Running to the toilet two or three times is likely a part of your everyday routine that you hardly notice. That is, of course, until those two to three times become ten or eleven, or when that run to the bathroom where you feel like your bladder is going to explode only results in a couple of drops in the toilet. Urinary tract infections, or UTIs, are, for lack of a better word, annoying — the sort of thing you just want GONE.
Let’s dive into the causes, symptoms, and treatment options for urinary tract infections.
How & why do UTIs happen?
Urinary tract infections occur when any part of the urinary system including the kidneys, ureters, bladder, or urethra become infected. Most often they’re infections of the bladder (cystitis) or urethra (urethritis). An infection usually starts when bacteria normally found in your bowels get into the urethra, where pee exits from.
While urinary tract infections can affect anyone with or without a vagina, vulva owners tend to experience them more often because our shorter urethras are closer to the vagina and anus. The folds of the inner and outer labia can harbor bacteria as well, especially if don't wipe front to back, or sit around in sweaty or tight clothing.
Sexual activity with partners or sex toys can also push bacteria into the urethra, and while sexually transmitted infections can increase your risk of a urinary tract infection, UTIs are not contagious and can not be spread sexually,
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How do I know I have a UTI and not something else?
Symptoms of a urinary tract infection include the frequent urge to pee, a painful or burning sensation while peeing, increased frequency or urgency of urination, bloody, cloudy or bad-smelling urine, and even back or pelvic pain.
Other vulvo-vaginal infections such as vaginitis also have symptoms such as painful or frequent urination, so it’s important to know what issue you’re actually dealing with, which will help you find a solution. If you’re unsure if your symptoms are due to a UTI, we always recommend checking with your doctor, who can offer a simple urine test which will give you a definitive answer.
If you’re not proactive about treating the source of your symptoms, the infection can spread to kidneys. This is known as an upper tract UTI, and it might leave you feeling like you’ve caught the flu. Expect a fever, chills, nausea and vomiting.
*Kidney infections can be very serious and even life threatening if left untreated. Seek medical attention immediately if you experience any of these symptoms.
Body literacy, or having the language to understand and describe ailments in your own body, is of the utmost importance when it comes to ridding yourself of a stubborn UTI because some of the symptoms overlap with other common vulvovaginal health conditions. You can’t help your body heal if you don’t know what the problem is — or why it’s happening.
Can my UTI cause other issues?
Like all vaginal health conditions, urinary tract infections can cause emotional and physical distress, which can depress your immune system and can potentially impact cervical fluid and delay your period or fertile window. If left untreated, a urinary tract infection can spread past the upper urinary tract and lead to more serious issues like a kidney infection, or sepsis — an infection of the blood.
Why do I keep getting recurrent UTIs?
Recurring infection across one’s lifetime is common. Back-to-back infections usually come from the same type of bacteria as your first, which forms a bacterial biofilm.
You may more susceptible to UTIs if you’re diabetic, have kidney stones, or use spermicides or a diaphragm. If you are concerned by the rate at which your UTIs reoccur, you may want to see your doctor to check for any abnormalities or obstructions in your urinary tract. Your doctor may say you can prevent them by taking a small portion of antibiotics each day for a prolonged period.
However, keep in mind that repeated use of antibiotics can wreak havoc on your microbiome. In other words, antibiotics don’t know the difference between the healthy and the “bad” bacteria, and kill all the bacteria. When your microbiome is in a weakened state, you’re more susceptible to a recurring UTI, and other vulvaginal health issues like a yeast infection or bacterial vaginosis.
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How do I get rid of a UTI? Does cranberry juice actually work for UTIs?
Kind of. Studies have confirmed that cranberries contain cranberries contain proanthocyanidins (PACs), which help keep bacteria from sticking to the lining of the bladder. Plus, there’s no harm in drinking more liquid to get that urine flowing. Just be sure to look for organic cranberry juice with no added sugar. Drinking lots adequate amounts of water will also help your body "flush" the infection out faster.
How can I prevent a UTI?
Stay hydrated. Hydration, as you know, is extremely important for literally every bodily function.
Use natural and organic products on your vulva whenever possible. If you can’t find or afford them, it’s best to forgo these items and let your body heal itself.
Wear breathable cotton panties. It’s not necessary to completely forgo lacy lingerie or spandex, but a thong a day will not keep a yeast infection away.
Loose-fitting clothing is your friend. Again, not necessary to wear culottes or a skirt every day, but it’s best to let your vulva breathe whenever possible to avoid future or further irritation.
Take off gym clothes and swimsuits as soon as possible! The excess moisture is a breeding ground for bad bacteria. If you can’t rinse off after a heavy sweat sesh, spray Hydrosol all over to balance pH and tone your skin without drying it out with fake fragrance or alcohol.
Pee after masturbation or partnered sex in any capacity. This helps to literally “flush” bacteria out to help prevent UTIs and other vulvar infections.
Always wipe front to back! Folks with vaginas have shorter urethras, which are closer to the vagina and anus, meaning the bacteria can spread more easily if we don’t properly wipe, leading to infection, irritation, and pH imbalance.
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Momotaro Apotheca and its materials are not intended to treat, diagnose, cure or prevent any disease. All material on Momotaro Apotheca is provided for educational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified healthcare provider for any questions you have regarding a medical condition