Urinary tract infections (UTI) in women are one of the most common complaints I hear about in clinic. Sadly for many women they assume the regular recurrence of a UTI is unavoidable and worse yet, completely normal. UTI’s affect 50% of women in Australia and 25% of those women will experience a second infection within six months and staggeringly, women are fifty times more likely than men to experience a UTI. Whilst UTI’s are uncomfortable and inconvenient, they also carry the risk of the infection spreading to the kidneys and blood stream where the infection can then become life-threatening. Read more below on some of our natural tips on how to prevent UTI’s.
The Vaginal Microbiome
Just like the gut, the vagina is home to a diverse community of microorganisms. A healthy vaginal microbiome consists of predominantly Lactobaccili species, this is great because these guys inhibit pathogenic infection through their antimicrobial properties, they’re basically a built in army there to protect your vagina and urinary tract from invaders plus they also help to modulate vaginal pH. As a female, if you’ve ever experienced a UTI or thrush, or any other urogenital condition, you may have noticed that recurrence of “said” infection may occur routinely just before you get your period. Strange? Not really. These Lactobacillus species closely correlate to oestrogen levels, meaning they fluctuate with oestrogen levels. As your oestrogen levels dip, like just before your period, so do your good vaginal bacteria, causing symptoms to flair. This happens because oestrogen stimulates vaginal tissues to produce glycogen (think food for the good bacteria) which is then metabolised by the Lactobacilli species to produce lactic acid, which then stimulates a more acidic vaginal pH. This is why UTI’s can be quite prevalent in teenagers and menopausal women, as hormones are fluctuating in huge amounts, but can also be present for women during reproductive years but often occurring in a more cyclical pattern.
Conventional treatment of UTI’s consists of antibiotics. Usually a short course, however enough to wipe out not only the pathogenic organisms, but many beneficial strains that are supporting a healthy gut and vaginal microbiome. Whilst this treatment does provide short term relief of symptoms, because of the destruction of the microbiome, recurrence of a UTI is quite common, which can lead to persistent use of antibiotics, which can then pose the risk of an infection becoming resistant to antibiotics. In this instance we do want to minimise antibiotic use and always treat naturally at the first sign of symptoms to mitigate any issues later on. Please keep in mind antibiotics do have their place, as I mentioned at the start, the progression of a UTI to the kidney’s or blood stream can have very serious outcomes and it is also recommended that you consult your health practitioner.
How to prevent UTI’s
There is no one size fits all approach how to prevent UTI’s or UTI treatment, I would recommend you chat with a qualified health practitioner to discuss your options. As always our Herb Bar is open every day the clinic is open. Our experienced practitioners can provide acute natural treatment to provide you relief from symptoms, and can also discuss long term treatment if recurrent UTI’s are something you are suffering with.
What you can do now to prevent and/or manage a UTI:
- Natural fibres always – your vagina needs to breathe. Ditch the synthetic underwear, yes that may mean the lace, and opt for natural fibres such as cotton or bamboo. This also applies to clothing and I would recommend minimise wearing tight fitting clothing such as leggings, bike pants or stockings.
- Dont hold it in – when it comes to urinating, aim to go to the toilet as soon as you sense the urge and always ensure your bladder if fully emptied. To do this, whilst sitting on the toilet lean forward and then backward, repeat several times to ensure bladder is empty.
- Wee before cuddling – always, always always go to the toilet straight after sex, again use the bladder voiding technique above!
- Conscious menstrual care – when it comes to period products opt for organic tampons and pads, or even better, try reusable options such as menstrual cups, period undies or reusable pads and liners.
- Hydration – aim to drink plenty of water throughout the day, I always recommend a minimum of 2L per day, but you can also gauge the colour of your urine. Every time you go to the toilet have a look in the bowl, your urine should be very pale in colour to clear, if it’s any darker than this you’re dehydrated! If you find you’re drinking water constantly and forever in the toilet, add a pinch of Celtic or Himalayan salt to your water to increase the electrolyte content. You wont taste the salt and it will help your cells to hydrate more efficiently.
- Eat more plants – the health of our gut microbiome affects the health of our vaginal microbiome and our tiny friends (eg: gut microorganisms) love diverse plant food. I recommend all my patients aim for a minimum of thirty diverse plant foods per week, this number can include vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, wholegrains, legumes and beans.
Yours in health,