A UTI may cause frequent and painful urination, and these symptoms can affect your daily life. Unfortunately, UTIs are incredibly common, especially among women. The real kicker is that UTIs can be recurrent, returning even after successful treatment. Keep reading to find out more about UTI symptoms, treatment, and how to prevent them from happening in the first place.

What Is A Urinary Tract Infection (UTI)?

Urinary tract infections, or UTIs, are among the most common infections (more than half of all women will experience one at some point). They can affect any part of the urinary tract, including the urethra, ureters, kidneys, and bladder. UTIs occur when bacteria enter the urinary tract urethra and travel throughout the urinary system, causing an upper or lower urinary tract infection. Cystitis may occur when the bacteria makes it to the bladder and causes bacterial growth.

Symptoms of UTI vary depending on how far it has traveled up the urinary tract, but they may include painful urination, cloudy urine, or abdominal pain. Left untreated, a UTI can worsen into a bladder infection or kidney infection. Not to mention, the symptoms are incredibly uncomfortable. In addition, certain risk factors, such as poor hygiene and using diaphragms, make women more likely to develop a UTI. 

Causes of UTIs

UTIs affect millions of people every year. They’re more common in women, but they sometimes affect men as well. Understanding the causes of UTIs can help you prevent recurrent UTIs and more easily manage those that do occur. Common risk factors for UTIs are listed below. 

  • Sexual activity. Although UTIs are different from sexually transmitted infections, sexual activity can still cause a UTI to happen. Sexual intercourse can introduce new bacteria to the urinary tract causing an infection. 
  • Menopause. Menopause can increase a woman’s risk of UTI due to decreased estrogen levels and changes to the urinary tract. 
  • Urinary catheters. Using a urinary catheter, such as those used for incontinence, can also increase a person’s risk of getting a UTI. In addition, sometimes UTIs occur in hospitalized patients who must be catheterized for extended periods. 
  • Obstructions to the urinary tract. Kidney stones or an enlarged prostate can increase the risk of UTIs since these obstructions make it more difficult for the bladder to empty fully. 
  • Failing to empty the bladder. Holding your pee for an extended period can allow bacterial growth in the urine and cause a UTI. 

The most common bacteria that cause UTIs is Escherichia coli (E. coli), accounting for about 80-85% of cases. Other bacteria that may cause UTIs include Staphylococcus saprophyticus (5-10%), klebsiella species (3-5%), Proteus species (1-2%), enterococcus species(1-2%), and Pseudomonas aeruginosa (<1%). 

Tips For Prevention And Management of UTIs

There are many simple home remedies that you can take to prevent a UTI, such as drinking plenty of fluids, avoiding irritating products, taking certain supplements, wearing properly fitting clothing, and practicing good hygiene. Keeping your urinary tract health in check is not only easy, but it is entirely worth it since it can help prevent uncomfortable symptoms that can get in the way of your daily life. 

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Stay Hydrated

This one is obvious; when your body is not hydrated, it will produce less urine. Urinating helps to flush bacteria out of your bladder and urinary tract. If you don’t urinate, bacteria can sit in your urinary tract and grow and spread into an infection. To prevent a UTI, drink plenty of water and stay hydrated throughout the day. The water you need will vary depending on your needs and body size, but in general, it is recommended to drink 8 cups of water per day. You should also limit your intake of sugary and caffeinated beverages to avoid dehydration. 

One study found that increased fluid intake was associated with a reduced risk of recurrent UTIs in women. This study found that women who drank about six 8-ounce glasses of water per day had a 48% reduction in the risk of UTIs compared to those who did not increase their water intake. 

Avoid Irritating Products

Certain products can irritate the urinary tract, placing you at a higher risk of frequent UTIs. Everyday products like soap, douches, and lotion may contain chemicals that irritate the microbiome and can put you at a higher chance of getting a UTI. In addition, spermicidal contraceptives (birth control) can increase your risk of developing UTIs and contain chemicals that irritate the urinary tract. 

One study published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health examined the connection between certain feminine hygiene products and the risk for UTIs. The study found that women who used vaginal douches, wipes, and sprays had a higher risk of developing UTIs when compared to those who did not use these products. 

Take Supplements

Certain supplements may help prevent UTIs. D-Mannose is a natural sugar that can flush out the urinary tract, binding to infection-causing bacteria. Cranberry supplements work similarly, preventing bacteria from sticking to the bladder wall. Cranberry Juice should not be considered supplemental as it does not contain the polyphenols, like proanthocyanidins, that help with urinary tract infections.

Probiotics help boost the natural, healthy bacteria in the body, and they help to support overall health in various ways. Because probiotics help to restore the balance of good bacteria in the body, they can help prevent the growth of harmful bacteria that causes UTIs. Probiotics prevent UTIs by creating an environment in the body that is less conducive to the growth of harmful bacteria. 

Lactobacillus probiotics may also help reduce inflammation in the urinary tract, which can help relieve the pain and discomfort associated with UTIs. It is vital to take a high-quality one to get the most benefit from taking a probiotic. 

Vitamin C helps to support the immune system to improve your body’s ability to fight off harmful bacteria and prevent infection. 

Wear Loose Clothing

Many people overlook the fact that their clothing could be causing a UTI. Tight-fitting clothing can increase the risk of UTI since it creates a warm and moist environment that encourages the growth of bacteria. To prevent a UTI, you should make sure to wear loose clothing that allows for air circulation. Loose clothing is especially important for people who are prone to UTIs. Avoid wearing tight jeans or leggings for long periods, and opt for loose-fitting pants or skirts instead. 

One study involving 306 women looked at the association between tight clothing and recurring UTIs. The study found that tight clothing was significantly more common in the case group of women who experienced recurrent symptoms of a UTI than in the control group of women who did not experience recurrent UTIs. This suggests that loose-fitting clothing could help to prevent recurring UTIs.

Wear Loose Clothing
Photo by Hannah Xu on Unsplash

Practice Good Hygiene

Practicing good hygiene can help to prevent a UTI. Women should always wipe from front to back after using the toilet to ensure that bacteria from the rectum do not spread to the urinary tract. In addition, you should always change pads and tampons regularly while menstruating and avoid using irritating or scented products in the genital area. If you are prone to UTIs, then you should be extra careful to practice good hygiene to prevent future infections.

Other steps to practice good hygiene include:

  • Shower daily
  • Always wear clean underwear
  • Urinate before and after having sex
  • Avoid taking bubble baths often, as this can sometimes cause UTIs
  • Avoid using a douche or any type of spray in and around the genital area

One study involving 280 women looked at certain personal hygiene practices and the occurrence of UTIs in women. The results were obvious – this study found that good hygiene practices, such as wiping from front to back, were associated with a lower risk of a UTI. 

How Are UTIs Treated?

If you have a UTI, you should visit your doctor for treatment. They will want to collect a urine sample, which they can test for signs of UTI. Your doctor will look at the sample to evaluate the color and whether it is cloudy. They will also test the urine to look for any blood cells or bacteria in the urine sample which would indicate a UTI.

Typical treatment for a UTI involves prescription antibiotics. Antibiotics are an effective approach to treating a UTI, but they can sometimes cause specific side effects such as diarrhea or digestive discomfort. As a result, some people opt to use natural remedies such as cranberry extract or D-mannose. These natural approaches can be an effective method to treat a mild UTI but should not replace the use of antibiotics–especially in more severe cases. 

If you experience recurring UTIs, it could be beneficial to talk with your doctor about more natural approaches to treatment since ongoing antibiotic usage can have some adverse side effects. Talk with your doctor about what treatment approaches are the best options for you.

Final Thoughts

UTIs are anything but comfortable. If you have recurring UTIs, you should take steps to prevent them from occurring. However, simple steps to prevent a UTI might make you feel uncomfortable and have inconvenient symptoms. Treating a UTI typically involves prescription antibiotics, but some natural remedies can be effective.