Guide to a Healthy Urinary Tract
According to the National Kidney Foundation, one in five women will have at least one urinary tract infection (UTI) in her lifetime. Twenty percent of these women will have another, 30 percent will have more than two and of this last group 80 percent will have them recurrently.
UTI’s are responsible for nearly 10 million doctor visits each year with about 90 percent of these being caused by a single type of bacteria - the E. coli strain.
Statistics aside, UTI’s are painful and bothersome and affect quality of life. The following list of helpful, preventative tactics will help keep UTI’s at bay.
Empty Your Bladder Entirely
According to healthyliving.msn.com, “It’s important to go to the bathroom when you need to. “Holding it” can actually stretch your bladder, making it difficult to empty completely.”
One doctor recommends the following technique which one observant patient dubbed, "The Russian Dancer" - while sitting on the commode, urinate as you naturally would, then bend forward at the waist and extend your right leg out at an angle. (It may be necessary to drop your pants when performing this technique.) Attempt to urinate again. This technique may allow you to empty a little extra urine than you would in a normal sitting position.
A post from the Whole Woman Village Forum offers this advice for emptying completely: “The general instruction here is to lean forward onto the soles of your feet, lifting your bottom slightly off the seat. Your skin can even stay in contact with the seat, as long as you get your weight off. If that isn't enough to empty fully, then stand up more, bending completely over at your hip joints. Your bladder will fall into the hollow of your lower belly, establishing normal anatomy.”
Either way, it's worth a try to do a little bathroom yoga and see if you can more completely empty your bladder and thus prevent bacteria growth.
Have you suffered a UTI?
Keeping it Clean
According to WebMD, most UTI’s are a bladder infection and occur when germs get into your system traveling through your urethra. Women get them more than men because our urethra is shorter. In order to prevent bacteria from moving up the urethra, one simple trick is to urinate immediately before and after sexual intercourse.
A University of Illinois article takes cleanliness to another very personal level when they suggest: “If you have anal intercourse or anal/finger contact, wash the penis, vulva, hands and all sex toys prior to vaginal penetration. Condoms are encouraged during all anal contact, but don’t forget to change condoms before vaginal penetration.”
To summarize - keep it clean, whatever that means for you and your partner. You’ll do your urinary tract a favor.
According to Jessica Chandler, Vanderbilt University, scientists are unsure how cranberries aid in a healthy urinary tract. A common theory is that cranberries prevent bacteria from sticking to urinary tract cells. Either way, cranberries are not necessarily a cure, according to Chandler, but can be used for prevention.
Relief can be found for some by drinking cranberry juice, but if you're not in to drinking the juice, many supplements are available such as cranberry gel caps. As with any supplement, consult your physician.
Drink, drink, and drink lots of water. According to the Mayo Clinic, drinking water helps dilute your urine and you urinate more frequently allowing bacteria to be flushed before an infection starts.
See a Specialist
What if you’re doing everything, nothing is working and your UTI's are reoccurring? Then it is time to see a specialist. Structural issues can cause frequent UTI’s. For example - the spring rim of a diaphragm can pinch or bruise the urinary tract thus making it susceptible for infection. A dilation procedure can be done under local anesthetic and is very quick and relatively painless.
Needless to say, it is important to rule out structural issues. Be careful not to spend too much time on procedures and exercise if you haven't first had a thorough exam and/or scope at the hands of a urologist. A friend of mine was treated for months with urodynamic exercise which her insurance did not totally cover. She was not only prone to UTI’s, but was also suffering some urinary incontinence. It turns out all the kegal exercises in the world would not fix her real problem which was discovered by her urologist and his scope - a flattened tube to her bladder probably caused by multiple, natural child births.
It is important, if you suffer recurrent UTI’s that you schedule a visit to a urologist and have your urinary system scoped. The long and short of the story - have the tests done to diagnose your problem so you can get back to living a quality pain free life.
The Helpful Tips
Empty bladder completely
See a specialist
Hopefully, these tips, emptying your bladder completely, urinating after sex, taking or drinking cranberry and drinking lots and lots of water will help to prevent your next UTI. If not, see a specialist and find out what might be at the bottom (no pun intended) of the issue. The discomfort from frequent UTI’s is something preventable and treatable.
"Any tips for emptying bladder more completely ." Whole Woman Village Forum. Submitted by Happysheep, 16 June 2011. Web. 9 Oct. 2013. <https://wholewoman.com/forum/node/3934
Chandler, J. (n.d.). The Truth about Cranberry Juice Preventing Urinary Tract Infections(UTI). Health Psychology Home Page. Retrieved October 9, 2013, from http://healthpsych.psy.vanderbilt.edu/cranbe
Harding, Anne . "Bladder training tips to reduce bathroom trips." MSN Healthy Living. N.p., n.d. Web. 9 Oct. 2013. <healthyliving.msn.com/diseases/urinary-health/bladder-training-tips-to-reduce-bathroom-trips-1>.
Clinic Staff. (n.d.). Urinary tract infection (UTI): Prevention - MayoClinic.com. Mayo Clinic. Retrieved October 10, 2013, from http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/urinary-tract-infection/DS00286/DSECTION=prevention
"Urinary Tract Infections." www.kidney.org. National Kidney Foundation, n.d. Web. 9 Oct. 2013. <www.kidney.org/atoz/pdf/uti.pdf>.
"Urinary Tract Infections in Teens and Adults." www.webmd.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 9 Oct. 2013. <www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/urinary-tract-infections-in-teens-and-adults-topic-overview >.
Urinary Tract Infections in Women - McKinley Health Center - University of Illinois. (n.d.). McKinley Health Center - University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Retrieved October 9, 2013, from http://www.mckinley.illinois.edu/handouts/urinary