Unlike your period, UTIs are not fabulous. They can lead to burning sensations, itchiness, an insatiable urge to pee (even though you literally just peed), and even blood in your urine.
What are UTIs?
A UTI, or urinary tract infection, is an infection of the kidney, ureter, bladder, or urethra (basically your pee system). While not everyone with a UTI gets symptoms, common symptoms include a frequent urge to pee (particularly if nothing is really coming out) and pain or burning while peeing.
How can I prevent a UTI?
Often with UTI prevention, there is no single silver bullet. Some of us are just more prone to UTIs than others and there’s tons of factors that can attribute to your likeliness of getting a UTI (talk about pulling the short straw!). Here are some daily habits that are key to avoiding urinary tract infections.
1.Treat your water bottle like your phone—don’t leave your house without it.
Fluid helps move things through the urinary tract, but it also dilutes the urine so bacteria can’t grow. The more water you drink, the easier it will be for your body to flush out any bacteria. You’ve probably noticed that the on days you drink a lot of water, your urine is almost clear, this is a sign that your body is flowing and gives bacteria less of a chance to attack!
- Wipe from front to back. (then make a hilarious jingle to remember it)
Bet you never paid much attention to how your wipe huh? Bacteria in your urethra come from two main places: your rectum and your vagina. The main way rectal bacteria makes its way to the urethra and the vagina is from improper wiping after a bowel movement (#2). Make sure to wipe from front to back to keep fecal matter away from your vagina and urethra. If you have a bidet, even better! Cleaning properly after #2 will keep you fresh and avoid bacteria build up.
- Urinate after sex and drink a glass of water.
Make it a habit to drink a glass of water before or after sex. Then pee to flush out any bacteria that may have migrated from the vagina to the urethra during sex. If you can’t go right away, stay hydrated and go to the bathroom as soon as possible. Even if you feel like you don’t need to pee, or just a little comes out, that’s okay! Most often, the bacteria is cleared out, even if you just pee a little. Repeat after me: Always. Do. The. Pee!
- Consider probiotics.
You can use probiotics to help maintain the population of good bacteria in your urinary tract and reproductive system. When you have an infection, your body is invaded by bad bacteria (it’s like the British Empire all over again!) that make you more vulnerable to infections of the vaginal tracts such as UTIs and Bacterial Vaginosis. While the effectiveness of probiotics and UTI prevention is still being researched, it could be worth a try. As with any supplement, check with your doctor if you have any concerns or are regularly taking other prescription medication. You can also add yogurt or kombucha (that weird but good smelly drink all the hipsters are chugging) to your daily diet.
- Let her breathe!
Wet bathing suits, tight pants, and sweaty gym clothes trap moisture which harbors bacteria. If you are prone to UTIs, change right after your workout or beach day. If you can’t resist a good pair of tight jeans or your favourite nylon leggings—slip into something cotton (or commando) as soon as you get home.
- Ditch the douche.
As if there aren’t enough reasons to keep douches far away from your vagina, they also kill the good bacteria (lactobacillus) you need to combat a UTI. Maintain your natural balance instead of squirting harmful antiseptic water up your vagina. Plus, your vagina is basically magic and has self-cleaning mechanisms built right in, you don’t need to be spending money on other products in the market.
- Avoid holding your pee for prolonged amounts of time.
Holding your urine for a long time allows bacteria to multiply within the urinary tract, resulting in a bladder infection or UTI. I’m not saying to go when you feel the slightest urge—over time that weakens your pelvic floor and decreases the size of your bladder. But don’t wait until it’s an emergency every time you have to pee.
What about antibiotics?
Although antibiotics are likely to be effective in the short term, continuing to use them can have a serious, long-term impact on your health. If you suffer from recurrent UTIs you may build a tolerance to antibiotics. The healthiest ways to fight UTIs is to begin with good habits. However, despite your best efforts, UTIs can be out of your control. For some people, UTIs are not determined by behavior and/or habits, some people just are more likely to develop a UTI than others. This can be a result of hormonal changes, anatomy, pregnancy, or conditions like diabetes.
The good news
Companies like Uqora aim to help people who suffer from recurrent UTIs. CEO and co-founder Jenna Ryan not only explains how their pink lemonade gives you defense against UTIs but also a more lengthy list of daily habits that help minimize your risk.