Millions of people in the United States suffer from the side effects of urinary tract infections every year—and if you’re one of these millions, you know that the experience is far from pleasant. What’s worse, a UTI can actually be quite dangerous if not effectively treated, leading to recurrent UTI’s, permanent kidney damage, and even life-threatening sepsis.
Luckily, there are steps that you can take to identify the causes of your urinary tract infections, aid them and support urinary tract health—and it may be as simple as adding a daily probiotic supplement to your diet.
What Exactly is a Urinary Tract Infection?
Before we look at why probiotic therapy can be so effective at clearing up even recurrent urinary tract infections, let’s take a look at what exactly is going on in your body when you’re in the middle of a UTI. In essence, a urinary tract infection (or UTI) is an infection that arises in any part of the urinary system, including the kidneys, ureters, urethra, and bladder. Most infections are located in the lower part of the urinary tract where the bladder and urethra live.
The majority of UTIs are bacterial infections. The specific type of bacteria and its sources can vary. Infections located in the bladder are often caused by Escherichia coli bacteria (also known as E. coli), a bacterial strain that is often found in the digestive tract. On the other hand, urinary tract infections of the urethra are more commonly caused by harmful bacteria strains from your gastrointestinal tract that have been spread from your anus to your urethra. About four-fifths of all urinary tract infections are caused by two types of bad bacteria: E. coli and Staphylococcus saprophyticus. (1)
Urinary tract infections can also be caused by fungi and viruses, including sexually transmitted infections such as gonorrhea, herpes, chlamydia, and mycoplasma.
The Signs and Symptoms of a Urinary Tract Infection
Unsurprisingly, many of the most obvious and common symptoms of a urinary tract infection can be found by looking at your urine. Dark or cloudy urine, urine that is red or bright pink, or strong-smelling urine are all clear signs of a UTI. Similarly, feeling a constant and strong need to urinate, having a burning or sharp sensation when you urinate, or feeling like you can’t fully empty your bladder can signal an infection. While UTIs aren’t always painful, pelvic pain—specifically for women—is often associated with urinary tract infection. (2)
The Risk Factors for Developing a Urinary Tract Infection
While anyone can develop a urinary tract infection, certain risk factors can increase your chances of getting a UTI—and the biggest risk factor may be your gender. Women are far more prone to developing a urinary tract infection than men are. Indeed, clinical studies show that about half of women experience at least one UTI during their lifetime. (3) There are several reasons for this. First, the female urethra is shorter than that of men, allowing bacteria to get to and infect the bladder more easily. The proximity of a woman’s urethra opening to the rectum also increases the risk for a UTI. (2)
The use of certain birth control methods (such as spermicide or diaphragms) also increases a woman’s risk of developing a UTI, as does wiping from back to front after using the restroom. (2) The risk of contracting a UTI notably increases during pregnancy, particularly in weeks six through 24. It’s thought that the increased weight and size of the uterus interferes with the ability to completely void the bladder, making UTIs more common. (4) Postmenopausal women are at increased risk due to hormone changes that affect beneficial bacteria populations. (2)
Beyond gender-related risk factors, several other health conditions can boost the chances of getting a UTI for both men and women. Having a condition that affects immune response (like diabetes) can increase UTI risk, as can any injury to the spinal cord or the nerves around the bladder. Use of a urinary catheter can make it easier for harmful bacteria to enter the urethra/urogenital tract and cause an infection. An enlarged prostate or kidney stones can block urine flow and promote bacteria growth as well. (2) There’s also some evidence that genetics may play a role in your susceptibility to recurrent urinary tract infection. (5)
Understanding Your UTI Treatment Options Using Diet and Probiotics
If you’ve gone to the doctor about a urinary tract infection in the past, chances are that you’ve been prescribed an antibiotic for treatment. Unfortunately, numerous clinical studies have shown that antibiotic use can result in a host of negative health side effects, including decimating the good bacteria populations of your gut and interrupting the normal flora balance in your digestive tract. (6)
But don’t worry: there are a number of natural, healthy things you can do to avoid a urinary tract infection and prevent repeat incidence of UTIs without destroying the delicate balance of your gut microbiome.
Common wisdom holds that you should get at least eight glass of water a day, but it’s easy to ignore your thirst as you go through your busy day. If you suffer from recurrent UTI, however, this is a bad move. Staying hydrated is one of the most effective ways to reduce the recurrence of UTI. Why? In short, drinking more fluids leads you to pee more—and this is key to ensuring that the bad bacteria that cause urinary tract infections are flushed out of your urinary tract.
The importance of drinking plenty of fluids for the prevention of UTI has been demonstrated in several clinical studies. In one, researchers found that infrequent urination caused by low fluid intake was directly related to urinary tract infection recurrence. (7) Another research study showed the corollary: that increasing fluid intake was related to a decrease in the frequency of UTIs. (8)
Does it matter what you drink to stay hydrated? Water is certainly a reliable way to get enough liquids, but if you want a little variety, try unsweetened cranberry juice. Unsweetened cranberry juice is one of the best-known natural urinary tract infection remedies, and for good reason: cranberry consumption helps prevent harmful bacteria from adhering in the urinary tract, decreasing the chance of infection. (9) One double-blind study looked at women who had a history of urinary tract infections. Half were asked to drink eight ounces of cranberry juice daily. Those who drank the unsweetened cranberry juice ended up experiencing fewer UTIs than those in the control group. (10)
LoveBug’s Yeast is a Beast daily probiotic supplement has all the health benefits of cranberry juice, without the added sugar. That’s thanks to the addition of Cran-Gyn (cranberry extract) and D-mannose in each tablet.
Get more Vitamin C
Vitamin C is well-known for playing a key role in boosting your immune system during the cold season, but it has an important role to play in decreasing urinary tract infection, too. How? Scientists think that vitamin C increases urine acidity, and this increase in acidity helps kill the bad bacteria that lead to infection. (11) One clinical study of pregnant women found that those who took 100mg of vitamin C daily had fewer than half as many UTIs as those in the control group. (12) Even better, getting enough vitamin C in your diet is easy (and delicious!): oranges, kiwi, grapefruit and red peppers all have the total recommended value of the vitamin in a single serving.
Practice Healthy Hygiene Habits
Simple, everyday hygiene habits can also help in the prevention of recurrent urinary tract infection. Studies have found that peeing after sex can reduce the spread of bacteria and lower your chance for infection, as can avoiding the use of spermicide. (13) (14) Always make sure to wipe front to back after using the restroom. (15) Perhaps most importantly, stop holding it! Research shows that holding in urine for too long can cause bacteria to build up and cause an infection. (16)
Take a Probiotics for UTI Treatment/Prevention
If you’re going to take just one daily supplement, make it a probiotic. The use of probiotics has been shown to be effective in everything from improving digestive health to supporting immune function—and certain probiotic strains have been shown to be effective in supporting urinary tract health. One research study found that supplementing with Lactobacillus probiotics reduced the risk of UTIs in women. (17) In another clinical study, probiotics were shown to boost treatment effectiveness when combined with antibiotics compared to the antibiotic alone.
Taking a probiotic supplement aimed specifically at addressing women’s health issues can increase the effectiveness of probiotics in supporting urinary tract health even further. LoveBug’s Yeast is a Beast daily probiotic supplement is specifically designed to help support urinary tract health by combining five strains of Lactobacillus shown effective in the prevention and treatment of UTIs—L. plantarum, L. gasseri, L. fermentum, L. reuteri, L. brevis—with added Cran-Gyn and D-mannose.
- Minardi, Daniele, Gianluca d’Anzeo, Daniele Cantoro, Alessandro Conti, and Giovanni Muzzonigro. “Urinary tract infections in women: etiology and treatment options.” Int J Gen Med 4, (2011): 333–343. doi: 10.2147/IJGM.S11767.
- “Urinary tract infection (UTI).” Mayo Clinic. Accessed February 20, 2019. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/urinary-tract-infection/symptoms-causes/syc-20353447.
- Foxman, B. “Epidemiology of urinary tract infections: incidence, morbidity, and economic costs.” Dis Mon 49, no. 2 (2003): 53-70. doi: 10.1067/mda.2003.7.
- Wong, Cathy. “UTIs: Causes and Risk Factors.” Very Well Health. https://www.verywellhealth.com/urinary-tract-infections-causes-and-risk-factors-4161060.
- Ragnarsdóttir, Bryndís, Nataliya Lutay, Jenny Grönberg-Hernandez, Bela Köves, and Catharina Svanborg. “Genetics of innate immunity and UTI susceptibility.” Nature Reviews Urology 8, (2011): 449–468. doi: 10.1038/nrurol.2011.100.
- Tamma, Pranita D., Edina Avdic, David X. Li, Kathryn Dzintars, and Sara E. Cosgrove. “Association of Adverse Events With Antibiotic Use in Hospitalized Patients.” JAMA Intern Med 177, no. 9 (2017): 1308-1315. doi: 10.1001/jamainternmed.2017.1938.
- Mazzola, BL, RO von Vigier, S. Marchand S, M. Tönz, and MG Bianchetti. “Behavioral and functional abnormalities linked with recurrent urinary tract infections in girls.” J Nephrol 16, no. 1 (2003): 133-8. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12649544.
- Keane, E. Lamond, SR Jackson, and P. Abrams. “Hydration monitoring in the prevention of recurrent idiopathic urinary tract infections in pre-menopausal women.” Br J Urol 76, no. 1 (1995): 90-3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7648069.”
- Zafriri, D, I Ofek, R Adar, M Pocino, and N Sharon. “Inhibitory activity of cranberry juice on adherence of type 1 and type P fimbriated Escherichia coli to eucaryotic cells.” Antimicrob Agents Chemother 33, no. 1 (1989): 92–98. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC171427/.
- Maki, KC, KL Kaspar, C. Khoo, LH Derrig, AL Schild, and K. Gupta. “Consumption of a cranberry juice beverage lowered the number of clinical urinary tract infection episodes in women with a recent history of urinary tract infection.” Am J Clin Nutr 103, no. 6 (2016): 1434-42. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.116.130542.
- “Stay a step ahead of urinary tract infections.” Health Harvard Publishing, Harvard Medical School. Last modified February, 2015. https://www.health.harvard.edu/diseases-and-conditions/stay-a-step-ahead-of-urinary-tract-infections.
- Ochoa-Brust, GJ, AR Fernández, GJ Villanueva-Ruiz, R. Velasco, B. Trujillo-Hernández, and C. Vásquez. “Daily intake of 100 mg ascorbic acid as urinary tract infection prophylactic agent during pregnancy.” Acta Obstet Gynecol Scand 86, (2007): 783-7. doi: 10.1080/00016340701273189.
- Foxman, B. and JW Chi. “Health behavior and urinary tract infection in college-aged women.” J Clin Epidemiol 43, no. 4 (1990): 329-37. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2324774.
- Fihn, SD, EJ Boyko, CL Chen, EH Normand, P. Yarbro P, and D. Scholes. “Use of spermicide-coated condoms and other risk factors for urinary tract infection caused by Staphylococcus saprophyticus.” Arch Intern Med 158, no. 3 (1998): 281-7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9472209.
- Persad S1, Watermeyer S, Griffiths A, Cherian B, Evans J. “Association between urinary tract infection and postmicturition wiping habit.” Acta Obstet Gynecol Scand 85, no. 11 (2006): 1395-6. doi: 10.1080/00016340600936977.
- Al-Badr, Ahmed and Ghadeer Al-Shaikh. “Recurrent Urinary Tract Infections Management in Women.” Sultan Qaboos Univ Med J 13, no. 3 (2013): 359–367. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3749018/.
- Grin, PM, PM Kowalewska, W. Alhazzan, AE Fox-Robichaud. “Lactobacillus for preventing recurrent urinary tract infections in women: meta-analysis.” Can J Urol 20, no. 1 (2013): 6607-14. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23433130.