If you want to know how to prevent a UTI, you’ve come to the right place.
Prevention is the best medicine, especially in infectious diseases. We can adopt different methods to reduce our risk of infection, and the topic became a worldwide trend after the recent pandemic.
Most of us learned how to prevent respiratory infections. But what about the urinary system? How to prevent a UTI?
We’re reviewing the topic in this article and giving you 9 top tips you can follow to prevent infectious diseases affecting your urinary tract.
What is a UTI?
UTI is short for Urinary Tract Infection. This type of infection develops in any part of the urinary tract, including the kidneys, ureters, or urinary bladder. In most cases, it is located in the kidneys or the urinary bladder.
A UTI develops when a microbe travels from the urethra into the bladder. After that, it travels upward, causing kidney infection.
Another possibility is a hematogenous infection. That is an infection that travels through the blood directly to the kidneys (1).
Causes & Risk Factors
The cause of a urinary tract infection is easy to understand.
It is caused by an infectious agent that colonizes the mucosa of the urinary tract. As it does, the microbe continues ascending through the urinary tract. It reaches the bladder and populates this area. In the bladder, it causes inflammation and changes in sensory perceptions.
If the infection is not controlled, the bacterium continues colonizing the urinary tract. The disease moves upwards to the kidneys.
Sometimes the infection clears in the bladder and remains in the kidneys, causing symptoms that people usually do not relate with urinary infections.
The most common bacteria causing a UTI
So, what are the most common bacterias that cause a UTI? (2).
Around 80% of urinary infections are caused by E. coli. This bacteria is abundant in the gastrointestinal system.
In most cases, the condition is caused by contact with feces.
Around 10% of UTIs are caused by these agents. They are widespread in our skin but sometimes migrate into the urinary tract.
You can also have an infection with fungi such as this. It is a type of yeast and often causes complicated or very resistant infections.
But who is at a higher risk? According to scientific evidence, UTIs are more common in women. They have a shorter urethra, and it is easier for bacteria to reach the urinary bladder.
However, besides your sex, we can also consider a few elements that increase your risk (3):
People with abnormalities in the urinary tract are at risk of UTIs.
Such abnormalities often cause a stagnant urine flow, which is an ideal growth environment for microbes.
These patients could increase their risk of UTIs as well.
They travel from the kidneys to the outside and often cause an obstruction as well.
Additionally, kidney stones are often irregular and damage the urinary tract lining on their way. Both elements increase the risk of infection.
In women, estrogen deficiency is known to increase the risk of infections.
That’s why post-menopausal women are more likely to suffer from UTIs.
Some people are at a higher risk of infections due to genetic factors. They modulate our immunity, anatomy, and other elements that we cannot control.
Anal intercourse without protection increases the risk of urinary tract infections.
HIV and immunosuppression are also risk factors for frequent UTIs and complicated infections in the urinary tract.
In pregnant women, the bladder is pushed downward and causes compression. They are also mildly immunosuppressed and increase their risk of UTIs.
Patients with a urinary catheter
How To Prevent a UTI: 9 Ways
Based on the risk factors above, you now know if you’re at a higher risk.
To learn how to prevent a UTI and reduce the incidence of UTIs, you might want to consider the following recommendations:
1) Wipe from the front to the back
This is a standard recommendation, especially in women. Wiping from the back to the front after using the bathroom could drag along the microbes from the anus to the urinary tract. That’s why it is recommended to do it in the opposite direction.
This recommendation is fundamental if you have a gastrointestinal disease. Diarrhea increases the chance of spreading the infection to a nearby area (4).
2) Drink plenty of water
Urinating frequently makes it easier for the organism to flush out bacteria and fungi from the urinary tract. Thus, the recommendation is to stay hydrated throughout the day.
It is difficult to know exactly how many glasses of water you need every day. It depends on your activity levels, the temperature outside, and your genetics. However, the recommendation is usually around 6 to 8 glasses every day (5).
As opposed to water, drinking other liquids may not be a good idea.
For example, alcoholic beverages and caffeine irritate your bladder, worsening the symptoms of a bladder infection.
Drinks with sodium cause dehydration instead of hydrating your body unless it is paired with other electrolytes in the right proportion as in sports drinks.
3) Do not hold your pee
Holding the urine for a long time has a similar effect to an obstruction in the urinary tract. It causes a stagnant flow of urine and facilitates bacterial overgrowth. This is more prevalent in people who wait up to 4 hours to urinate.
In pregnant women, not holding the urine is fundamental to reduce the incidence of UTIs.
4) Urinate after having sex
Sexual intercourse always carries along a significant number of bacteria. You could clear them out from the urinary tract by simply urinating after having sex. This is useful to flush them out and prevent UTIs.
It is also a good idea to wash your genitals and keep them clean after sexual intercourse. This recommendation is fundamental if you’re having unprotected anal sex (6).
5) Avoid using scented products to wash your genitals
Scented products often contain substances that change the pH level of the skin and mucosa. It is not a good idea to use them, and if you do, at least avoid using them very often.
In women, this type of product increases the risk of yeast infections and bacterial vaginosis. It is also recommended to limit your exposure to bubble baths, scented bath oils, and scented genital soaps.
6) Evaluate your birth control tools
Specific birth control tools can increase the risk of bacterial overgrowth in the urinary tract. This is primarily applicable for women who use spermicides, diaphragms, and non-lubricated condoms.
Other options are available to avoid pregnancy that does not increase your risk of UTIs. If you’re interested in the topic, talk to your doctor. He will help you find the most recommended birth control options for you.
7) Use probiotics
The mucosa of the gastrointestinal tract and the urinary tract is filled with good bacteria. They are essential to reduce the risk of infection. What they do is taking up space and not allowing other harmful bacteria to cause trouble.
Probiotics are supplements of live microorganisms that take up this space and reduce infections by bad bacteria.
According to the latest evidence, eating yogurt, kefir, tempeh, and other fermented foods affects the vaginal tract bacteria. You can also use probiotic suppositories to achieve a more direct effect (7).
8) Consume cranberries
You could also use natural remedies for urinary tract infections, and drinking cranberry juice is a suitable choice. This berry is known to reduce the adherence of Escherichia coli in the urinary tract.
So far, the results of scientific studies on cranberry extract are not consistent. Some studies show promising results, while others do not.
However, cranberries can be adopted in a healthy diet, and it is a low-risk remedy. Thus, you can consume cranberries for their benefits in the urinary tract, the cardiovascular system, and much more (8).
9) Look for professional help in recurrent UTI
If you’re experiencing several UTIs, if they keep coming back or became chronic UTI, there is probably something bigger triggering them.
You could have an anatomic problem or an underlying disease that increases your risk. Thus, it is essential to talk to your doctor in such cases. This is because you may need different antibiotics or a daily dose for prophylaxis.
When to see a doctor
Visit your doctor if you detect urinary symptoms such as:
- A burning sensation when urinating
- A constant and strong urge to urinate
- Blood in your urine
- A strong smell in your urine
- Pelvic pain
These are symptoms of urinary infections, and all of them should be treated by a doctor, especially in recurrent urinary tract infections. They may need to prescribe new antibiotics, ask for a urine culture, and more.
So, it is essential to look for medical help if you have a urinary infection. However, if you want to know how to prevent a UTI, this prevention is something we can achieve at home with a few recommendations.
Washing your genital area with scented products and wiping from the back to the front lead to an increased risk of UTIs.
Avoid doing that and protect yourself when practicing anal intercourse. Consume pure cranberry juice and probiotics, stay hydrated throughout the day, and do not hold your urine.
If you follow recommendations and stay in contact with your doctor, you will know how to prevent a UTI or infection in your bladder wall.