Most women will experience a urinary tract infection sometime during their lifetime. But for some women (1 in 5) this painful infection can become recurrent and a vicious cycle of reinfection can occur. Infections are more common with pregnancy, menopause, diabetes, MS and other urinary issues such as using a catheter or kidney stones. Unfortunately, most cases are triggered by sexual activity.
Signs and symptoms of Urinary Tract Infections include:
- Pain, stinging or a burning sensation with urination (I’ve heard it explained as feeling like peeing out razor blades)
- A feeling of urgency and frequency with urination (and not much urine coming out)
- Some women experience fatigue and fever. Plus other general signs of infections.
- Urine might look different, it could be cloudy, dirty, dark and strange smelling. If you have blood in it, head straight to see your GP.
- Pain in your lower abdomen or lower back.
- Some women have very little symptoms and simply discover an infection with routine testing.
Prevention is definitely better than cure. Here are a few ideas to help you prevent an infection in the first place:
- Wipe front to back! Hopefully, your parents taught you this as a child, but just in case after every trip to the toilet you should wipe from your front to your back. This prevents bacteria getting to your urethra.
- If possible, consider showering (cleaning your genitals) prior to sex.
- Make sure you are well lubricated for sex. (dryness downstairs is one of the reasons UTI risk can increase with menopause)
- Urinate after sex. This helps flush bacteria out and away from your urethra.
- Are you using contraception? Certain OCP’s can make you more susceptible to infections. And so can a poorly fitted diaphragm.
- Wear cotton underwear and consider wearing nothing underneath when at home. It’s good to let the air circulate down there. (If you have a private yard or balcony or if you like nudist beaches, fresh air and sunshine are even better. My old uni lecturer swore by sunshine therapy as a treatment for a UTI or even candida)
- Avoid wearing stockings/tights. (blocks air flow!)
- Avoid very tight clothes such as jeans.
- Empty your bladder frequently and completely.
- Stay well hydrated
- Have showers instead of baths and look at your soap/body wash. It’s best to use a natural product like goats milk soap without fragrances or chemicals.
- Check all your female hygiene products (pads and tampons) are organic. Cotton is one of the most heavily sprayed crops, you don’t want to be putting pesticides directly on your genitals!
Diet for prevention and treatment:
- Carbohydrates (bread, pasta, cereal, cakes etc) and sugars feed infection, therefore avoid like the plague.
- Protein (meat, eggs, tofu, nuts, seeds, fish, chicken) builds immune cells and fights infections, eat a protein source in every meal.
- Good fats (avocado, eggs, coconut, olive, seafood) helps reduce inflammation and pain. You will want plenty of this macronutrient.
- Cranberry juice (but only the sugar-free variety found in a health food store, not in a supermarket) prevents bacteria from sticking to the bladder wall. Bacteria needs somewhere to attach to, to be able to divide and replicate. Therefore is flushes it out and the infection is over! 🙂
- Probiotic-containing foods such as fermented food help prevent infections by increasing the good bacteria available.
- Water! This may seem like a catch 22, as the last thing you want to do is urinate again due to the burning sensation but you need to drink heaps to flush out the infection.
- Eats lots of immune boosting foods such as garlic.
- Consider doing an alkaline/detox program. The more acidic your body is the more prone to infections it is.
Additional supplements to consider for an infection:
- High-dose cranberry tablets
- High-dose immune enhancing probiotics
- Herbal medicine combination that includes a combination of Urinary tonics, Antiseptics, Anti-inflammatories and Diuretics (such as alfalfa, bearberry, celery seeds, dandelion, chamomile, chickweed, cornsilk, couch grass, echinacea, goldenrod, horse-chestnut, juniper, marshmallow, parsley, slippery elm, thyme, yarrow)
- Magnesium, if you are experiencing lots of cramping pain.
- Antioxidants and immune enhancers like Zinc and vitamin C