As females, we experience the vast majority of all urinary tract infections (UTIs). Why?
Well, the anatomical structure of the female uro-genital tract means that it’s a LOT easier for micro-organisms to pass from one genital orifice to another. Plus, the female urethra–the tube that urine passes through on its way out of the bladder–is MUCH shorter in females than in males. This means microbes can get into the bladder quickly before they have a chance to be flushed out by urine. These two factors are a fact of life for females, so we have to work a little harder at keeping things fresh down there–especially after sexual activity, exercise and bowel movements.
But there’s more to consider than basic hygiene if you’re plagued by recurring UTIs. Have you considered the role of diet?
Here are a few foods that could be worsening your stubborn symptoms of UTI:
Sugar. E.coli is the most common species of bacteria found in the urine samples of females with UTI. There are many strains of e.coli–some being life-threatening, like the 0157 strain. But even a healthy person’s gut contains a variety of strains of e.coli. That being said, many bacteria eat sugar, which causes them to multiply. Sugar also suppresses the immune system’s ability to fight infection. Minimizing your intake of pop, sugar-sweetened fruit juices (such as popular cranberry brands), chocolate, ketchup, sweetened yogurts and baked goods will cut your sugar intake significantly.
Spicy foods. Black pepper, chili peppers and cayenne is just some of the hot stuff I’m talking about. Although they can’t feed the bacteria responsible for a UTI, they may be enough to trigger frequent urination and cramping because they can be bladder irritants. This irritation theoretically could lead to a more vulnerable bladder lining when it comes to infection, so easing up on the caliente seasonings could make a difference.
Alcohol: There are about 100 reasons to cut back on alcohol, but I’ll focus on a couple of related ones. As a diuretic, alcohol increases urination and depletes vitamin C and B vitamins needed by the immune system, so may reduce your resistance to infection. Plus, alcohol damages the gut flora, wiping out some of the good flora that may be associated with lower risk of UTI. Have I mentioned also that alcohol tends to make symptoms worse during infection? These are just some of the many reasons lowering your alcohol consumption may be a good idea.
Cranberry juice: That’s right: once you have an infection, the acidity of cranberry juice can actually make symptoms worse. Once the lining of the bladder becomes inflamed by the bacterial infecting it, it becomes quite sensitive to cranberry. That’s why it’s better used as part of a UTI prevention plan.
But it’s not as simple as drinking cranberry juice. As a holistic nutritionist I have seen many cases of recurring UTIs become far less frequent once clients modify their diets. I attribute this not only to a reduced intake of high-risk food ingredients, but to a more nutrient-dense diet—which can strengthen the immune system’s work against pathogens. Since nutritional habits can be challenging for many to change, my work involves providing a combination of dietary and supplemental nutrient recommendations that are designed to make it easier for you to transition to new eating patterns. As much as possible, I like to focus on what my clients CAN eat, because “don’ts” aren’t edible. If this sounds like something you’d like help with, head over to my initial nutritional consultation page for more info!