UTI Prevention

By Melissa Kramer

7 mins

For anyone who has suffered from recurrent UTIs, many of these UTI prevention tips may be a bit pedestrian. But don’t stop reading – there could be a few you’ve never heard.

The scientific evidence linking recurrent UTIs to urination patterns, wiping patterns, douching, or wearing of tight undergarments is varied and in some cases the evidence is weak, so we share these tips with that in mind.

We also know, after interviewing many females, that regardless of scientific evidence, a combination of health, diet and lifestyle changes meant the end of recurrent UTIs for some. We listened to their stories, collated their suggestions, looked for supporting evidence, and present what we found out here.

It never hurts to have a quick run through the list to see how your own habits measure up.

If your recurrent UTIs are caused by an embedded infection in your bladder, it’s unlikely changing one of these habits alone will result in a cure. However, the right changes could support your treatment and help your body recover faster.

 

Article Quick Links

  • All the things you should and shouldn’t be doing around sex – UTI wise that is.
  • How even things you think are making you clean could be an issue.
  • Paying attention to what you put into your body can reduce UTI symptoms.
  • Why you shouldn’t hold on for too long, and other habits to avoid.
  • Health signals you shouldn’t ignore.

 

UTI Prevention: Sex

Risk FactorThe IssueWhat You Can Do
Sex

Sex is a risk factor for urinary tract infections

Sex is one of the highest risk factors for UTIs.

Bacteria and other organisms already existing in the vagina and on the surrounding skin can be pushed into the urethra during sex, increasing the chances of a UTI.
1. Urinate after sex, within 15 minutes, to help flush your urinary tract.

2. Using a UTI prevention remedy each time you have sex can help reduce the risk of infection. D-mannose has been shown to be effective against infections caused by E.coli, the most common cause of UTI.

3. Vaginal probiotic suppositories containing Lactobacillus crispatus, and oral probiotics containing Lactobacillus rhamnosus and Lactobacillus fermentum have shown promise in restoring the balance of vaginal flora. This in turn potentially reduces the risk of yeast infections and UTIs.
Sex with a UTINormal friction during sex can cause irritation to an already sensitive urinary tract.Wait until your symptoms have stopped before having sex. This will give your urinary tract a chance to heal. A healthy urinary tract goes a long way towards UTI prevention.
New sexual partnerAnecdotal evidence suggests some females experience an increase in UTIs with a specific sexual partner. This could be due to increased sexual activity in a new relationship, or to unfamiliar organisms being introduced to the urethra via sex.

There have also been documented cases of a male partner carrying UTI-causing bacteria, meaning a female can continue to be reinfected.
Whether it’s regular sex, once in a blue moon sex, or a new sexual partner, take the same care as outlined above to reduce the risk of a UTI due to sex.

If your recurrent UTIs began as the result of a new relationship and have continued long-term, you may want to consider having both yourself and your partner tested for UTI-causing bacteria. UTI prevention is important for both partners in a relationship.
Diaphragm useThe pressure of the diaphragm may slow urinary flow and allow infection-causing organisms to multiply.Try another form of birth control, or at the very least, ensure the diaphragm is not in place longer than absolutely necessary.
Condom use

Condoms can irritate the urethra in some females

This could be attributed to the friction that occurs in the vagina during sexual activity. Irritated tissue can create an environment that allows infection-causing organisms to thrive.Try latex-free condoms and non-spermicidal lubrication, or if it’s an option, stop using condoms. Obviously UTI prevention is one thing, but STD prevention is also extremely important.
SpermicidesSpermicides lead to loss of Lactobacilli (good bacteria) and an increase in the normal vaginal pH, which can pave the way for the growth of UTI-causing bacteria.Try using another form of contraception, but take a read of the rest of this section before choosing one.
Contraceptive pill

The pill can be linked to UTI in some people

By design, contraceptive pills alter the balance of hormones in your body, especially estrogen and progesterone. It is known that estrogen levels in the vagina are directly linked to the balance of vaginal flora. Any change in estrogen levels can alter your vaginal flora in a way that encourages the growth of infection-causing organisms.1. If stopping the pill is an option, you can try this. If it’s not, you may want to speak with your doctor about finding another pill that is more appropriate for you.

2. Vaginal probiotic pessaries and oral probiotics containing certain good bacteria have shown promise in restoring the balance of vaginal flora, in turn reducing the risk of yeast infections and UTIs. Look for pessaries containing Lactobacillus crispatus, and oral probiotics containing Lactobacillus rhamnosus and Lactobacillus fermentum.

 

UTI Prevention: Body Products

Risk FactorThe IssueWhat You Can Do
Soaps, bubble baths, bath oils

Soaps, bubble bath can irritate urethra

Chemicals can cause irritation in the vagina and urethra. They can also alter your vaginal pH, causing an imbalance of vaginal flora, allowing infection-causing organisms to grow, and potentially make their way towards your urethra.Take a shower instead of a bath, and use non-perfumed soaps. Avoid using any soap around your vagina and urethra. And remember, everything is a chemical, even ‘natural’ products are made from chemicals. A natural product could also cause irritation.
TamponsChanging tampons may introduce infection-causing organisms into the urethra. The pressure of the tampon may also slow urinary flow and allow these organisms to multiply rather than being flushed out effectively.If you can avoid using tampons, do. If this isn’t an option, be sure to wash your hands before changing tampons, and try to empty your bladder completely whenever you feel the urge to urinate.
Douches and spraysFeminine products such as douches, deodorant sprays or powders used in the genital area can irritate the urethra. Douching can disrupt the balance of bacteria and alter the normal pH of the vagina, creating a more favorable environment for infection-causing organisms.There is no evidence to support douching and similar practices. In fact, The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends avoiding this practice entirely. A healthy vagina is a self-regulating, self-cleaning environment, so leave it to its business.

 

UTI Prevention: Things You Eat, Drink And Breathe

Risk FactorThe IssueWhat You Can Do
Caffeine

Caffeine can aggravate symptoms of UTI

In food or drink, caffeine is a stimulant that can cause irritation to the urinary tract. As a diuretic, it also promotes urgency to urinate and increases the risk of dehydration. It’s important to maintain good hydration to flush infection-causing organisms from the urinary tract.Try a non-caffeinated herbal tea instead, or switch to water. Avoid all caffeinated food and drinks while you still have symptoms. Next time you reach for a coffee, weigh up that caffeine-y goodness against your UTI prevention goals.
Sweetened drinks and sodaCarbonated drinks are known to increase the occurrence of some lower urinary tract symptoms. Diet sodas alone contain four well-known bladder irritants: acidic carbonation, citric and other acids, caffeine, and artificial sweeteners.If this is your only reason to give up sweetened and carbonated drinks, you’re already doing better than most people. No one needs these drinks. Removing them from your diet will help with more than UTI prevention. Water is the best replacement.
DietHighly acidic or alkaline foods can cause further irritation and inflammation in an already fragile urinary tract. Foods high in histamine are also known to cause bladder discomfort.Because food-related symptoms vary by person, it’s a good idea to monitor your diet and any irritation that follows ingesting certain foods. As a rule, it can help to avoid chocolate, citrus fruits and acids like vinegar.
AlcoholAlcohol also acts as a diuretic which can increase the risk of dehydration and in some people can amplify lower urinary tract symptoms.Studies show mixed results, so while reducing alcohol consumption certainly won’t hurt, the results are likely to differ for each person.
SmokingOf the 60 or so different carcinogens found in cigarettes, many are identifiable in urine samples of smokers, meaning these carcinogens pass right through your urinary tract.

Aside from tripling your risk of bladder cancer, smoking has also been associated with an increased risk of interstitial cystitis and other lower urinary tract symptoms.
The only real answer here is quitting.

If you need extra motivation, a research study in 2012 showed that children of smokers are also at higher risk of developing severe urinary disorders including the symptoms of interstitial cystitis.

So this one is about personal UTI prevention AND hereditary UTI prevention.

 

UTI Prevention: Habits

Risk FactorThe IssueWhat You Can Do
Not urinating when you need toThe longer urine stays in the bladder, the more time infection-causing organisms have to multiply.Drink enough fluid daily so your urine is clear or pale yellow, and urinate when you get the urge. Don’t wait.
Wearing tight jeans or pantyhose

Tight clothing can aggravate UTI symptoms

Tight-fitting and synthetic clothing can trap moisture and encourage infection-causing organisms to multiply.Wear loose-fitting clothing made from natural fibres to promote air circulation.
Poor wiping habitsBacteria from the anus and surrounding area can easily get into the urethra.Wipe from front to back - particularly important after a bowel movement.

 

UTI Prevention: Health

Risk FactorThe IssueWhat You Can Do
Overuse of antibioticsUTIs are one of the most commonly over-prescribed conditions. The percentage of antibiotic resistant infections is steadily rising. If you frequently use antibiotics that do not seem to be effective for your UTI, there is a good chance it is the wrong type of antibiotic, or an insufficient dose.

Continuously taking antibiotics depletes the good bacteria in your body, causing an imbalance that allows infection-causing organisms to thrive.
If you’re self-administering antibiotics, or are repeatedly given the same prescription by your doctor without follow-up testing, we suggest taking a more in-depth look at this issue.

While more research is needed, a number of studies have shown promising results for non-antibiotic treatment of UTIs.
History of UTIs

History of UTI is a risk factor for future UTI

Research has shown that an E.coli infection can change the bladder lining, making it more susceptible to future E.coli infections.

Generally, the more UTIs you’ve had, the more likely you are to experience another. There are a number of reasons this could be the case. We’ve covered a bunch of these in our breakdown of recurrent UTIs.
If it’s your first UTI, seek treatment early. This may prevent or limit any changes to the bladder lining.

For multiple UTIs, educate yourself about the current options for testing and treatment of recurrent UTIs, and arm yourself with the right questions to ask your doctor.
Multiple UTIs within a short timeframeAs with any infection, frequent UTIs can cause prolonged inflammation, specifically in the urinary tract. It is possible any minor ongoing symptoms of a UTI are actually due to this inflammation, rather than a new infection.In the case of lingering symptoms, certain dietary changes can minimize irritation. Herbal teas known to soothe and reduce inflammation may also help. It’s important to give your urinary tract time to heal.
Yeast infections / Bacterial VaginosisStudies have indicated a link between an imbalance in vaginal flora and increased UTIs. Yeast infections and bacterial vaginosis are signs of such an imbalance and shouldn’t be ignored.Vaginal probiotic pessaries containing good bacteria called Lactobacillus crispatus, and oral probiotics containing Lactobacillus rhamnosus and Lactobacillus fermentum have shown promise in restoring the balance of vaginal flora, in turn reducing the risk of yeast infections and UTIs.
Candida overgrowth / poor gut healthUp to 80% of the immune system is found in the gut. A weakened immune system due to poor gut health is unable to effectively fight infection. This is no different when it comes to your urinary tract.Digestive issues need to be addressed. Improving your diet and supporting your immune system with the right probiotics might give your body the ammunition it needs to clear recurrent UTIs and assist with UTI prevention.
Chlamydia trachomatisChlamydia trachomatis is a fairly common cause of acute urethral syndrome in females, and Neisseria gonorrhoeae and Herpes simplex virus can cause dysuria (pain or discomfort when urinating) - all of which can be confused for symptoms of a UTI. Your body can’t clear these infections up on its own; treatment is required.It’s important to rule out STDs in your search for answers about recurrent UTIs. Tests for Chlamydia, Gonorrhoea and Herpes are available at STD testing clinics, so if you have any concerns, organize a test sooner rather than later.

It’s important to note there are other, more serious risk factors that cannot be corrected by making these UTI prevention changes. These include urinary tract abnormalities, blockages such as kidney stones, and disease.

And as we mentioned in the introduction, better UTI prevention habits may not have an effect on an underlying chronic bladder infection.

For this reason, it’s always important to get advice from a healthcare practitioner if your symptoms are ongoing, or if you’re concerned and would like to investigate further.

Share your questions and comments below, or get in touch with your own UTI prevention tips.

 

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nancy says:

Tried to submit results of the UTI Quiz, but kept getting a message saying “provide valid email address.” (the email address I provided was a valid email)

Thanks for letting us know. Sorry! As far as I’m aware that hasn’t happened before. Can you send me an email via our contact form so I can look into it? Melissa

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