Many people suffer from the pain and discomfort of urinary tract infections (UTI’s), but the good news is that they are very easily treated. It usually only requires a few days of antibiotic treatment to clear up the issue.
It is generally women who are more prone to UTI’s than men, with as many as 50% of the women in the UK likely to suffer from an infection as some point in their life. Roughly 1 in 2,000 will develop a UTI each year.
Children are susceptible, too, but UTI cases in little ones are pretty uncommon.
Urinary tract infections (UTIs, for short), which affects the body’s kidneys and bladder, are extremely common among the female population, although it’s not unheard of for men to suffer with them too. Now, why is it that you hear more women complain of a UTI than men when both genders have a urethra?
The answer is simple!
Women have a shorter urethra, and this shorter urethra enables bacteria from the rectal region to find their way into the bladder. Men have a longer urethra – the size is the shaft of their penis – and hardly ever suffer from bladder issues.
A Closer Look At Urinary Tract Infections
The urinary tract is the path that urine follows when leaving the body. It consists of:
- The kidneys – a pair of organs that are responsible for taking waste materials in the blood and turning it into urine
- The ureters – tubes that carry urine from the kidneys to the bladder
- The bladder – where urine is stored until expelled from the body
- The urethra – the tube that allows urine to leave the bladder
A UTI can occur within any area of the urinary system – urethra, bladder and kidneys. Doctors often divide the urinary tract infection into two sections:
- Upper – This is when the kidneys are affected, and is known as severe pyelonephritis.
- Lower – This is when the urethra, which is the tube that lets urine flow out of the body from the bladder, is affected. Lower infections are known as cystitis (a simple bladder infection).
Remember, a UTI is the result of bacteria traveling up into the urethra where they multiply. While the urinary system does a great a job at keeping bacteria from proliferating, sometimes its defenses don’t work all that well, leading to a major infection.
- Bladder infection or cystitis – This kind of UTI is the result of Escherichia coli (E. coli), which is a bacteria normally seen in the GI tract. Sexual intercourse is the biggest reason cystitis occurs, but it’s not the only reason. Every woman – young and old – sexually active or not – can develop this type of UTI.
- Urethritis infection – This kind of UTI is the result of GI bacteria making its way from the anus to urethra. Since the areas are so close together, sexually transmitted diseases like chlamydia, gonorrhea and herpes can lead to urethritis.
How does a UTI develop?
An infection, generally caused by bacteria, in the urinary tract leads to the development of a UTI. Bacteria usually enters the urinary tract via the urethra, but can also get in via the bloodstream.
The reasons for the development are not obvious, but women often find that they develop a UTI after having sex.
It is a common misconception that a UTI is an STD, when in fact it is the irritation from having sex that is the cause.
Men do not develop UTI’s as frequently as women do, and not enough research has been done to understand why that is the case. Men who develop a UTI often do so because of a bladder stone, prostate gland issues, or a narrowing of the urethra.
The risk of developing a UTI can be decreased by wiping from front to back after a toilet visit, urinating after sex, drinking cranberry juice on a regular basis, and avoiding constipation.
Different Types of UTI
Infections can develop in both the upper and lower areas of the urinary tract, which is why you may hear doctors refer to them as lower or upper UTI’s. Since the kidney can potentially be affected, it is the upper UTI’s that are considered the more dangerous of the two.
A bladder infection is referred to as cystitis, while an infection in the urethra is referred to as urethritis.
Symptoms: Are You Suffering From A Urinary Tract Infection?
UTI symptoms are similar for women, men and children. Therefore, if you notice any of the following conditions, it may be best to seek help from your doctor to get a more definitive diagnosis. These symptoms include:
- Powerful urine smell
- Powerful desire to pee
- Loss of sensation to pee
- Passing minute amounts of pee
- Cloudy look to the urine
- Bright pink, red or cola-colored urine (tell-tale sign of blood in the urine)
- Pelvic pain (for women) – usually occurs in the mid-pelvic region and the pubic bone area
- Rectal pain (for men)
Pain and discomfort are typically the earliest signs that you may be suffering from a UTI.
When should you visit your doctor?
It is not uncommon for the symptoms of UTI to pass in a few days. If those symptoms persist for 5 or more days, you should make an appointment with your doctor. A home test can also help you to ascertain if you have a urinary tact infection. We sell a urine dip stick test for UTI’s on this website, for more information on this test or to buy click here.
Other reasons for visiting the doctor when you have a UTI include:
- Developing a high temperature or fever
- A sudden worsening of the symptoms
- If you are pregnant
- If you are diabetic
Who Is At Risk For Developing UTIs?
While both genders can suffer from UTIs, women suffer more for another reason – pregnancy. The physical changes the female body undergoes for motherhood can increase the chances for UTIs.
Anyone who must use a catheter is also at a higher risk for developing UTIs – think the elderly and patients undergoing long-term treatments.
Diabetics are also at an increased risk for a UTI if they don’t control their blood sugar levels and if there is a hormonal imbalance. If there are any elements of gravidity, parity or immunosuppressant, then the chance of developing a UTI is high.
The treatment of UTI’s
Generally speaking, UTI’s will get better without treatment in about 4-5 days.
Quicker recovery can be achieved by taking a round of antibiotics. Women who suffer from UTI’s on a regular basis are recommended to go that route. Taking antibiotics over a longer period of time can, in some cases, prevent UTI’s from returning.
There are not many complications that come from urinary tract infections, but when they happen, they can be serious, with blood poisoning and kidney failure a possibility.
When complications do arise, they are usually in patients with a pre-existing health issue. These are most common in people with diabetes or a weak immune system.
Men with a urinary tract infection run the risk of an inflamed prostate (prostatitis).
Several Kinds Of Foods To Steer Clear Of
Yes, the foods you eat will affect the bacteria in your body – it can destroy the good bacteria and allow the bad bacteria to proliferate quickly. What kinds of foods should you curtail from your diet?
- Don’t eat or drink sugar-laden foods such as sodas, cakes, cookies, concentrated fresh fruit drinks, alcohol, etc. An environment that’s been overrun with sugar can impair the white blood skin cells from killing harmful bacteria.
- Don’t consume processed or spicy foods. Avoid dangerous fats, red meats, shellfish and dairy. The acidity of these foods can increase the amount of bad bacteria in the body.
What Foods Should You Eat Then?
- Drink juice that’s loaded with vitamin C (citrus fruits like oranges, grapefruits, etc.). These foods can help normalize the environment where bacteria thrive.
- Eat foods loaded with vitamin A to build your immune system up.
- Eat zinc-rich foods such as meat liver, oysters, egg yolks, Brazil nuts, almonds, egg yolks, peanuts and oats. Zinc can generate white blood cells that can help to kill off the bad bacteria.
- Consume cranberry juice, which has a simple naturally-occurring glucose known as D-mannose. D-mannose will stick to foreign substances, keeping them from attaching themselves to the bladder.
- Use high-quality probiotics or consume fermented foods that contain active probiotics, which contains a plethora of good bacteria to fight the dangerous bacteria.
Can A Change In Lifestyle Make A Difference?
While good hygiene isn’t the end-all, be-all for stopping a UTI from developing, it’s a good idea to practice anyway. Make sure to do the following:
- Wipe the urinary tract and penis from front to back, using soap and water after every bowel movement.
- Make sure to clean the anus and genitals right before and after sex.
- Be sure to pee after you have sex to flush out any bacteria that traveled up the urethra and into the bladder.
- Don’t wear tight clothing.
- Use cotton underwear and pantyhose.
- Take a shower, not a bath.
- Don’t use bath oils, douches, powders or hygiene sprays. Avoid any product that has fragrances in them. Douching may also aggravate the urethra and vagina areas increases the chances for STDs to occur.
- Use sanitary napkins instead of They should be changed each time you pee.
- Be sure to drink plenty of water and pee on a regular basis.
Using antibiotics can help the body fight the infection. However, drinking cranberry juice is just as effective and should be an alternative to fighting the pathogens that lead to a urinary tract infection.
Can Using Supplements Help The Body Fight Against The Infection?
- Vitamin C – This vitamin is well-known for its acid-ascorbic properties and can effectively fight against a UTI. It causes the urine to have more acid in it, making the environment hostile for bacteria to grow. Use Vitamin C supplements to keep the harmful bacteria from proliferating in the urinary tract.
- Cranberry – If you drink cranberry juice or eat cranberries, the vitamin C will acidify the urine and keep the bacteria from attaching to the urinary tract. Interestingly enough, cranberries can “deodorize” urine too. You can either drink the juice, eat cranberries or use concentrated cranberry supplements. If you go with cranberry juice, make sure it’s not loaded with sugar. You want to drink cranberry extract juice.
- Bromelain – This works with both vitamins A and C, which work to suppress bacteria growth. Bromelain has anti-inflammatory properties that help with tenderness and swelling. When used along with antibiotics, it can decrease prostate irritation and stop the pain and irritation that UTIs cause.
- Herbal/Green Teas – You can use herbal or green teas that have Echinacea, goldenseal and nettle in them, which have proven themselves to boost the body’s immune system and flush out the bad bacteria. If you don’t like the drink, you can always take Green Tea supplements instead.
It’s important to be mindful of what vitamin supplements you take, especially if you take prescription medications or have another health condition. Talk with your doctor to learn what supplement you can use to combat a UTI.
And, if you’re suffering from a UTI and are in serious pain, be sure to talk to your physician right away. You may actually need antibiotics to treat the condition along home remedies to treat the condition. For a quick diagnosis, or to put your mind at rest, you may want to take a home UTI test.
Image by Flickr user TheDeliciousLife