Bladder and urinary tract infections (UTIs), particularly cystitis, are surprisingly common in women but rare in men.
Bacteria is the main cause; however women often have the symptoms of a urinary tract infection without having significant levels of bacteria in the urine. Because of this it’s a good idea to have a specimen of urine checked to see if bacteria is present – the E. Coli bacteria is responsible for roughly 90 per cent of UTIs.
Cystitis can be the result of a physical problem within the urinary system, such as blockage of the urinary tract. If you are unable to pass any urine at all then this should be immediately investigated by a GP as it can be potentially very dangerous. Your GP should also be consulted if you have a fever or lower back pain, as severe infections can lead to kidney infections or nephritis.
Bladder infections and cystitis often become more prevalent after menopause due to lower oestrogen levels and the potential for vaginal dryness.
Nutrition Tips for Prevention of UTIs
Our recommendations for bladder infections are preventative (once an infection is present a GP should always be consulted). The three main parts of the prevention strategy are:
- Increase the flow of urine by in taking in more liquid. Ideally this is pure water, herbal tea, or vegetable juices that are diluted with 50% water. At least 1.5 litres of liquid per day is recommended. (Tea, coffee and alcohol should be avoided.)
- Prevent the bacteria from adhering to the wall of the bladder or urinary tract. This can be helped by drinking unsweetened cranberry juice diluted with 50% water at least twice per day.
- Boost the immune system by keeping blood sugar balanced (avoiding white bread, rice and pasta and foods with added sugar), increasing fruit and vegetable intake to 7-10 portions per day, and eating oily fish such as salmon, mackerel or herring at least three times per week.
Foods to Avoid During an Attack of Cystitis
Urine is normally mildly acidic; however an acidic environment is beneficial to bacteria so it can help to relieve symptoms if you reduce the acidity of the urine through diet when having an attack. This means avoiding foods such as alcohol, chilli and spicy foods, fizzy drinks, coffee, citrus fruits and juices, and vinegar, and increasing the number of portions of vegetables eaten daily. Although cranberry juice has been proven to prevent cystitis, this should also be avoided during an attack, as it is highly acidic.
If sharp pain is one of the symptoms, reducing intake of foods containing the amino acids tyrosine, tryptophan and aspartate may help. This includes anchovies, avocado, bananas, brewer’s yeast, cheese, liver, chocolate, lentils, mayonnaise, artificial sweeteners, nuts, pickles, prunes, raisins, soy sauce, and yoghurt. These foods stimulate the production of certain neurotransmitters that can cause nerves in the urinary tract to become over-sensitive.
Citrates, such as potassium, magnesium or calcium citrate can help alkalise the urine, which may help with the symptoms of a bladder or urinary tract infection. These are the main ingredients in over-the counter cystitis remedies such as CanesOasis.
Vitamin C and Bioflavonoids
Vitamin C supports the immune system and bioflavonoids provide antioxidants to help neutralise the free radicals given off by inflammation. If you are topping up your vitamin C with a supplement, make sure this is a buffered type (vitamin C is a type of acid but when it is combined as calcium ascorbate, magnesium ascorbate,or potassium ascorbate it creates a neutral pH vitamin C).
Cranberry and D-Mannose
D-Mannose is a type of carbohydrate that is found in some fruits and particularly cranberries. It has been shown to help reduce attacks of cystitis by preventing bacteria from sticking to the wall of the urinary tract. D-Mannose is taken in powder form. As well as D-Mannose, cranberry contains additional antioxidants to help prevent cystitis. Cranberry is available in tablet form and some supplements also contain probiotics such as Lacto Acidophilus to help maintain a healthy balance of flora in the urinary tract and the gut.
Keeping the right balance of beneficial bacteria in the vagina can help prevent attacks of cystitis, particularly in postmenopausal women. Probiotics are available that specifically target this area, such as Optibac for Women. Special capsules for inserting vaginally are also available. For more insights into UTI’s and other conditions that specifically affect women, why not book our Women’s Health seminar? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to make your booking.