UTI’s are a pain — all pun intended. Let’s take trip down memory lane and recap a bit of biology from school. Consider this your warning if you’re easily grossed out. On the other hand, extra points if you remember any of this from class! UTI’s occur in the urinary tract, which is composed of your kidneys, ureters, urinary bladder and a urethra. The urine produced in our kidneys is passed on through tube-like, elongated channels called ureters to the urinary bladder. Here, urine is stored in the bladder for however long it is until the urine starts to distend the bladder, and you get the urge to pass urine. There’s a complex signal pathway that leads to this as well, but we won’t get into it. Finally, as we all know, urine is removed from the bladder through a small tube called the urethra, which almost acts like a tunnel between the bladder to the outside.
To sum it up, urinary tract infections are infections that affect any part of the urinary tract. When it affects the lower urinary tract, it’s called a bladder infection or cystitis. When it affects the upper urinary tract or the kidneys, it is called pyelonephritis.
What To Expect
You might not necessarily experience all of these symptoms — that would be hell. If you do have a UTI, you’re likely to experience some combination of the potential symptoms listed below.
1. Burning sensation while urinating
2. Pain or a feeling of pressure in the lower area of your tummy
3. Feeling the urge to go to the bathroom and pass urine frequently, but only releasing a small amount.
4. Change in colour of urine — cloudy urine or veering towards a browner hue.
5. Nausea, vomiting, and body aches are some other non-specific, general issues that come uninvited with this condition sometimes.
What’s Causing It Though?
Us lucky females are especially prone to developing UTI’s, because we have a shorter urethra than men. This allows bacteria to ascend faster and more easily, reaching the bladder rapidly through the urethra and causing an infection. Over 50% of all women are likely to experience a UTI at least once during their lifetime.
1. Bacterial Infection With E.Coli
The most common cause of infection is from E.Coli, a type of bacteria that we come into contact with readily because of the anus. Due to the proximity between the external opening of the digestive tract and the urethra, UTI’s become unavoidable at some point or the other. There’s no getting rid of that proximity, which is why it’s always advised to wipe from front to back during washing to prevent any possible bacteria from the anus coming into contact with the urethra.
2. Dehydration / Holding In Urine
Not drinking enough water is often linked to UTI’s. When there isn’t enough urine in the bladder to trigger the urge to pee (which is the natural cycle our bladder is used to for healthy functioning), bacteria finds itself in an ideal environment to grow and multiply.
3. Kidney And Bladder Stones
Sometimes stones that have entered the urinary tract trap urine, and increase the risk of developing a UTI, because of infections developing in static urine.
Bladder infections run in families. If you’re someone that gets them frequently, you know who to thank! You might be at a higher risk of developing recurrent infections if you have certain genetics.
When you are pregnant, your experience a significant decrease in your levels of progesterone. The reduced presence of this hormone decreases the muscle tone of the ureters and bladder, causing a higher risk of the urine refluxing back up from bladder to the ureters and kidneys. The urine travelling back from bladder to ureters can sometimes carry infection and cause the kidney serious damage. Try to pee whenever your body sends you the signal to do so, rather than holding into urine.
Do I Have A UTI?
CUE (complete urine examination) is your answer. It’s a simple test done on a sample of your urine, and detects the presence of any pesky infections lurking around. If the test shows more white blood cells than usual, or pus cells, you have a UTI. Occasionally an ultrasound of the urinary tract is advised by the physician as well, to check for any stones or swelling in the kidney, damage, or infection. Your doctor will walk you through the next steps — what antibiotics to take, and so on.
How Can I Prevent UTI’s
1. Hydrate yourself
Drinking plenty of water is the solution to almost everything! It’s the magic elixir. Keep yourself hydrated well, so that all the waste building up in your system is cleansed out every so often from the body. Holding urine in the bladder for too long encourages infection causing bacteria! Don’t ignore the call to nature. It’s there for a reason!
2. Priortise Personal Hygiene
Personal hygiene is a priority for every health concern, not just UTI’s. It’s still worth mentioning though. Know how your body works and keep it clean. Don’t use scented bath products or feminine hygiene sprays, because they alter the normal pH level of the body. Try and wear loose clothes that keep you dry for the most part as well. Moisture creates the perfect environment for bacteria to root itself in and grow.
3. Stock Up On Cranberries
Cranberries contain a compound that prevents E.Coli from sticking to the walls of the urinary tract. It’s like ingesting a natural defence mechanism against bacteria! They don’t help in treating the actual infection, but they’re extremely helpful with prevention. If you’re someone that experiences recurrent UTI’s and can’t figure out how to stop them, cranberries could be your answer. You can eat them, or drink cranberry juice. It doesn’t do much for an active infection, but at least they make your urinary tract an inhospitable environment for bacteria.