Urinary tract infection - Cranberry juice, symptoms, diagnosis, risk factors and treatment

Urinary tract infection - Cranberry juice, symptoms, diagnosis, risk factors and treatment

What is UTI, and who gets it? 

If you're a woman or a man reading this, you know the term "urinary tract infection", aka UTI. At some point in your life, you have either dealt with it or known someone going through it. UTIs are caused by bacteria that enter your urethra; commonly known as lower urinary tract infection or cystitis, bacteria entering your kidney are known as upper urinary tract infection. If left untreated, it is a severe condition that statistically affects 50 - 60% of adult women at least once in their lifetime.

Symptoms range from pain and burning while urinating, pressure in the lower abdomen, frequent urination, feeling the urge to pee (with minimal pee release or empty bladder), foul-smelling or bloody urine (in few cases). The main bacteria causing a UTI is Escherichia Coli, aka E.Coli - a microscopic living entity found everywhere; it is the face behind this mayhem! 

Symptoms of urinary tract infection

Symptoms depend on what part of your urinary tract is affected. If your urethra and bladder are infected, it is a lower tract UTI. 

Symptoms of a lower tract UTI include:

  • burning during urination

  • increased frequency of urination with less urine

  • increased urgency of urination 

  • blood in the urine

  • cloudy urine

  • urine that looks like cola or tea

  • strong odour in your urine

  • pelvic pain (women)

  • rectal pain (men)

UTI that lead to kidney infection is called upper tract UTI. These are potentially life-threatening in case the bacteria move from the infected kidney into the blood. This condition is called urosepsis and can cause dangerously low blood pressure, shock, and death.

Symptoms of an upper tract UTI are:

  • pain and tenderness in the upper back 

  • pain in the sides

  • chills

  • fever

  • nausea

  • vomiting

Symptoms of a UTI in men

Women and men develop similar symptoms while suffering from a UTI. Additionally, men may feel rectum pain while suffering from lower UTI and the common symptoms shared by both genders. 

Symptoms of a UTI in women

Women are at a higher risk of contracting UTI because of their vaginal structure. Those with a lower tract urinary infection may experience pelvic pain. 

Common causes of bladder infection

  • Sexual intercourse is one of the leading causes of UTI in young, sexually active women. Women are at an increased risk for UTI than men because of the urethra structure. 

  • It is also termed "honeymoon cystitis" in young women suffering from recurrent UTIs. 

  • Diabetes, hormonal imbalances, wiping back to front after using the washroom, catheter are also other reasons women suffer from UTI and get recurrent urinary tract infections.

Risk factors

Women have a higher risk of UTI, and most of them experience it more than once during their lifetimes. Risk factors specific to women are

  • Anatomy. The distance between the anal opening and urethra is shorter in women than men, which gives a shorter length for the bacteria to travel up the bladder. 

  • Sexual activity. Changing sexual partners frequently, having a new sexual partner increases one's chances of contracting a UTI. Sexually active women are at a higher risk of UTIs than women who are not sexually active. 

  • Certain kinds of birth control. Women using diaphragms and spermicides for birth control are more susceptible.

  • Menopause. Postmenopause, a decline in circulating estrogen, causes changes in the urinary tract, making women more vulnerable to infection.

In some cases, pregnant women also go through a UTI because of bladder pressure, incontinence. Your doctor might also check for structural abnormalities, kidney diseases and collect your past health information. 

Diagnosis

For diagnosis, your urine sample is tested. If you have ever dealt with chronic or recurrent UTI, you will know the feeling. The symptoms are always almost similar and require medical intervention post-diagnosis. Your doctor will prescribe a urine culture test to know the bacteria and prescribe correct antibiotic treatment in cases with a high white blood cell count outside of the normal range in your urine routine. Your doctor may also want to rule out kidney stones and other infectious diseases. 

How to overcome a UTI?

  • Your doctor will prescribe antibiotics as it is the go-to treatment for UTI in case of a severe infection

  • Your doctor may also prescribe medication to decrease the pain and alkalizing agents 

  • Drink lots of water, coconut water especially, as they are incredibly hydrating and help flush out bacteria and maintain the vaginal PH levels too

  • Cranberry supplements and extracts coupled with D-Mannose that help in prevention (these do not cure the infection but play a significant role in support to boost healing)

Treatment

Treating a UTI depends on the cause. Your primary care physician will determine which organism is causing infection via urinalysis and culture.

In most cases, a UTI is caused by bacteria which are then treated with antibiotics. 

In a few cases, viruses or fungi cause UTI, and they are treated with antivirals. 

If a fungus causes the UTI you are suffering from; they are treated with antifungals. 

In cases of a very mild UTI, your immune system, if healthy, mainly can fight it off with the proper guidance from your physician.

Antibiotic Treatment

An antibiotic treatment used for a UTI depends on what part of the tract is involved; if it the lower tract UTI, it is usually treated with an oral antibiotic. If it is an upper tract UTI, they are treated with intravenous antibiotics. To reduce the risk of antibiotic resistance, your healthcare practitioner will most likely put you on the shortest treatment possible. Because, at times, bacteria develop resistance to antibiotics. Your doctor will typically set you on a treatment that lasts a week. 

Results from your urine culture will help your physician determine the right course and dose of antibiotics that will work best against the bacteria causing your infection. 

How does cranberry work in preventing UTIs? 

It is a myth that drinking commercially available cranberry juice loaded with preservatives and sugar helps in reducing or preventing UTIs - they do not.

Cranberries have the active ingredient proanthocyanidins, and most juices and supplements do not have enough of this active ingredient. This active ingredient prevents the bacteria from latching onto the urinary tract walls, multiplying, and causing a full-blown infection. 

One may explore the following ways to inculcate cranberry into one regime 

  • Talk to your doctor if you get frequent UTIs, to prescribe a supplement that has pure cranberry extract with active PAC and D mannose to help support your urinary system from future infections 

  • These can be available in the forms of sachets as well that can be mixed with water and consumed 

  • Consumption of fresh cranberries if one has access to them - this has to be done daily as a lifestyle to gain maximum impact 

Other Ways of preventing UTIs

Following are some time tested tips to help prevent future infections:

  • Hydrate yourself with lots of water constantly, inculcate coconut water daily to maintain ph balance and overall immunity

  • Maintain sexual hygiene and cleanse your and your partner's genitals before and after sex 

  • Always empty your bladder whenever you feel the need to pee; never hold it in!

  • Pee immediately after sex to flush out any accidental introduction of bacteria into your urethra 

  • Make sure you wipe front to back and not the other way round

  • Please stay away from anything not natural, be it juices or clothes, to help support your genital flora! Non-cotton underwears and tight-fitting jeans cause havoc on your genital area in tropical climates

  • Eat healthily, stay healthy, and maintain your hormonal balance.

 

Try Auric Women Wellness for Balanced Hormones and Healthy Body Cycles

 Authored by: Padmaja Rai

About the Author: Padmaja is a healthcare consultant and avid fitness enthusiast. She holds a masters' in bio-innovation and rare diseases from University of Pennsylvania. She is a firm believer in ancient Indian holistic healing.


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