As a child I had chronic urinary tract infections. I was treated with multiple antibiotics from the age of 5 until age 17. This chronic use of antibiotics impacted my skin and my digestive system. It may have even contributed to the breast cancer I got at age 30. Through my medical school training and further training in functional medicine, I learned the importance of avoiding antibiotics as much as possible. Recurrent use of antibiotics increases your risk of getting another infection and causes the bacteria become resistant to the antibiotics. But all too often, many people get into the cycle of continual antibiotic use. Common infections that become chronic or frequent include ear infections, sinus infections, and urinary tract infections. In the past, I found chronic urinary tract infections a difficult problem for both myself and my patients. Now I am excited when a woman comes to see me with chronic urinary tract infections, because I know that I can help her.
These are 5 important instructions I give my patients for preventing urinary tract infections:
1. Use Probiotics – We have trillions of good bacteria that line our skin, digestive system and also our genital urinary system. These good bacteria have a tremendous influence on our immune system. They are often the first line of defense that prevents unwanted bacteria or viruses from invading the body. When we kill off these good bacteria with antibiotics, we increase our risk of developing a secondary infection, sometimes in a different part of the body. For example, many times people who take an antibiotic for a sinus infection also get a urinary tract infection or vaginal yeast infection. Or they will go on to get a viral upper respiratory infection. This is all too common. When it comes to antibiotics, only take them when necessary. Also, replace the good bacteria that the antibiotics killed through fermented foods and probiotics. Multiple strains of lactobacillus probiotics taken orally or vaginally have been shown to decrease the risk of getting a bladder infection. Lactobacillus reuteri and Lactobacillus rhamnosus, taken by mouth, have been shown to colonize the vaginal tract and decrease the risk of getting urinary tract infections. Vaginally applied probiotics can prevent urinary tract infections and yeast infections.
2. Consume Cranberry – Cranberry extract prevents the bacteria that cause bladder infections from being able to bind to the bladder wall and cause an infection. I usually have people avoid cranberry juice because of the excess sugar, so cranberry extract is a great alternative. Cranberry capsules are an excellent supplement that can be used for prevention. Here are some of my favorite cranberry tablets. I often have women take 2 tablets daily for prevention of urinary tract infections and increase if they are having symptoms.
3. Add in D-mannose – D-mannose also prevents the bacteria that often cause urinary tract infections from adhering to your bladder wall and causing infections. Studies have shown that 2 grams per day works better than even antibiotics at prevention of urinary tract infections. You can get tablets that have both cranberry and d-mannose or just d-mannose as a tablet or powder.
4. Reduce Sugar – High levels of sugar in the diet can encourage the wrong bacteria and yeasts to grow in your body and increase your risk of multiple infections. Avoid added sugar in your diet. It is important to choose a whole foods diet that is low in processed foods. This will insure that you get the necessary nutrients to support your immune system and decrease your risk of many infections, including urinary tract infections.
5. Don’t Forget the Basics – Drink plenty of water, do not hold your urine, use cotton underwear, and urinate right after sexual intercourse. Whenever you urinate, the bacteria that may be in your urinary tract system are flushed out. So keeping your urine dilute and urinating frequently can help decrease your risk of getting urinary tract infections.
If you are experiencing the symptoms of urinary tract infections, burning while urinating, frequent urination, blood in your urine, fevers or back pain, make sure to see your doctor immediately and get your urine tested.
I hope these 5 tips decrease your risk of getting a urinary tract infection and break the cycle.
To Your Health,