posted on June 25, 2012 13:21
One of the most common health issues for women is also one infrequently discussed. A urinary tract infection (UTI) is a problem that affects half of all women in their lifetime. What's even more startling is that 1 in 10 women will experience recurrent UTIs – about three or more each year. If you've ever had a UTI, you know they can be painful, and very disruptive to your lifestyle. As we age, the risk of UTIs for both men and women increases. The risk of recurrent UTIs increases even more for women after menopause, so knowing the basics of UTIs and remembering a few easy tips can help keep you and your urinary tract healthy.
What are the symptoms of a UTI?
- A consistent, urgent need to urinate
- Cramping in the lower abdomen
- Difficulty with urination
- A burning sensation during urination
- Low back pain
A UTI develops when bacteria enter the opening of the bladder, called the urethra. The bacteria then attach to the bladder walls and multiply. UTIs are more common in women than men because the female urethra (the opening of the bladder) is very short. It's easier for bacteria to travel from the urethra to the bladder in women. Furthermore, after menopause, a woman's risk of UTIs increases because of several changes in the vagina. Due to a lack of estrogen, the vaginal lining becomes dry, and can sometimes bleed. This is called vaginal atrophy. This also leads to dry skin around the opening of the urethra, making bacterial entry into the bladder easier. The pH of the vagina changes with atrophy so that the "good" bacteria there die, leaving the "bad" bacteria to cause infection.
Here are some other common things that put you at risk for UTIs:
- Sexual intercourse can "push" bacteria into the bladder.
- Hot tubs, warm baths or wet bathing suits (because bacteria thrive in warm, moist conditions)
- Not drinking enough water. Staying hydrated flushes bacteria out of the bladder and urethra.
- Incomplete bladder emptying. Make sure to empty the bladder regularly or completely.
- Underlying medical problems such as obesity, diabetes or chronic kidney stones.
- Recent surgery of the bladder or vagina.
For men over 50, an enlarged prostate can make it difficult to fully empty the bladder. When the bladder cannot fully empty, it cannot successfully flush bacteria out of the urinary tract. This makes it easier for a UTI to develop.
Here are a few key tips to for preventing UTIs:
- Drink 6-8 glasses of water throughout the day.
- Empty your bladder as soon as you feel the need to urinate, rather than "holding it in."
- Women should wipe from front to back and dry well after emptying the bladder.
- Empty the bladder completely after sexual intercourse.
- Avoid wearing moist, wet or sweaty clothing for long periods of time.
- Take a daily cranberry supplement, which is standardized with the right amount of cranberry active ingredient (36mg PAC). With a cranberry supplement it is not the milligrams (mg) of the capsule, but the PAC content. An effective cranberry supplement should always list its PAC content.
- The following specific tips can prevent UTIs after menopause:
- Use a regular vaginal moisturizer with or without estrogen supplementation. Ask your doctor which is best for you.
- Practice timed voiding: urinate every 3-4 hours. Don't hold your bladder for long periods of time.
- Try double voiding: take the time to empty your bladder completely. After you're done, try again before you get up from the toilet.
UTIs might sound like a minor infection, but it's important to seek treatment. A bacterial infection will not resolve itself without medical intervention, and usually antibiotics are needed. If left untreated, a UTI can progress into a kidney infection as bacteria travel further up the urinary tract into the kidneys.
For people who suffer from recurrent UTIs, it's important to focus on prevention. Prevention of UTIs is essential. Repeated antibiotic treatment is a real health concern. Overuse of antibiotics results in bacterial resistance and destruction of the body's own "good" bacteria. Moving from repeated treatments to a good prevention program is the best thing one can do for their urinary tract health.
The Power of Cranberry for Urinary Tract Health
There really is truth in the old home remedy of drinking cranberry juice to keep the urinary tract healthy. Research has shown that the North American cranberry contains a component called a proanthocyanidin – also known as a PAC – that inhibits bacteria from sticking inside the bladder. When bacteria encounter PACs, the PACs attach to bacteria, blocking them from attaching to the bladder walls.
When bacteria attaches to the bladder walls it is called "bacterial adhesion." In order to prevent bacterial adhesion, one must drink 10 ounces of cranberry juice (27% pure juice) every day. That's a lot of cranberry juice! Often the added sugar and the acidity of the juice make it difficult for most people to add it to their regular daily diet.
Cranberry supplements are a great alternative to juice. It's essential that the supplement used has the same amount of cranberry active ingredient – PAC – as the 10-ounce glass of cranberry juice. One brand, ellura, provides the clinically proven effective dose of 36mg of cranberry PAC in a once-daily capsule. Because ellura contains 36mg PAC, it meets the standards set in a French health claim for cranberry products. The claim acknowledges that products with 36mg PAC have been shown to inhibit bacteria from attaching to the bladder. ellura is available for purchase online at www.myellura.com, and it can be taken daily to maintain a clean urinary tract.
Overall, there are other wonderful health benefits to taking a daily cranberry supplement. It is a fantastic source of antioxidants. So for good urinary tract health, and some added antioxidants, a cranberry supplement is an excellent option. Just make sure you're getting the active ingredient you need – 36mg PAC.