Urinary tract infection is one that affects any part of your urinary system which consists of your kidneys, ureter, bladder and urethra, although the urethra and the bladder are the most likely to be infected.
Urinary tract infection affects more women than men because women have a shorter urethra, the small tube through which urine passes from the bladder. A urinary tract infection should not be ignored as it may not only be painful but may also spread and cause damage to your kidneys.
Causes of urinary tract infection
The presence of bacteria in the urinary tract is the most common cause of urinary tract infection (UTI). These harmful micro-organisms can enter the urinary tract through the urethra and reproduce in the bladder. In women, bacteria from the anus and vagina can enter the urethra causing an infection in the urethra (urethritis) or in the bladder (cystitis).
Symptoms of urinary tract infection
You may have a urinary tract infection if you suddenly develop the following symptoms:
- strong and persistent urge to urinate
- frequent passage of small amounts of urine
- painful urination
- blood in the urine or cloudy, strong-smelling urine
- bacteria in the urine
- back pain
- nausea and vomiting
- pain in the lower abdomen
While your health professional may prescribe appropriate medication for your UTI, you may alleviate your symptoms using the following home remedies:
Drink plenty of water
Drinking purified water regularly helps flush out the bacteria that cause your infection. Not all fluids, however, can aid your infection. Avoid diuretics like coffee, caffeinated drinks, alcohol and soft drinks which stimulate urine production and may aggravate your symptoms by increasing your urge to urinate.
Relieve pain with heat
Apply a heating pad or hot water bottle covered with a towel on your stomach to relieve pain in your lower abdomen.
Most cases of urinary tract infection respond well to medical treatment while some people may experience recurring infections. Proper hygiene and an acidic diet work well to prevent urinary tract infections.
Studies show that a diet high in cranberry juice may offer some protection against UTI. Berries also help prevent urinary tract infections. Taking cranberry juice, a probiotic drink and berry smoothies prevent bacteria from surviving in your urinary system, while liquids like water and fruit juices help flush out bacteria regularly.
Recent studies on the use of probiotics for the prevention of recurring infections of the urinary tract show that lactobacilli can inhibit the growth of bacteria in the urinary system. Look for fermented milk products like yogurt and yogurt drinks which contain lactobacilli to increase your resistance against urinary tract infection.
Women should wipe from front to back after urinating or after a bowel movement to keep bacteria coming from the anal region away from the vagina and urethra. It is also best to drink a full glass of water and empty your bladder after intercourse to flush out bacteria that may have been transmitted through sexual intercourse. Clean your genital area regularly but avoid using deodorant sprays, douches, powders and other feminine products that may irritate this area.
Urinary tract infections may be common but you can prevent them by making adjustments to your diet and practising good hygiene.