Having a urinary tract infection (UTI) is like having a migraine – you can’t imagine the pain and discomfort it causes until you experience it for yourself.
The other weekend I experienced my first UTI. It felt like my bladder might explode. It wasn’t 10/10 excruciating pain, but rather a numb, tingling, persistent, dull pain. A pain that meant I couldn’t think about anything else. My world became centred around my lower abdomen.
What is a UTI and what causes it?
A UTI is an infection in any part of your urinary system. It can occur in your kidneys, but more commonly it occurs in your bladder or urethra. It’s caused by bacteria (such as E.coli) that is introduced into your urinary system. It’s more common in females – especially those who are pregnant, post-menopausal, have weakened immune systems, suffer from diabetes or who are catheterised. As well as those who have frequent sexual activity (we wish!) or poor hygiene (we hope not!).
How are UTIs treated?
Once you have a dreaded UTI, best treatment is a course of antibiotics. With UTIs being one of the world’s most common ailments, GPs are well versed in managing them. There is no shame in having a UTI. Most women will experience at least one in their life time, so save yourself the pain and discomfort, and see your family doctor.
Ten ways to prevent urinary tract infections:
Experiencing a UTI brings to mind the saying: ‘Once bitten, twice shy’. Once you’ve suffered through one, you want to make sure you don’t unnecessarily suffer through another.
Here’s a list of ten ways you can say goodbye to those nasty UTIs.
Good hygiene practices
Nobody needs reminding to wash their nether regions. However, what you wash your genetalia with, has an impact on whether you develop a UTI or not.
Avoid ‘over-cleaning’ yourself, especially with harsh soaps, chemicals and heavily scented body wash. These kill off the lactobacillus (the good bacteria) in your vagina. It’s best to wash with warm water and a soap-free, pH-balanced cleanser such as aqueous cream.
Urinate before and after sex
Pee away the harmful bacteria. The flow of urine will help flush out and prevent bacteria from entering the urethra.
Embrace this wonderful, universal prevention and cure for just about everything. Keep well hydrated, especially in the summer months. Increasing your water intake will help flush out unwanted bacteria in the urinary system.
Decrease your caffeine, alcohol and sugar intake
These three substances irritate the urinary tract, making it more susceptible to infection. Alcohol negatively impacts on the immune system, making it harder for the body to fight off UTI-causing bacteria.
Bacteria feeds on sugar (think lollies and tooth decay). By decreasing your sugar intake, you’ll decrease how much you feed the bad bacteria, and in doing so prevent them from multiplying.
No one (certainly not me!) wants to cut essentials like coffee, chocolate and sugar out of our lives. As a compromise – make sure you follow any sugary, alcoholic or caffeinated indulgence with a chaser of water (your teeth and digestive tract will love you for it too).
Avoid soft drinks – including diet drinks
Fizzy drinks contain the trifecta of urinary tract irritants. They are acidic, often caffeinated, and contain either sugar or artificial sweeteners. The acid, caffeine and sweeteners irritate the bladder, making it more susceptible to infections. Best to stick to nature’s nectar – water.
Probiotics and vitamin C
Probiotics feed the good bacteria, preventing the bad bacteria from growing. Spoil yourself with probiotic-rich food including yoghurt, olives, pickles, and fermented foods such as sauerkraut, kefir, kombucha and miso.
Vitamin C feeds the immune system, helping it fight infection. Get your vitamin C the old-fashioned way – by eating lots of fruit and vegetables. Especially those little, red gems – cranberries. Steer clear of high dose vitamin C supplements, as these can cause the urine to become acidic.
Avoid holding on
Easier said than done. We often put off engaging in even the most basic of bodily functions until it’s absolutely necessary, because we are too busy rushing from one commitment to the next. But holding onto your pee for too long can cause bacteria to build up, leading the way to a UTI. An easy way to stop yourself from holding on, is to drink more water.
Eat foods rich in antioxidants
Foods like kale, berries, beetroot, artichokes and spinach are not only good for the anti-ageing process, but they also help prevent UTIs. Summer is a season to up the ante on anti-oxidants. It’s a time to eat salads, buy cherries and berries from road-side stalls and grill lean meats and veggie kebabs on the BBQ.
Review your contraception and feminine hygiene products
Certain contraceptives are known to promote an overgrowth of harmful bacteria – diaphragms, non-lubricated condoms, and spermicides. If you’re experiencing recurrent UTIs, perhaps it’s time you talk to your doctor about trying out a different form of contraception.
Scented feminine products, such as scented sanitary pads, tampons and wipes can disrupt the pH balance in the vagina, causing harmful bacteria to grow. Consider using natural, unscented products instead.
Wipe from front to back
This might be the last on the list, but it is probably one of the most important ways to prevent UTIs. Wiping front to back means you decrease the risk of bringing E.coli from the anus to the urethra.
Parents, teachers and caregivers can educate girls on this simple technique from the moment they start toilet training. It’s an easy way to save girls from a future of possible discomfort, pain and embarrassment.
Four recipes your urinary tract will love:
The Kombucha Kosmopolitan
100ml Kombucha (choose low sugar)
100ml Cranberry juice (I use cold cranberry tea, as it has less sugar)
A splash of cold water
5 Fresh blueberries
A sprig of mint
Stir Kombucha, cranberry juice and water in a cup. Pour mixture into a martini glass. Garnish with fresh blueberries and mint.
Very Berry Smoothie
1 Cup Mixed berries (fresh or frozen)
½ Cup Cranberry tea (cooled)
3 Tablespoons Probiotic Greek yoghurt (no/low sugar)
Combine in a blender. Add ice to make the smoothie colder. Serve in a tall glass.
UTI Prevention Salad Dressing
¾ Cup Olive oil (you can also use hemp or avocado oil)
½ Cup Fresh Italian parsley finely chopped
½ Cup Fresh Oregano finely chopped
2 Tablespoons Apple Cider Vinegar
Pepper and Salt to taste
Mix ingredients in a jar or container with a tight fitting lid. Shake vigorously. Dressing can be stored in the fridge for up to a week.
Bladder Booster Super Salad
1 Cup Grated carrots
½ Fennel bulb, thinly sliced.
½ Telegraph cucumber diced.
½ Orange diced
½ Packet of baby spinach leaves
½ Cup of Dried goji berries
Toss ingredients in a salad bowl. Dress with UTI Prevention Dressing. Garnish with sliced almonds or pumpkin seeds.