They’re painful, irritating and often arrive at the most inopportune times, and unfortunately urinary tract infections (UTI) are all too common among both men and women.
Women in particular are more prone to UTIs, which can become more frequent as we age due to changes “down there”.
While there are prescription and over-the-counter drugs to treat UTIs, there are also a number of natural ways you can prevent getting one in the first place and avoid those painful trips to the toilet.
Changes to your urinary system in your 60s
- The number and size of nephrons (filtering units in the kidneys) decreases, meaning your body cannot flush toxins out as well as it used to, leading to frequent urination and dehydration
- The kidneys becomes smaller and less blood flows through them.
- The bladder becomes less flexible, meaning it can hold less urine and it becomes more difficult to squeeze hard enough to get rid of all the urine it contains resulting in more frequent urination.
- The sensation of having to urinate is not as strong and may not be felt until the bladder is completely full, when the need is suddenly very urgent.
- The sphincter (muscular ring that controls the passage of urine out of the body), becomes less flexible and is less able to close tightly and prevent leakage.
- The urethra shortens and its lining becomes thinner.
Natural ways to combat UTIs
1. Cranberry juice
It isn’t the acidity in cranberries that makes them so effective in treating UTIs, it’s the antioxidant compound (also found in blueberry juice) called epicatechin that works directly on bacteria in your urinary tract.
The next time you have a urinary tract infection, drink three 250mL glasses of pure unsweetened cranberry juice.
It sounds obvious but you really need to keep your fluid levels up if you want to get rid and stay rid of UTIs forever. The more water you drink, the less likely it is that bacteria will live in your bladder or urinary tract and cause more problems. Around 5-8 glasses of water per day is optimal, with more in hotter climates.
3. Plain yoghurt
Most people know that yoghurt has live cultures that are great for our health, but did you know plain yoghurt is fantastic for beating a UTI? Studies have found it may help you avoid a yeast infection, which antibiotics sometimes trigger. A cup of yoghurt a day is satisfactory.
We’ve talked about cranberries, but blueberries also aid in preventing recurring UTIs. They also have the added bonus of providing an overall health boost. A handful every couple of days can give you a boost and banish those painful UTI symptoms.
5. Sweet potatoes
Sweet potatoes are packed with health benefits and are one of the most nutritious vegetables on the planet. They are an excellent addition to your diet if you suffer from recurrent UTIs as they are one of the best sources of beta-carotene, a nutrient that has been shown to provide protection against UTIs. The more intense the colour, the more beta-carotene.
Speaking of bright veges, carrots are a literal goldmine of nutrients and along with giving you a health boost, the beta-carotene can help to get rid of UTIs, for good. Try cutting them into slices and dipping in hummus or grate it and add to sauces.
This spice not only tastes wonderful but it has strong antibacterial and antifungal properties. Cinnamon has been shown to suppress the bacteria that cause most urinary tract infections in women. Sprinkle some over banana and natural yoghurt or add to dishes.
It seems like a bit of a health fad at the moment but kale is popular one for a reason: it is what’s considered a superfood and is packed full of carotenoids (kale contains 10 times the beta-carotene of broccoli), proven to combat urinary tract infections.
9. Urinary Alkaliser
Make this Urinary Alkaliser when you need it to reduce symptoms and provide relief:
- 1/4 cup bi-carb soda
- 1 teaspoon citric acid (leave out if you can’t find at local health food store)
- 3-4 drops of lemon essence
- Stevia to sweeten
In a small bowl, stir the formula together and store in a lidded glass jar. This mixture will fizz when you add it to water. Use 1/2 teaspoon in 150ml of water every couple of hours until you start to feel relief.
10. Ginger tea
Ginger has amazing anti-inflammatory properties and the ability to reduce pain. To target your UTI, simply drink some ginger tea – made by steeping sliced ginger in a cup of hot water and honey. Drink slowly and once a day.
How can UTIs be avoided?
Foods to avoid:
– Soft drink
- Drinking lots of fluid, particularly water, to wash bacteria from the bladder and urinary tract
- Quickly treat a vaginal infection, such as thrush, by taking medication available over the counter
- Avoid constipation
- Do not delay going to the toilet when you need to
- Wipe from front to back after urinating
- Wear only cotton underwear and use natural soaps to wash
- Use only warm water when washing between your legs
- Don’t use perfumed soaps, talcum powder or any type of deodorant between your legs
- Avoid bubble baths and spas