- By Dana Sparks
Women’s Wellness: Drink water to fight those urinary tract infections
Drinking more water will help women avoid urinary tract infections(UTIs), according to generations of women and now a study in JAMA. Women who added 1.5 liters of water each day to their regular intake of fluids were less likely to get another UTI, than women who drank less than that amount.
“It's estimated 50 percent of UTIs can be treated by drinking a significant amount of fluid alone," says Felecia Fick, a Mayo Clinic urogynecology physician assistant who was not involved in the study. "The extra you're drinking is flushing out the bacteria that are present in the urinary tract."
She adds any type of fluid is fine, but sometimes the more acidic, the better. "There are mixed studies on the benefits of cranberry juice, but Mayo Clinic does recommend trying cranberry juice, cranberry extract, or cranberry pills, as well as water," says Fick.
A UTI is an infection in any part of your urinary system — your kidneys, ureters, bladder and urethra. Most infections involve the lower urinary tract — the bladder and urethra. Women are at greater risk of developing a UTI than are men due to their shorter urethras, and serious consequences can occur if a UTI spreads to your kidneys.
"If a woman has fever, chills, flank pain, kidney stone history, she should also drink a lot of fluid but it is imperative she see a health care provider immediately for a urine culture,” says Ms. Fick. She adds because there could be a kidney infection which is much more serious than an uncomplicated UTI.
UTIs don't always cause signs and symptoms, but, when they do, they may include:
- A strong, persistent urge to urinate
- A burning sensation when urinating
- Passing frequent, small amounts of urine
- Urine that appears cloudy
- Urine that appears red, bright pink or cola-colored — a sign of blood in the urine
- Strong-smelling urine
- Pelvic pain, in women — especially in the center of the pelvis and around the area of the pubic bone
You can take these steps to reduce your risk of UTIs:
- Drink plenty of liquids, especially water.
Drinking water helps dilute your urine and ensures that you'll urinate more frequently — allowing bacteria to be flushed from your urinary tract before an infection can begin.
- Drink cranberry juice.
Although studies are not conclusive that cranberry juice prevents UTIs, it is likely not harmful.
- Wipe from front to back.
Doing so after urinating and after a bowel movement helps prevent bacteria in the anal region from spreading to the vagina and urethra.
- Empty your bladder soon after intercourse.
Also, drink a full glass of water to help flush bacteria.
- Avoid potentially irritating feminine products.
Using deodorant sprays or other feminine products, such as douches and powders, in the genital area can irritate the urethra.
- Change your birth control method.
Diaphragms, or unlubricated or spermicide-treated condoms, can all contribute to bacterial growth.
When treated promptly and properly, lower UTIs rarely lead to complications. But left untreated, a UTI can have serious consequences.
Complications of a UTI may include:
- Recurrent infections, especially in women who experience three or more UTIs in a six-month period or four or more within a year
- Permanent kidney damage from an acute or chronic kidney infection (pyelonephritis) due to an untreated UTI
- Increased risk in pregnant women of delivering low birth weight or premature infants
- Urethral narrowing (stricture) in men from recurrent urethritis, previously seen with gonococcal urethritis
- Sepsis, a potentially life-threatening complication of an infection, especially if the infection works its way up your urinary tract to your kidneys