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How to avoid a UTI

Since November I’ve had four urinary tract infections in a row plus a visit to a urologist. Here’s what I’ve learned. 

You probably know that UTIs are more prevalent as we get older. According to American stats, 10% of postmenopausal women have had one in the last 12 months and it’ll be similar here.

We assume that’s because the loss of estrogen at menopause changes the acidic environment of our vagina, making it more susceptible to infection. Since our urinary tract lives next-door, it’s vulnerable too. 

The urologist says there’s no hard evidence for this theory, but it makes sense. 

UTI symptoms typically include frequent urination and a burning sensation, but mine were far more subtle. The main one was that my urine smelt a bit smoky, like ham or bacon. 

So I’m a borderline case, and my urine test results confirmed that. But I’ve followed it up because as a child I had a kidney infection which ended in that kidney being removed. 

Besides, I don’t want to be taking antibiotics, and I’ve obviously had bugs where they shouldn’t be. The most common one involved in UTIs is called E.coli for short.

While some of us have an even greater risk of infections — for example because we’re incontinent or diabetic — the bottom line is that after menopause our risk is higher, and we need to know how to avoid them.

The first key is to drink plenty of water. Go when you need to go. And empty your bladder completely.

Use estrogen cream or pessaries (e.g. Vagifem) to help restore vaginal tissue if you need to. It’s easy to get lazy with this. I did and I’m guessing that’s why I’ve had a problem. 

After that, it’s trial and error.

Cranberry — juice or supplements — is thought to help by preventing bacteria from sticking to the walls of the urinary tract. D-Mannose, a type of sugar, apparently acts the same way. While the science is weak for both, many women say they help.

The evidence for vaginal probiotics is mixed, but if you’re using vaginal estrogen that ought to do the job of a probiotic.

Finally, supplement companies such as Fusion and Ethical Nutrients are selling combinations of Asian herbs to support a healthy urinary tract. 

Even if some or all of these are useful in preventing infection, they’re unlikely to clear up the one you’ve got.

The go-to for that is, of course, antibiotics — either concentrated in a short burst or as a low-dose over a longer period, such as three months.

All antibiotics deplete the gut though, so if, like me, you’ve been down that path, make sure you’re eating a varied diet with plenty of fruit and veg, fibre and fermented foods, and maybe a probiotic. 

Photo Source: Bigstock

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Tuesday, February 27, 2018 | Rhonda Anderson