For many women, urinary tract infections, or UTIs, are a recurring and painful annoyance whose standard treatment is usually a round of antibiotics, which, ironically can increase the chances of having another one – not to mention boost antibiotic-resistance risk. While every patient in pain wants to stop it as quickly as possible, in the long-term, multiple rounds of antibiotics aren’t the answer – prevention is. To help keep UTIs from taking hold, try a few lifestyle adjustments – and save the antibiotics for a real emergency:
Oops, I did it again
Though men can get UTIs, women suffer far more frequently primarily due to their anatomy. Unfortunately, the shorter length of women’s urethras tend to make it easier for bacteria to break through the body’s natural defenses and start to flourish. Consequently, women need to be conscious of the kinds of behaviors that can set the stage for the bacterial growth—and have a sustainable preventative plan in place.
Beware the trouble-makers
There might be just one factor that’s fostering the bacterial growth or there may be several, so it may require a bit of detective work on your end. And while some women may find sexual activity is one of their most frequent triggers, there are also a number of other, less obvious bacterial growth-promoters that your momma (or your gynecologist) probably never warned you about. A few of the classic offenders:
1. ‘Holding it in’ – ignoring signals to urinate which encourages bacteria to flourish
2. Dehydration – be it light or severe, not drinking enough fluids is a key contributor
3. Too much sugar in the diet – which feeds bacteria, enabling them grow
4. Extended bouts of sitting – which is linked with increased kidney problems and UTIs
5. Diaphragms and spermicide – which on their own or in combination can foster irritation and bacterial growth
6. Poor hygiene – as in wiping in the wrong direction, accidentally transferring bacteria from the back to the front
7. Bubble baths – the soaps that make the bubbles, as well as the hot water, can exacerbate symptoms
8. Antihistamines, decongestants and cold meds – which can inhibit the bladder from fully emptying, boosting UTI risk
9. Pregnancy – which can also make fully emptying the bladder difficult and foster bacterial growth
10. Air travel – which combines dehydration, limited bathroom access, sugary, processed foods, plus hours of sitting
11. Aging – Another culprit that often doesn’t get talked about? Aging. Some of the biological and chemical changes associated with aging, like menopause, diabetes, some prescription drug use – such as those for high blood pressure – can also compromise your ability to fight off infection, making middle-aged and older women more susceptible to UTIs.
Haven’t got time for the pain?
And now – the good news. Just as there are seemingly endless ways to contract a UTI, there are just as many ways to fight them off, and none of them involve repeatedly bombing yourself with antibiotics. If you’re prone to UTIs, taking advantage of one or a combination of the following protocols should significantly reduce your susceptibility:
1. Never miss an opportunity to hit the loo
Doing so will keep bacteria moving out of your system vs. hanging around too long and replicating. Don’t be shy about frequent bathroom breaks, put your health first and just ‘let it go,” as often as the urge strikes.
2. Drink fluids
And plenty of them, to help dilute and keep moving bacteria out of your system. Another plus of staying hydrated? It’ll force you out of your office chair and add a bit more movement to your day.
3. Ditch sugar
Yes, there are a million reasons to dump the sweet stuff, and not feeding UTI bacteria is one more!
4. Get a stand-up desk
To reduce strain on your kidneys.
5. Fly smarter
Get up and do a lap around the cabin at least once an hour. Do some light stretches on line for the bathroom. When the water tray comes around, make yours a double. And avoid carbs and sweets while in the air (as well as the ground.)
6. Empty your bladder
Empty your bladder immediately following (not before) sexual activity to help clear bacteria from the urethra.
7. Consider birth control alternatives
that are less likely to encourage bacterial growth.
8. Wipe properly
– always from front to back.
9. Shower –
instead of taking bubble baths or hot tub soaks.
10. Avoid OTC cold, flu and allergy meds
– and focus instead on building up immunity.
11. Change your diet
– quit sugar and processed foods; eat a healthy, plant-based diet; make time for exercise, relaxation and good quality sleep.
12. Reinforce your UTI-repelling powers naturally
– with regular probiotic supplementation. You can also try a short course of D-mannose supplements (the active ingredient in cranberry juice, more concentrated and minus the extra sugar) and usnea uva ursi, an herbal extract.
If, despite your best efforts, UTIs continue, check with your doctor for a further examination and to review additional treatment options. When symptoms are acute, don’t ignore them and talk to your doctor right away to prevent the infection from heading to your kidneys and causing more serious damage.