermented milk) both contain live bacterial cultures that help keep your intestinal flora balanced. Commonly known as probiotics, these microbes have been found to be beneficial in the prevention of UTIs in a few studies, although the scientific community is not in full agreement yet. However, they aren’t harmful, and can potentially prevent the development of a yeast infection following antibiotic treatment of a UTI.
Stick to plain yogurt, Greek yogurt, or kefir, and steer away from those with tons of sugar and fruit, as these could cancel out the beneficial effects of the live cultures.
Increase Your Vitamin C Intake
Vitamin C lowers the pH level of urine, making it acidic enough to kill any bacteria in the urethra. If necessary, consider taking supplements of 500-1,000 milligrams daily. Otherwise, evaluate your diet and try to add more Vitamin C-rich foods to your meals, such as berries, citrus fruits, broccoli, and leafy greens. Don’t worry about getting too much Vitamin C, as the excess is filtered out through the kidneys and excreted via urination.
Give Cranberries a Go
There’s no unanimous opinion on the matter, but multiple studies have pointed out the potential benefits cranberries offer against UTIs. The focus has been a particular substance in the berry that is believed to prevent bacteria from attaching to the lining of the urinary tract. However, there’s no indication as to how much of the substance is needed for it to take effect.
Regardless, drinking cranberry juice or ingesting it as a supplement is worth a try, particularly if you’re prone to UTIs. If you use the juice, though, make sure you’re drinking pure cranberry juice, not a cranberry “cocktail” juice, which is sugar rich and no better than drinking any other fruit juice.
There are instances when you should avoid cranberries, such as when taking blood-thinning medication, aspirin, or any medication that affects the liver. To be cautious, consult your physician before giving cranberries a try.
UTIs are the bane of many a woman’s existence, particularly those who are susceptible to reoccurrence or experiencing menopause. To lower the chances of developing this kind of infection, consider giving the tips above a try. They can all be easily incorporated into your daily routine for little, to no cost.