Urinary Health 101
If you’re a woman, chances are good that you have suffered from a urinary tract infection at some point. This can be quite troubling if it happens often, or if it creates discomfort in everyday life. Although urinary tract infections (UTIs) can be prevalent in women, men may get them too.
For the 41% of women and 11% of men who have had at least one urinary tract infection during their lifetime, it is necessary to know the signs and the tools for prevention.
Gender aside, we all should pay attention to urinary health. The good news is that this can be simple. (1)
Improving Urinary Health
The urinary system is composed of the kidneys separating urine from blood toxins and excess water, then the ureters send urine to the bladder and into the urethra for excretion. (1)
Kidney, bladder and urethral issues, sexual dysfunction with intimacy problems, even depression, can all be linked to poor urinary health. (1, 4)
Keeping hydrated by drinking plenty of fluids, at least six to eight glasses of water a day, and emptying the bladder often to stave off risky infections are two of the most important considerations for urinary health. (3)
Other Urinary System tips include:
- Diet. Cranberries and blueberries may prevent bacteria from sticking to the urinary tract. Oranges, lemons, grapefruits, strawberries, green leafy vegetables, and green peppers all contain vitamin C, which help make the urine more acidic, preventing bacteria from growing. Liquids that may irritate the bladder are coffee, soda, alcohol and citrus juices. (3)
- Probiotics. Colonies of “good” bacteria with evidence suggesting that they may prevent “bad” bacteria from growing in the vagina. These good bacteria can be found in certain foods such as Greek yogurt, cheese, and kefir. Probiotics found in supplements can also be beneficial. (3)
- Sex. UTIs can be increased by certain contraceptives (diaphragms or spermicides), oral sex, or from new partners. Women have a shorter urethra than men, and it’s closer to the anus, meaning bacteria can more easily get into the bladder. Always urinate after sex to eliminate bacteria that may have ended up in the urethra. Washing the genital area with warm water before sexual activity may also reduce the risk of bacteria getting into the urethra. Women nearing or past menopause develop thinner vaginal lining and are particularly susceptible to infection. Frequent or intense sexual intercourse is also higher risk. (3)
- Hygiene. (For females) – clean front to back after urinating, avoid douching, vaginal deodorants, scented tampons or pads, and avoid wearing tight jeans and underwear. (3)
Symptoms and Signs of Urinary Health Concerns
The discomfort of a UTI can cause pain in the abdomen and pelvic regions and may make you feel like emptying your bladder frequently. Attempts to urinate may result in burning and only a few drops being produced. Cloudy or strong-smelling urine is common. Men sometimes experience rectal pain. (3)
In older adults, confusion is a clue that may go unnoticed. (2)
Unfortunately, untreated UTIs can spread to the kidneys where bacteria can easily get into the bloodstream. Kidney infections may cause fevers and back pain and can even contribute to sepsis, an often fatal reaction of the body to infection. (1)
It’s important to be prepared, have knowledge of self-care and to rely on your physician or health care provider for help..