If you've never had a urinary tract infection (UTI), count yourself lucky! But if you have one, or you find yourself getting them often, this guide is here to help.
UTIs are not fun, they can be very uncomfortable and can even lead to kidney infections if left untreated.
So, what's a UTI and what can you do about them?
What is a UTI?
UTIs happen when bacteria, like E. coli, which usually live harmlessly in the bowel, enter the urinary tract and start multiplying. Common symptoms include:
a burning sensation when peeing
needing to go more often
passing only small amounts of urine.
You might also notice traces of blood in your urine or experience aches in your lower abdomen or back.
The difference between Cystitis and UTI
These terms are often used interchangeably, but cystitis refers specifically to an infection in the bladder and Urethritis is an infection in the urethra.
Why are women more likely to get UTIs?
Both men and women can get UTIs, but women are more prone due to the female anatomy. The female urethra is close to the back passage, making it easy for bacteria to travel from one area to the other.
It's estimated that one in three women will experience a UTI in their life time.
More likely as we age
Older individuals are at a higher risk of developing UTIs because of a weaker urine flow, which can result in the bladder not emptying completely. In men, an enlarged prostate may contribute to this difficulty in fully emptying the bladder.
Consequently, bacteria can accumulate in the urine and bladder, increasing the chances of a UTI.
Six steps to reduce the risk of UTIs
Wipe the right way
Make sure to wipe from front to back after using the toilet. This helps prevent bacteria from moving from the anus to the urethra.
Don't forget to urinate after sex. It helps wash away any bacteria that might have been introduced during the act.
Cotton is your friend
Choose comfy cotton underwear! Cotton allows your skin to breathe and keeps moisture at bay, reducing the chances of bacterial growth.
Say no to bubbles and perfumes
Avoid bubble baths and scented soaps, as they can irritate the urinary tract and increase the risk of UTIs.
Watch your sugar
Keep an eye on your sugar intake, as a high-sugar diet may encourage bacterial growth and make you more prone to infections.
Ease up on caffeine
Cut back on tea, coffee, cola, and energy drinks. These beverages can make you need to urinate more often and irritate your bladder.
What can you do if you have a UTI?
Many UTIs will clear up themselves with needing to take antibiotics. However, it's essential to drink plenty of water while dealing with a UTI. This helps flush out bacteria and makes your urine less concentrated, reducing irritation.
The NHS also recommends that "If you keep getting a bladder infection (cystitis), there's some evidence it may be helpful to take D-mannose – a sugar you can buy as a powder or tablets to take every day."
D-mannose can help prevent bacteria from sticking to the walls of the urinary tract, making it easier to flush them out.
And one study showed that taking D-mannose for six months can reduce UTI symptoms and risk of reinfection.
There's also some evidence that taking probiotics may help. These can help maintain a healthy balance of bacteria in the urinary tract.
What about Cranberry Juice?
Cranberry juice has long been believed to help prevent and alleviate urinary tract infections (UTIs) due to the presence of compounds called proanthocyanidins, which can prevent E. coli bacteria from attaching to the walls of the urinary tract.
However, the evidence supporting cranberry juice specifically for UTI prevention is not entirely clear. Some studies suggest that cranberry juice may help reduce the frequency of UTIs, especially in women who have recurrent UTIs.
However, other studies have found no significant benefit in using cranberry juice for UTI prevention, .
The effectiveness of cranberry juice in preventing UTIs may be limited by factors such as the concentration of active compounds, the amount of juice consumed, and the presence of added sugar in commercial cranberry juice products, which can contribute to excessive calorie and sugar intake if consumed in large amounts.
When to See Your GP
If you're pregnant and develop at UTI, or you notice blood in your urine or if your UTI symptoms don't improve after two to three days, it's important to consult your GP. Seek urgent medical attention if you experience pain in your sides or lower back, develop a fever, or have an upset stomach and vomiting, as these could be signs of a kidney infection, which requires prompt treatment.
This article is for general information only and in not intended to treat or diagnose medical conditions.
 Hooton, T. M. (2001). Pathogenesis of urinary tract infections: an update. The Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy.
 Kuzmin, D. V., Aliev, M. A., & Gadzhieva, Z. S. (2016). Efficacy of D-mannose in the prevention of recurrent uncomplicated cystitis. Urologiia.
 Thibault, R., Graf, S., Clerc, A., Delieuvin, N., Heidegger, C. P., & Pichard, C. (2010). Diets and diabetic status favor the urinary excretion of D-serine in humans. European Journal of Nutrition.
 Beerepoot, M. A., & Geerlings, S. E. (2016). Non-antibiotic prophylaxis for urinary tract infections.
 Hooton, T. M., Vecchio, M., Iroz, A., Tack, I., Dornic, Q., Seksek, I., & Lotan, Y. (2018). Effect of increased daily water intake in premenopausal women with recurrent urinary tract infections: A randomized clinical trial. JAMA Internal Medicine.
 Rowe, T. A., & Juthani-Mehta, M. (2014). Urinary tract infection in older adults. Aging Healt.
Kranjčec, B., Papeš, D., & Altarac, S. (2014). D-mannose powder for prophylaxis of recurrent urinary tract infections in women: a randomized clinical trial. World Journal of Urology.
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