About half of all women will have the uncomfortable experience of dealing with a bladder infection (cystitis) or urinary tract infection (UTI) at least once in their lifetime. These types of infections are very common, mainly because of a woman’s unique biology. Her urethra is only 1.5 inches long, which allows bacteria to easily migrate toward the bladder. Since recurring bladder infections can lead to kidney infections, which can cause permanent damage, it’s important to take action and ,when necessary, seek proper medical care.
6 steps to help prevent bladder and urinary tract infections
1. UTIs are the second most common type of infection in the body, accounting for roughly 8.1 million visits to the doctor each year. Most UTIs are caused by E. coli bacteria, which can be introduced to the urinary tract through improper hygiene habits or as a result of physical intimacy. Proper bathroom techniques, including thorough cleaning after each bowel movement and wiping from front to back, can help prevent harmful bacteria from entering the urinary tract. Also, emptying your bladder after intercourse helps expel bacteria that may have entered the urethra.
2. Watch for signs. Symptoms of a urinary system infection can include:
• pain or burning during urination
• the frequent urge to urinate without much success
• a tender or heavy feeling in your belly
• cloudy or foul-smelling urine
• pain on one side of your back under your ribs (kidneys)
• fever and chills
• nausea and vomiting
3. Are you at a higher risk? Women who have diabetes or are pregnant are at a greater risk for contracting a UTI. In pregnant women, the fetus typically presses on the bladder, making it difficult to empty it completely. Stagnant urine left in the bladder is a ripe breeding ground for bacteria. Your risk also increases if you are dehydrated so drink plenty of water every day to help the urinary system continue to flush toxins properly.
4. Cranberry is your friend. Native Americans have used cranberries to support the urinary system for hundreds of years. Modern research confirms the value of their ancient remedies. Controlled studies show that cranberry juice helps to acidify the urine, which may make it difficult for bacteria to thrive. Cranberry juice also contains a high level hippuric acid, which slows or prevents the growth of E. coli and helps keep bacteria from sticking to the inside walls of the bladder. Drinking 12–16 ounces of cranberry juice a day or taking capsules of dried cranberry juice should do the trick. Blueberry juice may provide similar help.
5. Don’t hold back. Go to the restroom as soon as you feel the urge, and empty your bladder completely.
6. Dress for your health. Cotton undergarments and loose clothing help keep that area of the body cooler and dryer, which means a lower likelihood of bacterial growth. Likewise, avoiding perfumed soaps, bubble baths and scented feminine products can help prevent irritation of the urethra.