We’ll get right into it: a UTI, aka a urinary tract infection, is one of THE most common bacterial infections to occur in the body. UTIs affect roughly 150 million people worldwide, so at one point in your life, chances are you’ll experience it. When we say it, we’re talking about that constant need to pee without relief, and the cloudly, smelly, or blood-tinged urine that comes with it. In short: it sucks. Fortunately, the method of treatment is relatively quick, plus there are precautions you can take to avoid them altogether.
So, we pitched all our UTI-questions to Dr. Sherry A. Ross, Women’s Health Expert and Author of She-ology and She-ology, the Shequel (out Feb 2020). She reminded us that UTIs are super common and easily treated, and more importantly, nothing to be embarrassed about. Here’s what she had to say:
What Causes a UTI?
While both men and women are at risk of UTIs, Dr. Ross admits “The female anatomy is a set up for infections of the bladder. The bladder and its tubing called the urethra, sit directly along the length of the vagina. Urine exits the body through this very short tube. The opening of the urethra is a tiny hole right above the entrance into the vagina.”
It’s also more common in sexually active females as “During vaginal intercourse bacteria from the vagina and rectum can easily find its way into the urethra and the bladder causing a urinary tract infection.” Dr. Ross adds; “Other causes of UTIs include spermicides, frequent antibiotic use, anatomical problems, genetic risks, and menopause.”
“Sometimes it can be tricky to know if you have a UTI since symptoms can be subtle and not typical,” explains Dr. Ross. “If you think something is up down there, see your health care provider to rule out a potentially dangerous unsuspecting UTI. A urine analysis can easily make the correct diagnosis.” With that said, some of the common symptoms include:
- Pain or burning with urination
- An urgency to urinate frequently but only passing a very small amount of urine
- Pain in your lower belly
- Urine looks red, pink, cloudy and has a bad odor
- Pain in your lower back
- Fever and chills
- Nausea and vomiting
- Severe back pain along with fever, chills, nausea, and vomiting are more common symptoms in kidney or upper urinary tract infections.
The Best Treatment for UTIs
Dr. Ross confirms there’s only one true cure for a UTI and it isn’t cranberry juice. “A true UTI needs antibiotics to clear the bacteria responsible for the symptoms and infection. Until you have a prescription in hand from your health care provider, you can get over-the-counter AZO, which is a urinary pain reliever.”
Thankfully, “Once a UTI is treated with antibiotics it may last for 3 to 7 days. If a UTI is untreated, a UTI and its disruptive symptoms will last until it’s probably treated with antibiotics.” Says Dr. Ross.
What to Avoid If You Have a UTI or Are Prone to UTIs
If you’re prone to UTIs there are plenty of things you should (and shouldn’t) do to keep infections at bay. One of the well-known preventative methods is peeing after sex. “Peeing after sex helps remove any bacteria that might have made their way into the urethra and bladder. When you urinate, it helps unwanted bacteria leave the body and become less likely to multiply in the bladder causing an infection.” Dr. Ross says. Some other preventative measures Dr. Ross recommends are:
Drink water and pee often: “Stay hydrated! Drink a lot of water to help keep urine and any unwanted bacteria moving out of your body quickly. A general rule of thumb is to urinate every two to three hours or when you first feel the urge. Also, try not to hold in your urine for long periods of time.”
Keep it clean: “The cleaner you and your partner’s genitals are the better. This also includes washing your hands (and nails) if you plan on having any contact with the genital area. Plus, always remember to wipe ‘front to back’ to avoid bringing unwanted bacteria from the anus to the vaginal area.”
Be careful when having sex: “Avoid excessive salvia, spermicides, and lubricants in the genital area. I’d also recommend to avoid using a diaphragm, vaginal sponge, diva cup and sex toys if you are prone to UTIs.”
Avoid fragranced products: “Avoid using feminine products that use perfumes and other irritating chemicals that bring disruptive bacteria. Don’t douche! Wear underwear with a cotton crotch.”
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UTI Home Remedy Myths
Cranberry juice: Dr. Ross warns: “Don’t count on cranberry juice or tablets and Vitamin C! Cranberry juice and tablets can be helpful in preventing UTIs by making the urine more acidic and preventing harmful bacteria from sticking to the walls of the bladder. An acidic environment in the urine makes bacterial build up more difficult reducing your chance of getting a UTI.”
However, “Some medical studies have conflicting evidence to show cranberries are a reliable source of prevention. Cranberries and their helpful properties are a means of prevention, not treatment. Cranberries are not a dependable treatment option for any of the symptoms associated with a UTI.” So, while cranberry juice may be helpful for reducing the risk of a UTI, once you have a UTI, drinking bottle after bottle of cranberry juice will not speed up the UTI infection’s disappearance.
Vitamin C: Another great ingredient Dr. Ross believes you should consider for prevention but not treatment is Vitamin C, “Vitamin C should not be used to treat a UTI since it will not be effective at killing the bacteria responsible for the infection. As it’s a potent antioxidant, it suggests it may be protective against bacteria from building up in your bladder increasing your risk of a UTI”
What to Do When You Have a UTI
So, while none of the above home remedies may not work to cure a UTI, Dr. Ross says, “A heating pad or hot water bottle over your lower abdomen may help ease some of the discomforts from a UTI. Drinking a lot of water, avoiding coffee and alcohol also helps until you get the proper treatment,” explains Dr. Ross.
UTI Over -The -Counter Prevention Remedies
Some other helpful preventative, over-the-counter treatments Dr. Ross recommends include:
- “Uqora is an effective natural drink with Vitamins C, B6, Magnesium, Calcium, Potassium and D-Mannose, which helps flush away bacteria from the bladder that put you at risk for a UTI.”
- If you’re prone to UTIs, “taking probiotics can help as they can improve the quality of your gut and subsequently your kidney.” For all the deets of gut health, read this.
To learn more about your body, check out five things you need to know about your body.