What is a UTI?

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June 4, 2018
UTI, urinary tract infection, naturopathic doctor toronto, toronto naturopath

If you’re not one of the 50% of women who has ever experienced a urinary tract infection, you get a high five! But if you are, this article is for you!

What is a UTI?

UTIs are bacterial infections of the urinary tract (not the vaginal tract, but I often include it as one because it’s still within the region). It can be classified in a variety of ways, depending on where the infection is presenting. For example, if it’s presenting in the bladder, it’s known as cystitis. 

What are symptoms of a UTI?

Symptoms of a UTI include:

  • painful urination

  • burning urination

  • urinary incontinence

  • urinary urgency

  • fever

  • pain in the lower abdominal area (around the pelvic bone)

  • pain in the ribs

Sometimes, a UTI may present without any symptoms at all. 

A simple dipstick test can indicate if white blood cells or nitrites are high, or you can get a more comprehensives urinalysis to determine if you do have a UTI.

How does a UTI happen? 

UTIs occur when a bacteria, normally present in the gastrointestinal tract, is exposed to the the urethra and urinary system. The pathogen will spread from the rectum to the vagina, and then make its way up the urinary tract. 

If you’ve experienced a UTI in the past, then you may be familiar with their recurrence. In fact 2-4% of women will frequently experience a UTI. UTI recurrence is especially prominent after treatment with antibiotics. 

Which bacteria causes UTIs?

The most common culprit is E.coli. However, other pathogenic bacteria include: Staphylococcus saprophyticus, Klebsiella, Proteus, Enterobacter spp, and Enterococci. 

What are the risk factors of a UTI?

  • Certain types of contraception like diaphragms and spermicides

  • Frequency of sex

  • New sexual partners

  • Recent use of systemic antibiotics

  • Estrogen deficiency

Certain products that you might use to clean your vagina, may also put you at an increased risk for UTI, these include:

  • People who reported using moisturizers or lubricants had a 2.5x higher odds of reporting a yeast infection, and 50% higher odds of reporting a UTI

  • People who reported using feminine wipes, had double the odds of reporting a UTI

  • People who reported using baby wipes had 60% higher odds of reporting a UTI

  • People who used feminine washes/gels had almost 3.5x higher odds of reporting BV and 2.5x higher odds of reporting a UTI

  • People who reported douching that occurred in the previous 6 months had 3x higher odds of reporting a yeast infection, and 2.5x higher odds of reporting a UTI

How to treat a UTI

Establishing a Healthy Microbiome

Because the primary treatment for UTIs are systemic antibiotics, it’s important to repopulate the gut, vagina, and urinary tract. Look for probiotics rich in Lactobacillus. 

Just as E. coli makes its way from the rectum to the urinary tract, probiotics will do the same. 

Acupuncture for UTI

Acupuncture may not be the first treatment you think of when you have a UTI, but can help – especially for chronic infections.

Herbs for UTI

If you asked anyone what the most common natural remedy for UTIs is, they’ll likely say cranberry. And they’re right! Cranberry is an herb that acts as an anti-adhesive, preventing the E. coli sticking on the tissue.

Other actions of herbs to look for are antimicrobials, and immunostimulants. 

Diet for UTI

Unfortunately, there isn’t any evidence in one diet being more effective than another. However, a few things to keep in mind: fermented dairy products could add beneficial probiotics to the body. In addition, because many people are aware that cranberry can be effective in treating UTIs, they should be mindful of the type of juice they are drinking, and the amount of sugar in juice (consider pure and unsweetened).

Hygiene Practices

  • Wiping front to back

  • Urinating after sex

  • Showering after sex

  • Wearing breathable underwear, avoiding thongs

  • Switching up contraceptive options

  • Stay hydrated throughout the day

Final Thoughts

The most important message here, is that you don’t need to live or suffer with chronic UTIs. Working with a Naturopathic Doctor can help you achieve this goal through simple changes and focused support. 


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