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Urinary Tract Infections

Also known as cystitis, most urinary tract infections (UTIs) affect the bladder, but some may involve the kidneys, the ureters (the tubes that carry urine to the bladder), and the urethra (the tube through which urine exits the body). The most common symptom is an urgent need to urinate, even when the bladder is not full. Urination may be accompanied by pain or burning and, in severe cases, small amounts of blood. There may also be a low-grade fever and an ache in the lower back.

Most urinary infections are caused by E. coli bacteria, organisms that live in the intestinal tract but that can travel to the bladder. Chlamydia, a sexually transmitted organism, is another cause of UTIs. Women are more vulnerable to urinary infections because the female urethra is shorter than that of males, and its location provides a convenient entryway for bacteria. Many women develop so-called honeymoon cystitis, inflammation caused by sexual activity or an oversize diaphragm.

ROLE OF DIET

Antibiotics are needed to cure bacterial urinary infections, but dietary approaches can speed healing and help prevent recurrences.

Doctors advise drinking at least 8 to 10 glasses a day of fluids to increase the flow of urine and to flush out infectious material.

Avoid coffee, tea, colas, and alcoholic drinks, since these increase bladder irritation. Some people find that spicy foods also aggravate the urinary tract.

Cranberry juice is a favorite home remedy, and one that is supported by research. Cranberries and blueberries contain substances that speed the elimination of bacteria by preventing them from sticking to the bladder wall.

Vitamin C helps strengthen the immune system, fight infection, and acidify the urine. And calcium may help reduce bladder irritability.

Consuming probiotics may be helpful since they are thought to inhibit the growth of microorganisms that cause UTIs. These beneficial bacteria, found in some yogurts, are also though to foster the growth of friendly flora in the body, which may be reduced by antibiotic therapy.

ADDITIONAL PREVENTIVE TACTICS

Hygiene measures can help women avoid recurrent UTIs; many doctors recommend the following tactics.

Wear loose-fitting white cotton underwear and panty hose that have cotton crotches.

Avoid douching and using vaginal deodorants, which can cause bladder irritation.

If you use a diaphragm, ask your doctor to check the size; one that is even slightly too large can irritate the urethra and bladder.

Urinate and drink a glass of water before sexual intercourse and urinate within an hour afterward to flush out the urinary tract.

After a bowel movement, wipe from the front to the back to reduce the risk of carrying intestinal bacteria to the urethra.

 

DRINK BERRY JUICE

A Finnish study followed 150 women who had a urinary tract infection but were not taking antibiotics. They found that giving women one glass of cranberry-lingonberry juice daily for 6 months significantly reduced recurrences of UTIs compared to women who received a placebo. Another study, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, showed that consumption of berry juices, particularly raspberry, cranberry, strawberry, and currant juices, one to three times per week was associated with a lower risk of UTI recurrence compared with drinking berry juice less than once a week. This same study showed that women who consumed fermented dairy products, which contained probiotic bacteria (such as yogurt with Lactobacillus acidophilus), also had a decreased risk.

     
     

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