About 20% of women will suffer from a urinary tract infections (UTIs) at least once in their lifetime and 20% will experience reoccurring infections. Being that one of those lucky few women is my mother (and we have a very open relationship), I have become more than sympathetic to the condition. UTIs are just one of the many biological phenomenon that disproportionately affects more women than men and causes nightmarish symptoms like burning, loss of bladder control, pain in the abdomen and back (akin to our periods, ladies, if not worse!) and hellish discomfort. So, here we are to the rescue, with what you need to know and five ways to prevent urinary tract infections naturally!
What is a UTI & why does it happen?
A urinary tract infection is caused by bacteria entering the opening of the urethra and multiplying throughout the urinary system. The urinary tract includes the kidneys, the tubes that carry urine from the kidneys to the bladder (ureters), the bladder, and the tube that carries urine from the bladder (urethra). Urinary tract infections can be caused by poor hygiene, impaired immune function, the overuse of antibiotics, the use of spermicides, and sexual intercourse. The most common cause, accounting for about 90 percent of all cases, is the transfer of E. coli bacteria from the intestinal tract to the urinary tract. Age is also a factor – as incontinence becomes more common, as estrogen dwindles (in post-menopausal women), prostates become enlarged (men), the risk of developing an infection increases as well.
What are the symptoms of a UTI?
Burning sensations when you pee, pain in your lower abdomen or lower back, nausea, chills, fever, and loss of bladder control (re: literally peeing your pants if you’re laughing…or going a bump in the road too fast while driving) are all symptoms of a UTI. Some of the most severe side-effects is bloody urine; be sure to check with your doctor if you present with these for more than three days, in any varying degree of severity.
Who’s at risk?
EVERYONE. Not to sound morbid or anything, but both men and women suffer from UTIs. There are about 10 million infections every year, making it the second most common bacterial infection in the U.S., although it affects women disproportionately due to pregnancy and the resultant pressures of the bladder against the tract, causing blockages and improper fluid drainage.
How can I save myself?
In general, wipe front to back! When you do a number-two, use water, a bidet, or a wet-wipe to get a deep clean (and then wash your hands properly, even under the fingernails). Don’t douche, use deodorizing sprays, or scented/ flavored products. Pee, whenever you feel like it, and especially right after you have sex. Some studies recommend the use of probiotics as a daily supplement as they control the amount of E.coli in your gut, promote the growth of healthy bacteria, and create a stable environment. If you don’t want to eat another pill, try the Yakult kiddie-sized drinks (and freeze them for a warm weather treat).
What are the best ways to naturally deal with UTIs?
1. Load up on Vitamin C.
Vitamin C prevents against UTIs by both strengthening the body’s immune system and making urine more acidic, thereby inhibiting the growth of bacteria in your urinary tract. If you have an active urinary tract infection, taking vitamin C supplements in high concentrations may help. For a summer twist, grab a box of Emergen-C powder satchels (found at almost any drug store) and make yourself a refreshing orange-lemonade drink! If your pee is burning severely, vitamin C may aggravate it; trade up for baking soda instead to reduce the acidity and soothe your insides.
Drinking water is the best thing you can do to both prevent and ‘treat’ a UTI. It literally flushes out your system and cleanses your tract, ridding yourself temporarily of the bacterial overgrowth.
3. Cranberry Supplement Pills
While cranberry juice is good for you, it’s loaded with sugar that your body (and bacteria) don’t need. Supplement pills contain proanthocyanidins, effective against UTIs by preventing adherence of bacteria to the bladder wall.
4. Cut Out Bladder Irritants
Our daily goodies are filled with ingredients that can irritate our urinary system. Caffeine, alcohol, spicy food, nicotine, carbonated drinks, and artificial sweeteners can all irritate your bladder AND makes it even harder for your body to heal itself. If you can’t quit these things temporarily, definitely make an effort to pare down where you can. Focus on healthy foods, such as high-fiber carbohydrates like quinoa and consider drinking Metamucil, which also regulates blood sugar and can aid in weight loss. Complement this with exercise, and your body will slowly detox on its own!
5. Ditch the Chemicals
Trade your synthetics, spandex shorts, silk thongs and polyester panties for breathable cotton underwear. Wearing loose, airy clothing helps air get through to your privates, keeping them cool and dry. Make sure you’re also putting things that are only natural and organic down there. Beware of scented body soaps and lotions; opt for a tiny bit of talcum powder instead to absorb excess moisture (which breeds bacteria growth). Fragrances can irritate your skin causing inflammation and reducing the body’s ability to focus on healing itself; chemicals can also enhance the sensation of burning when you pee.
If you have the dire misfortune of having your period and a UTI simultaneously, make sure you’re wearing fragrance free tampons. First, opt for an organic, cotton product. Organic so that you can be assured of no carcinogens, pesticides, or chlorine/bleach residue in the tampon’s fibers and secondly, pure cotton because many products on the market have been developed with parabens and contain particles of plastics, rayon, and viscose. Because of FDA regulations, most companies don’t even have to disclose what’s in their products, even though what we put in our vaginas is absorbed, totally unfiltered, infinitely faster than any other route. For those of you who prefer pads, try our 100% cotton sanitary pads instead!