UTIs: Common causes and how to treat them

By Nutrition Consultant Jessica Robinson

Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs) are extremely common in women due to women having shorter urethras which allows bacteria to have easier and quicker access to the bladder. Many women experience recurrent UTIs because with each infection you increase your chances of getting another UTI later on. Common symptoms include: burning sensation upon urinating, more frequent and/or urgent urination, and pelvic pressure.

UTIs are basically caused by bacteria, primarily E. coli which generally inhabits the human colon but can travel through the urethra to invade the bladder and cause infection.

What causes UTIs?

  • Excess sugar
    Eating too much sugar in the form of baked goods, chocolate, donuts, bread, and processed foods can promote dysbiosis (more bad bacteria than good bacteria) in the gut. Sugar allows the bad bacteria and fungi in the intestines to proliferate, making it easy for bad bacteria to travel from our colon into our bladder, causing an infection.
  • Being sexually active
    Every time we have sex we increase the chances of bacteria moving from the vaginal cavity to the urethral opening. This doesn’t mean you need to abstain from sex, but practice good hygiene by urinating following intercourse to allow bacteria to be eliminated and to prevent infection.
  • Pregnancy
    Pregnant women are more susceptible to UTIs due to the hormonal changes that cause the bladder muscle to relax and delay emptying. This means bacteria can more easily travel up the ureters to the kidneys and cause an infection. Furthermore, pregnant women are less capable of fighting off infections, which means that bacteria are more likely to catch hold and cause a UTI.
  • Peri-menopause/Menopause
    The reduction in sex hormones, especially oestrogen, during the peri-menopausal years and post-menopausal years causes the tissues of the vulva, urethra and bladder to become thinner and more fragile, which makes women more susceptible to bacterial infection. There is plenty of information on this topic in Dr Cabot’s book ‘Hormones, Don’t Let Them Ruin Your Life’.
  • Diabetes or a suppressed immune system
    Individuals with a suppressed immune system are more susceptible to getting UTIs as their immune system is impaired and therefore less effective at defending against bacteria. Diabetics are more likely to experience UTIs due to various impairments in their immune system, such as poor metabolic control and incomplete bladder emptying. Incomplete bladder emptying can occur due to nerve damage to the muscles of the bladder which can make complete bladder emptying difficult. Not to mention, people with diabetes often have very high blood sugar levels which makes their urine the perfect environment for bacteria to thrive in. There is an excellent eating plan in Dr Cabot’s book ‘Diabetes Type 2: You Can Reverse It Naturally’.
  • Wiping incorrectly
    The correct way to wipe is front to back. Wiping the opposite way allows bacteria, specifically E. coli, to travel from the bowel into the urethra, causing a UTI. To avoid getting an infection, ensure to always wipe front to back.
  • Waiting until you are busting
    Not only is it uncomfortable, but waiting too long to go allows bacteria to sit in the bladder for longer and increases the chances of getting a UTI. Because of this reason, no matter how busy you are, ensure to urinate before the feeling becomes overwhelming.

Treatment/Prevention Plan

  • Drink plenty of water
    Not only is water essential for our general health and body functions, but staying hydrated is a great way to make sure we go regularly, making it harder for bacteria to grab on before they are flushed from the body.
  • Exercise
    It is more common to have weakness of the pelvic floor and bladder muscles if you are unfit. Incorporating an exercise regime that involves pelvic floor exercises and core strengthening exercises like in yoga or Pilates, is a great way to increase strength in these areas and allow complete bladder emptying.
  • Have some probiotics/prebiotics
    Taking a probiotic or having foods such as apple cider vinegar, sauerkraut, kimchi and kombucha are an excellent way to colonise your gut with good bacteria. Having a healthy microbiome is essential for your immunity and will prevent bad bacteria from proliferating and travelling to the bladder where they can cause an infection. Garlic is a prebiotic (feeds good bacteria in the gut) and has anti-bacterial, anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory effects which allows it to combat a wide range of bacteria such as E. coli, which is the primary cause of UTIs.
  • Increase fibre intake
    Getting plenty of fibre in your diet is a great way to feed the good bacteria in your gut and it is essential to do this by eating a variety of different fruits and vegetables on a regular basis. Raw vegetable juicing is an excellent way to get a concentrated dose of nutrients, and there are specific recipes for UTIs in Dr Cabot’s book ‘Raw Juices Can Save Your Life’.
  • Take some selenium
    Selenium is a powerful mineral that is very deficient in Australian soils but is present in Brazil nuts, crab and salmon. Selenium acts as a powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory and supports healthy immune function. By supporting a strong immune system, your white blood cells are better able to destroy any bad bacteria that may be present in your urinary tract.
  • Drink cranberry juice
    Researchers discovered that the metabolites in cranberry juice prevent E. coli attaching to other bacteria, this limits its ability to grow and proliferate. Therefore, cranberry juice is extremely beneficial for preventing and treating UTIs.
Print Friendly, PDF & Email