Urinary tract infection (UTI) is an infection involving the kidneys, ureters, bladder, or urethra. These are the structures that urine passes through before being eliminated from the body.
The urine is normally sterile. An infection occurs when bacteria get into the urine and begin to grow. The infection usually starts at the opening of the urethra where the urine leaves the body and moves upward into the urinary tract.
These bacteria can move from the area around the anus to the opening of the urethra. The two most common causes of this are improper wiping and sexual intercourse.
Usually, the act of emptying the bladder (urinating) flushes the bacteria out of the urethra. If there are too many bacteria, urinating may not stop their spread.
UTIs predominantly afflict women as women’s urethras are much shorter than men’s. Therefore, invading bacteria have a shorter distance to travel, making women more prone to UTIs.
A UTI can affect any or all of the organs involved. When the infection works its way up the urethra to the bladder, it is called cystitis; through the ureters and into the kidneys, it’s known as pyelonephritis. UTIs can even lead to a serious blood infection called septicemia.
- Feeling pain or burning sensation when urinating
- Feeling the need to urinate often
- Little urine production
- Cloudy or foul smelling urine
- Pain in the back or side below the ribs
- Shaking and chills
- Pelvic pressure
- Lower abdomen discomfort
- Blood in urine
- Delayed urination: Do not hold it in when you really should urinate. Holding it in allows bacteria to flourish instead of being flushed from they system.
- Wiping pattern: Always wipe front to back. Wiping back to front can bring bacteria into the urethra
- Intercourse: The more sex you have, the likelier it is you might get a UTI because bacteria from the vagina and from the area between the vagina and your butt may move to the urethra.
- Birth control: Chemicals in birth control spermicides (condoms, foams, gels, etc.) can irritate the urethra, leading to infection. Using unlubricated condoms can further contribute to UTIs by bruising urethral tissue. Diaphragms can put pressure on the bladder and cause incomplete urination, which allows for bacterial growth.
- Chemical exposure: Hygiene may be partially to blame for the prevalence of UTIs. Soaps, powders, perfumes, vaginal deodorants, and douching can all irritate the urethra and lead to infection.
- Pregnancy: A women’s body undergoes numerous changes the body adjust to the demands of a growing fetus. Some of the hormonal changes cause the relaxation of urinary tract smooth muscle; when the muscle is relaxed, urine flow slows down, enabling bacteria to stay in your body longer where they can grow and flourish.
- Being a diabetic: Research shows that diabetics are more likely to suffer from UTIs. When you are diabetic, your blood sugar can be off the charts—potentially making your urine the perfect place for bacteria to multiply (and lead to an infection).
- Drink cranberry juice.
- Vitamin C. Vitamin C helps prevent UTIs by increasing the acidity of your urine, which in turn will help prevent the attachment and proliferation of pathogenic bacteria to your urinary tract.
- D-mannose. D-Mannose is a simple sugar that passes through your digestive system and is urinated out virtually intact. D-Mannose resembles the main bladder cell receptors that pathogenic bacteria (such as E. coli) use to attach to the urinary tract. Supplementing with D-mannose allows pathogenic bacteria to attach to them instead of your tissues; the bacteria can then be flushed from your system, helping prevent infection.
- Probiotics. Beneficial probiotic bacteria normally found in the urinary tract (primarily Lactobacilli) outnumber pathogenic bacteria and help keep them in check. During any infection, this balance shifts in favor of the pathogens such as E. coli. Supplementing with Lactobacilli probiotics will help maintain and restore a healthy balance in the urinary tract as well as the rest of the body.
- Drink plenty of water. It helps promote more frequent urination to help flush bacteria.
- Limit sugar intake. High sugar impairs your white blood cells’ ability to kill bacteria and prevent all types of infections.
- Reduce alcohol consumption. Alcohol suppresses your immune system.
- Don’t smoke. Smoking irritates the bladder and is the leading cause of bladder cancer.