Urinary Tract Infections and Diet

Urinary tract infections are the most common infection in the United States, accounting for more than 8 million hospital visits per year. Most adult females will experience several of them throughout their lifetime such that by the age of 32 more than half of women have reported at least one infection. Though there is no real cure for a bacterial infection, there are several known methods for managing or preventing UT infections.

Did you know that the urinary tract is almost exactly the same for men and women? The urinary system, sometimes called the renal system, is not one organ but a set of organs, including the kidneys, bladder, ureters, and urethra, and the tissues that interconnect them. The kidneys filter urine from the blood, in the form of sodium, urea, ammonium, and other metabolic or excess wastes, and the liquid is delivered to the bladder where it is released (“voided”) through the urethra.

Typically thought of as the body’s urine-producing blood filtration system, the kidneys act as a site for the re-absorption of critical nutrients, such as glucose, sodium, water, and amino acids, back into the blood stream. Additionally, your kidneys are central to the regulation of red blood cell production, electrolytes, and blood pressure. The term “renal”—meaning “relating to the kidneys”—actually refers to the organ’s blood pressure controlling function. This organ is the starting point for your urinary system.

The kidney is filled with about one million nephrons, tiny blood vessel-rich filtration structures that are constantly at work filtering the 5.5 liters of blood in your body, producing urine, and secreting important hormones and nutrients back into the blood. The average person urinates about six times a day and a dramatic change in this regularity could be the sign of a renal or bladder condition. The bladder is connected directly to the kidneys via the ureter. If you stop urinating altogether, you may be going into renal failure, or, if you urinate much more frequently than six times a day without actually increasing the total daily amount of urine produced,that could indicate a tumor, kidney stone, or kidney infection.

An infection of the kidney, or pyelonephritis, is characterized by colonies of bacteria, very often E. coli, to the lining and tissue of the organ itself. This often results in extreme pain, difficult urination, and intense cramping.

The structure and function of the urinary tract are indistinguishable from the kidneys and urinary bladder themselves. These organs compose the UT, therefore any bacterial infection in any of those organs or tissues can be called a urinary tract infection.

UT Infections

Urine produced by the body is actually sterile, and quite harmless. It does not cause an infection on its own. An infection can only be caused by the introduction of bacteria either from the blood or through the openings in the penis and vagina. On occasion bacteria may make its way from the intestines, where bacteria are produced and used by the body in the digestion process. The infection-causing organism itself may be bacterial, viral, fungal, or parasitic.

While men do sometimes suffer painful urinary tract infections women contract them more regularly, at a rate of about fifty times that of men. If you have a kidney condition you may have nausea, fever, a disruption to your urination regime, or pain in the general area of the infection while urinating (dysuria). A bacterial infection in the upper UT is in the kidney and ureters and is called pyelonephritis; when the infection is in the lower UT it is in the bladder and urethra and is referred to as cystitis.

Furthermore, although an infection can occur at any time and is often significantly associated with sexual intercourse and use of spermicide, among other things, there are actually no significant associations with voiding patterns, beverage consumption, tampon use, wiping patterns, or type of underwear. Although these behaviors may be thought to contribute to infection, there is no evidence to either prove or disprove this.

No advanced techniques or cures currently exist. Antimicrobial drugs are usually given to women with the infections on a predetermined regimen. The Infectious Disease Society of America reported that worldwide resistance to synthetic drugs by uropathogens like E. coli (a common UT infection bacteria) has increased over the decades. Resistance rates to amoxicillin, a commonly used antibiotic, has risen to 20% or higher in all of the regions studies, which means that there is an increased likelihood, but not a certainty, that new drug therapies may not work.

The Diet Solution

One of the main reasons for chronic UT infections is the overconsumption of sweet foods and candy. Putting all of that sugar in your system enriches the blood, thickens the urine, and produces ketones, or sugar, in your urine. Sugar-rich organs, liquids, and food sources attract more bacteria and usually lead to longer and more insidious bacterial infections. In addition, consuming too much sugar increases your risk of diabetes, obesity, and other serious health conditions, which also increase your likelihood of contracting chronic or very painful bacterial infections of all kinds, including in the teeth, genitals, and urinary system.

Instead of combating infection with microbicides like amoxicillin, an alternative method for better urinary health is to assist the body by giving it the friendly bacteria that it needs, such as lactobacilli and bifidobacterio. These are the bacteria found throughout your urinary system that strengthen the region

against attack from nefarious bacterium They also protect and separate the different organs, for instance by providing a stronger barrier between the bladder and the genitals.

Sources for such good bacteria are in fermented dairy products like yogurt, cheese, sauerkraut, pickles, and (you may love this!) beer and wine. But there is a downside to lactobacillus: it has been shown to contribute to cavities and tooth decay. No evidence shows that an increased consumption of alcohol will reduce your cases of UT infection.

If you are not into yogurt and beer, you can stock up on vitamin C-rich foods, like oranges, cabbage, tomato, and grapefruit. The regular recommendation is about 5000 mg per day of vitamin C, whether in tablet form or otherwise. Any additional ascorbic acid (vitamin C) consumed beyond the recommended dose is automatically filtered form the blood into the kidneys and out of the body, worthless. Vitamin C makes the urine less acidic, and more basic, thus reducing the chances of bacteria like E. Coli taking hold in your urinary system.

Over the past few decades, research has shown that fruit and berry juices, particularly cranberry, blueberry, and lingonberry, are the greatest defense against UT infections. The berries contain proanthocyanidins which act as a buffer between the tissue of the urinary tract and any bacteria that may be seeking to bind to it. Flavonols in berries also fight infection, an organic chemical produced by berry fruits to fight bacteria to which it is regularly exposed during ripening.

Very recent research out of Europe found that berries and fermented milk products together reduce your chances of contracting the painful condition by 34%. While the consumption of these dairy and berry products was key, not much was required. Those who drank twice or three times as much per day, for instance, had the same reduced risk and no more. However, it was the recommendation of the researchers in this study and others that young and middle-aged women, the at-risk group for UT infections, eat these foods at least three times a week, if not daily.

If you are at-risk or prone to UT infections, changing your diet will be the best way to combat it. There are lots of organic, berry-infused yogurts on the market and one a day will do you a world of good.