Urinary Tract Infection | How To Prevent UTI (2018)
How to Avoid UTIs when You're Sexually Active
If you’ve suffered from a urinary tract infection (UTI), you are not alone. However, there are a number of ways that you can avoid them in the future, especially if you are sexually active. Since a UTI occurs when bad bacteria enters your urinary tract or bladder, start by removing bacteria from your system post-sex by urinating or showering. Boost your immune system by taking in extra vitamin C and probiotics. If you have recurrent UTIs, reach out to your doctor for help.
Staying Healthy during Intercourse
Avoid diaphragms and spermicides as contraceptive methods.Because of the internal positioning of a diaphragm it can keep you from removing all urine from your bladder each time you urinate. This can leave harmful bacteria behind for extended periods. For both men and women, spermicides can introduce bacteria into the urethra and bladder.
- Spermicides, in a similar way to douching, can also change the internal balance of a woman’s vaginal canal, creating an environment for bacterial growth.
Use a water-based vaginal lubricant prior to intercourse.If your vaginal canal is irritated, then it’s more likely to harbor damaging bacteria, which can move into your bladder. Applying the suggested amount of lubricant to your vaginal area before sex can minimize irritation and help natural lubrication to develop.
- A vagina’s natural lubrication, in part, helps to block and eliminate harmful bacteria.
- If an over-the-counter lubricant isn’t working for you, talk with your doctor about a prescription option. In some cases, if a hormonal imbalance is to blame for dryness, an estrogen cream might be a good solution.
Use the restroom before and immediately after sex.This may not seem like the most romantic thing to do, but it can help to keep your bladder healthy. During intercourse, bad bacteria can migrate from the vaginal canal into the urethra and bladder. Emptying your bladder within 15 minutes after intercourse can flush that bacteria out, instead of keeping it inside. This advice applies to both men and women.
- Even if you don’t feel as if you have to use the restroom, go ahead and try. Most of the time you will have at least some urine.
- Some doctors even suggest urinating both before and after sex, as it can help to minimize bacteria in your system.
Shower after sex to remove UTI-causing bacteria.Even a quick, 15-minute shower with soap and water is enough to clean yourself temporarily. As you wash, try to clean from the front of your genitals towards the back. If you don’t have the time or ability to take a shower, you can even wipe yourself down with a warm washcloth and soap.
Take a preventative antibiotic as directed.If you’ve suffered from repeated UTIs, then your doctor might suggest using a preventative medication to prevent or limit future outbreaks. Usually, you’ll take a dose of this antibiotic each time after intercourse. You may need to follow this dosage plan for a year or longer to see real results.
- Bactrim and Macrodantin are just 2 of the many types of antibiotics that doctors can prescribe to head off UTIs before they develop.
- Use caution when using antibiotics. If you use them too often, you may encourage the growth of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. This makes your infections more serious and difficult to treat.
Choosing Healthy Drinks
Ingest at least 11.5 cups (2.7 L) of fluids each day.This is the suggested daily minimum amount of fluids from foods and drinks for women to stay hydrated. The recommendation for men is slightly higher at 15.5 cups (3.7 L) per day. Estimate that around 20% of your daily intake will come from food, so make sure to drink plenty of fluids to account for the remaining amount.
- Staying well hydrated can help to flush bad bacteria out of your bladder and urethra. Your urine should always been as close to clear as possible. This will mean more bathroom trips, but it also gives bacteria no time to grow, as your system is constantly fluid with fluids.
- If you don’t like drinking plain water, try adding a fruit slice or even diluting fruit juice with water.
Drink coffee, tea, and red wine to increase antioxidants.Antioxidants are great for your body, and they help prevent UTIs. They help your body produce more metabolites, which help fight UTIs.
- You can also get antioxidants from foods, like dark chocolate, red berries, fruits, and vegetables.
Avoid caffeine or carbonated drinks while you have a recurring UTI.Caffeine and carbonated drinks also irritate your bladder and can make your symptoms feel worse. It's best to skip them during an infection or if your infection keeps coming back.
- You can drink decaf coffee or tea, as an alternative.
Avoid alcohol other than red wine if you have frequent infections.Alcohol can irritate your bladder, increasing your risk of infection. If you have an infection, alcohol will worse it. Don't drink alcohol if you have an infection or if your infection is recurring.
Take between 300-500 mg of cranberry supplements each day.These supplements come in both pill and liquid form and can be purchased over-the-counter at your local pharmacy or grocery store. Look for a supplement that lists cranberries as the first ingredient. Also, read the instructions carefully and do not take more than the recommended dosage.
- The proanthocyanidins contained in cranberry products can limit the frequency and duration of UTIs for many people. However, talk with your doctor before trying out a cranberry supplement to make sure that it is safe for you.
- Some people prefer to drink unsweetened, pure cranberry juice instead. However, it's important to avoid cranberry cocktails, which contain little cranberry juice and a lot of sugar. Ask your doctor for recommendations regarding how much juice you should drink daily.
Get between 500-1,000 mg of vitamin C each day.Take an oral or liquid supplement that contains vitamin C to get your recommended dosage. Or, eat a variety of vitamin C rich foods each day, such as berries, leafy vegetables, and peppers. Vitamin C can turn your urine more acidic, which helps it to fight off bacterial growth.
- As with any supplement usage, talk with your doctor before taking anything. You may need more or less vitamin C depending on your current diet.
Eat natural diuretics, such as watermelon, celery, and cucumbers.Diuretics cause you to urinate more frequently and cleanse your system. Some foods, many of which contain a lot of water, naturally cleanse your system this way. Add more of them to your diet to help avoid UTIs.
- Other natural diuretics include cranberries, garlic, parsley, asparagus, cabbage, and beets.
Eat dark chocolate, but avoid milk and white chocolate.Dark chocolate provides antioxidants, which helps your body stay healthy. However, milk and white chocolate do not have the same beneficial property. Since they're often high in sugar and contain caffeine, it's best to skip them.
- For example, you might eat 1 square of dark chocolate each day.
Limit your consumption of citrus fruits.Although citrus fruits are considered acidic, they have the opposite affect on your urine. When you eat a lot of citrus fruits, your urine becomes more alkaline, which increases your risk of developing a UTI. Alkaline urine allows for more bacterial growth and irritation in your bladder.
Stay away from processed foods and simple sugars.For example, avoid baked goods, packaged sweets, and sweet or salty snacks. Processed ingredients and simple sugars can feed the bacteria in your body that cause UTIs. Eating them can increase your risk of infection. Instead, stick to natural foods.
- For example, skip the snack cake and instead eat apple slices dipped in natural peanut butter.
Skip artificial sweeteners.Artificial sweeteners are harmful even when you don't have a UTI. They keep your bladder in a constant state of irritation, encouraging infections to develop. They also make your symptoms feel worse. Only use natural sweetners, such as agave and honey, when necessary.
- It's best to eat less sweetened food.
Incorporate probiotics into your diet.Eat plain Greek yogurt that advertises probiotics as a primary ingredient. Some of these yogurts even come in drinks or tube-form for easy use. Almost all types of cheeses also contain healthy probiotics. The benefit of probiotics is that they introduce beneficial bacteria into your system to counter UTI-causing bacteria.
- Talk with your doctor about taking a probiotic supplement to boost your system.
Keeping Your Urinary Tract Bacteria-Free
Wear loose, cotton underwear.The bacteria that causes UTIs thrives in a warm, moist environment. If you wear cotton undergarments then they help to wick away moisture and allow for air flow. Similarly, wearing loose fitting pants can keep your genital region dry and clean.
- It’s also important to take off any wet clothing, such as workout pants or bathing suits, as soon as possible.
- Check the label in your underwear to make sure it's not made of nylon or synthetic material, which you should avoid.
- Don't wear thongs, which increase your risk of infection by irritating your vaginal tissues.
Maintain a clean, dry genital area.Wash your genitals at least once a day, more if you sweat a lot. You don't need to use flowery soaps, as these can irritate your skin. Instead, use an appropriate, sensitive-skin cleanser for your vaginal and anal area. Rinse with plenty of warm or cool water. Then, let the area dry or pat it dry with a clean towel.
- Change your underwear if they become moist or wet.
Urinate as soon as you feel the need, or at least every 4-6 hours.Don't hold in your urine if you need to go. After intercourse, new bacteria is introduced into your bladder and can do more damage the longer that it sits. That is why it’s important to stay hydrated and to empty your bladder fully on a regular basis. If your bladder stays full too long, then the bacteria can sit and move further into your urinary tract.
- As a general rule, if you have the urge to urinate, do it.
Opt for sanitary pads over tampons, if you get frequent infections.Bacteria can grow in your tampons, so it's best to skip them if you have a recurring infection. Sanitary pads may not be as comfortable during your period, but they'll help you avoid a painful UTI!
Don’t use douching products.These are water sprays mixed with chemicals that are advertised as a safe, healthy way to flush out your vaginal canal. However, especially for sexually active women, these sprays can actually push harmful bacteria up into your bladder. They can also damage the natural chemicals of your vaginal canal and pave the way for UTI-causing bacteria to grow.
- If you are struggling with bad vaginal odors, due to sex or other causes, talk with your doctor about treatment options. This could be a sign of a yeast infection.
- Wiping from the front to the back helps to keep rectal bacteria from making its way to your urethra or bladder, too.
- Recurrent UTIs may be a sign of a more serious condition, so see your doctor to get a proper diagnosis.
- If it hurts to urinate or if your urine is bloody, then you likely have a UTI or other bladder infection. Over-the-counter treatments are usually not that effective for treatment. It’s better to make a doctor’s appointment.
Video: UTI Prevention
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