uti

What to eat and what to avoid during a UTI

If you’re suffering from a Urinary Tract Infection (UTI), you need to make sure you’re following the proper procedures to alleviate as much pain as possible. This means that you need to watch what you put in your body, because certain elements can cause problems for you. From drinks to actual foods, we’re going to tell you about what you should avoid.

Most women have experienced a urinary tract infection, or UTI.

While men can get UTIs, they mainly occur in females.

Once you’ve had an infection, it’s pretty easy to recognize the most common symptoms:

  • Abdominal pressure and pain
  • A burning feeling while urinating
  • A near-constant feeling of having to urinate, even if you just went, and often only going a small amount

Left untreated, these symptoms quickly intensify from annoying to painful.

If you start to feel the symptoms of a suspected urinary tract infection, don’t wait to see a doctor. The sooner you begin antibiotics, the better.

Along with an antibiotic, what you drink and eat during a UTI can help you get better faster.

Drink

DO drink a lot of water, even if you’re not thirsty. This will help flush out the bacteria.

DON’T drink coffee, alcohol or caffeine until the infection is gone. These drinks can irritate your bladder.

DO drink a shot of sugar-free cranberry juice, if you like it. Cranberry juice may help fight infection, though the effectiveness is still being studied.

Eat

DO eat blueberries. They may have the same effect as cranberries, which is keeping bacteria from sticking to the lining if your urinary tract.

DON’T eat spicy food. It could irritate your bladder.

DO eat probiotics — plain Greek yogurt and fermented food such as sauerkraut and pickles. They contain “good” bacteria that can help keep the bad bacteria at bay.

DON’T eat a lot of acidic fruit, such as oranges, lemons or limes during the infection. They can irritate your bladder. However, once your infection is gone, eating acidic fruit with vitamin C can help prevent future infections. Add grapefruit and strawberries to your diet, along with spinach and green peppers.

Once you are prescribed an antibiotic, take the entire course. Don’t stop, even if you feel better.

During the infection — and after — make sure to drink a lot of water, at least 12 8-ounce cups per day. This will flush out your system and help prevent future infections.

If you feel like you’ve got to go, GO! Don’t hold it, as this simply delays getting rid of more bacteria. Holding your urine also provides the perfect environment inside your bladder for bacteria to grow.

Besides holding your urine, other causes of UTIs include sex (always urinate before and after), kidney stones or a lack of estrogen, which helps protect women’s bladders against bad bacteria. Some women are genetically more likely to get UTIs.

Urinary tract infections are very common. Knowing what to eat and drink can go a long way toward preventing these annoying infections from disrupting your life.

Take a Break From Coffee to Ease Bladder Infection Symptoms

Sure, your morning cup of java perks you up, but it may also make your UTI symptoms act up again. Caffeine is known to irritate the bladder and worsen bladder infection symptoms. A study of people with interstitial cystitis (chronic inflammation of the bladder) found that people who drank coffee experienced worsened symptoms. Try a mug of noncaffeinated herbal tea to replace your morning coffee ritual until you are UTI-free.

Can Drinking Alcohol Cause a UTI?

You may know that beer, wine, and liquor can irritate your stomach if you’ve got reflux or an ulcer, and alcohol can irritate the bladder, too, particularly if you have a bladder infection. Though you want to get plenty of fluids when you’ve got a UTI, it’s important to avoid alcohol. So, take a hiatus from cocktails — at least while you’re trying to flush out the bacteria and recover from a urinary tract infection.

Skip Citrusy or Caffeinated Sodas Irritate the Bladder

Sodas in general have been found to irritate the bladder in people with chronic bladder inflammation, and they could aggravate symptoms in someone with a bladder infection. Citrus-flavored sodas (think your favorite lemon-lime concoction) and caffeinated sodas are the culprits when it comes to worsening urinary tract infection symptoms. So, when you’re struggling to overcome a bladder infection, stick to water or cranberry juice as your drink of choice.

Acidic Fruits Can Worsen Symptoms of a Bladder Infection

Fruit may be an essential part of a healthy diet, but fruits containing a lot of acid can irritate the bladder — and worsen your UTI symptoms. So try to avoid lemons, oranges, grapefruits, and tomatoes when you’re treating a UTI. Other fruits that may cause bladder irritation and worsen a urinary tract infection include apples, peaches, grapes, plums, strawberries, and pineapple. You should also steer clear of juices made from these fruits.

Do Spicy Foods Irritate a Bladder Infection?

Whether you top your nachos with jalapeños, sprinkle your pizza with red pepper flakes, or love your curry chicken extra hot, you’ve got to skip the spice when you have a UTI. Spicy foods are known to irritate the bladder and worsen UTI symptoms, so cool down your meals and opt for blander choices to treat a urinary tract infection.

Artificial Sweeteners May Worsen Bladder Symptoms

When you’re trying to cut calories at every corner, artificial sweeteners may seem like a healthy replacement for sugar. But if you’ve got a urinary tract infection, it’s possible that your bladder infection symptoms may worsen if you use artificial sweeteners. While one study found that artificial sweeteners worsened bladder symptoms in people with chronic interstitial cystitis, there’s no real proof they irritate the bladder when you have a simple UTI. But if these fake sweeteners bother you, skip them.

Can your diet prevent or treat UTIs?

Although many websites claim that your diet has a lot to do with UTIs, there’s a lack of evidence supporting this association.

While some studies have shown that certain beverages and dietary patterns may increase susceptibility to UTIs, there’s limited research on how your diet affects your risk for developing UTIs, or whether certain foods and beverages can limit the length or severity of a UTI.

In fact, according to research, your diet and fluid intake are not considered independent risk factors for UTIs.

Still, the available research on dietary pattern, foods, and drinks that may affect your risk for developing a UTI is covered in the following section.

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Do certain foods increase or decrease your chances of UTIs?

Some research suggests that certain dietary patterns may protect against UTIs. Plus, some foods and beverages have been associated with an increased risk of developing UTIs.

Plant-based diets

Studies have linked vegetarian diets to a lower risk of developing a UTI.

For example, a 2020 study that followed 9,724 Buddhists for 9 years found that a vegetarian dietary pattern was associated with a 16% reduced risk of developing a UTI. This protective effect was mainly seen in women.

Researchers have suggested that certain foods, including poultry and pork, act as “food reservoirs” for bacterial strains of E. coli called extraintestinal pathogenic E. coli (ExPEC), which account for 65–75% of all UTIs.

This means that food reservoirs may be a vehicle for transmission of ExPEC. The researchers in the 2020 study suggested that because vegetarians avoid common food reservoirs of ExPEC, vegetarian dietary patterns may help protect against UTIs.

Another way that vegetarian diets may help protect against UTIs is that they make urine less acidic. Research has shown that when urine is less acidic and more neutral, it helps prevent the growth of bacteria associated with UTIs.

Red meat and other animal proteins have high potential renal acid loads (PRALs), meaning that they make urine more acidic. Conversely, fruits and vegetables have low PRALs, making urine less acidic.

These factors could explain why vegetarian diets may help protect against UTIs. Still, more research on this potential protective effect is needed.

Lifestyle tips

In addition to trying out some of the dietary recommendations listed above, lifestyle changes may help reduce your risk for developing a UTI.

Risk factors associated with UTI occurrence include:

  • having a compromised immune system
  • frequent intercourse of four or more times per week
  • estrogen deficiency
  • anatomical abnormalities of the urogenital tract
  • bladder dysfunction
  • new sex partners and spermicide use, which may alter vaginal pH
  • family history of UTIs or UTIs during childhood
  • having a non-secretor blood type, which means your blood group antigens aren’t present in bodily fluids like tears, saliva, urine, or breast milk
  • changes in bacterial flora

Other factors claimed to increase your chances for developing a UTI include wearing tight underwear, hot tub use, not urinating after sex, and douching, although strong evidence to support these claims is lacking

While you may not be able to influence some of these factors, if you frequently get UTIs, trying to avoid risk factors that you can control, as well as making certain dietary and lifestyle changes, may help.

However, keep in mind that there’s currently a lack of strong evidence to suggest that any foods or beverages can treat or prevent UTIs.

Moreover, it’s essential that you see a healthcare professional if you’re getting frequent UTIs so that you can get proper treatment. Untreated UTIs can lead to serious complications, including urosepsis, a potentially life threatening infection.

Bottom Line

Although some studies show that certain dietary changes may help lower your risk for UTIs and reduce certain bladder-related symptoms, research in this area is currently lacking.

Following a vegetarian diet, increasing your fluid intake, and removing potential bladder irritants like soda, alcohol, artificial sweeteners, and coffee from your diet may help prevent UTIs and ease symptoms.

However, more research exploring the potential association between diet and UTIs is needed before strong conclusions can be made.

If you frequently get bladder infections, it’s important to contact a healthcare professional so you can get proper treatment and advice. They can help you start feeling better and prevent UTI-related complications.

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