Six Things You Can Do Every Day to Keep the UTIs Away
By Dr. Yvonne Bohn, OB/GYN
The following symptoms of a UTI are not unforgettable: frequent urination (even though the bladder is empty), urgency to go, severe burning and embarrassing incontinence. Once you have suffered through one, you will never want to experience one again.
UTIs are extremely common, just like getting a cold or a cough — about 60% of women will contract a UTI at some point in their lives and of that 60%, approximately 40% will have another. To put that into perspective, UTIs account for more than 8 million doctor visits each year, making it the second most common type of infection in the body.*
Whether you’re a first-time UTI sufferer or consider yourself a seasoned veteran, here are six simple things you can do to keep the pesky infection at bay.
For overall health we should all drink plenty of water to keep our system hydrated. For most people that is about 8 cups of water a day. Especially is the case with the urinary tract to keep it healthy. Drinking adequate amounts of water will flush bad bacteria out of the urinary tract or urethra when urinating. By doing so, you prevent the bacteria from multiplying and making their way into the bladder.
Clean yourself from front to back when going to the restroom
When you finish going to the bathroom, always wipe from front to back, never back to front. By following this motion, you’ll reduce the amount of bacteria that may creep its way into the vagina from the rectum and ultimately into the urinary tract.
Choose breathable undergarments
It may be a surprise to some women, but your clothes and underwear (especially those you wear to the gym) can affect your health and may increase the chance of infection. When we exercise, moisture builds up in our groin, vaginal and rectal areas, and this moisture makes it easier for bacteria to grow. Therefore, opt for cotton underwear that doesn’t suffocate you whether you’re at work or while working out, and change out of tight fitting or damp workout clothes immediately after a sweat session.
Pick birth control methods wisely
Certain types of birth control methods – specifically, diaphragms and spermicides — increase the chances of getting a UTI. Diaphragms may potentially prevent the bladder from emptying completely so bacteria can grow and cause a UTI. Spermicides can alter vaginal pH which deplete the vagina of the good bacteria and allow yeast and other bad bacteria to grow. With more abnormal bacteria in your vagina they can get into the urinary tract and cause infection. Talk to your doctor about other birth control options if you have experienced a UTI on one of these methods.
Take care of your vagina before and after sex
Vaginal health may not be top of mind when you’re getting busy, but you may want to consider it. Without a doubt, always clean your genital and anal areas before and after sex (try a baby wipe or a damp washcloth) to eliminate as much bacteria as possible. Note that “cleaning” does not involve douching, which can be really harmful and increase the risk of UTIs. Also, try to urinate before and immediately after sex to flush out your bladder. Never hold it — it will only keep bacteria in your system longer.
Drink and eat your way to urinary tract health
Staying UTI-free may be as easy as implementing powerhouse foods and drinks into your daily routine. For example, a product like Cystex Urinary Health Maintenance is formulated with multiple beneficial ingredients such as antioxidants and probiotics to help maintain urinary tract health. Add one tablespoon to your morning smoothie or favorite drink and you’ll be on your way to protecting your body. If that’s not your cup of tea, try other options such as high-fiber foods or fermented milk products, all of which have been shown to promote healthy bacteria.
Needless to say, getting into the practice of maintaining urinary tract health is key. Think of it like regular exercise: the more you do it, the better your body is in the long run and the more likely you’ll be able to fight off infections or prevent injuries. We already have enough to worry about, why should we have to deal with a UTI? If you make a concerted effort to prevent UTIs from happening, it’ll go a long way.
*Data from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.