How Food Can Affect UTIs

By Deborah Jeanne Sergeant

If you frequently suffer from urinary tract infections, consider your diet. It can make a difference. To better support urinary tract health, consider making a few dietary changes.

Carolyn Nelson is a registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator with Personalized Health Nutrition, PLLC with several offices in the region. She asks clients who experience UTIs about hydration.

“If our goal is to support urinary tract health and prevent UTIs, drink enough fluids per day,” Nelson said. “That should be water, about two liters or eight 8-oz. cups per day.”

Drinking more water means more frequent urination. Nelson said that bacteria accumulate when urine remains in the bladder too long. Drinking sufficient water flushes out bacteria.

“Set an attainable goal and move toward that goal of eight, 8-oz. cups,” Nelson said. “You could go for four cups, five cups and so on each week.”

Strategies to drink more could include keeping a glass of water nearby and taking water bottles along in the car.

Nelson also encourages those who frequently experience UTIs to support healthy bacteria in the body. Eating more probiotic, fermented foods such as fresh sauerkraut, fresh kimchi, yogurt and kefir.

Probiotic supplements can also help.

Cindy Fiege owns and operates Harmony Health Store in Spencerport. She said it’s important to avoid irritants to the bladder, including caffeine, alcohol and spicy foods and sugar, to reduce the risk of UTIs.

And what about the home remedy of cranberry juice? Fiege said that cranberry juice cocktail contains added sugar, an ingredient that feeds bacteria. Those with an artificial sugar substitute may irritate.

A serving of a cranberry drink that contains a blend of apple and cranberry juices without any sugar represent the best option for cranberry juice.

“You can also buy cranberry supplements,” Fiege said.

They are said to make it difficult for bacteria to stick to the lining of the urinary tract. Adding whole cranberries (not the jellied kind commonly eaten at Thanksgiving) to smoothies or other foods can also help and are more easily tolerated that simply eating the tart berries.

In addition to dietary changes, Nelson encourages clients with frequent UTIs to wear loose-fitting undergarments and remember to practice careful hygiene.

“Wipe front to back and urinate after sex to get any bacteria out,” Nelson said. “If you have recurring UTIs, talk with your doctor or OBY-GN about other birth control methods, as spermicidal and lubricated condoms can increase risk.”

Seek the advice of a health care provider for anyone who suspects a urinary tract infection, since the infection can affect the bladder and kidneys if not treated promptly with antibiotics. Symptoms include increased urine frequency, burning, and possibly blood.

For older people, the symptoms may not be as obvious. They may experience dementia-like symptoms that manifest very suddenly. Cloudy or foul-smelling urine can also indicate a UTI in an older adult.