If you've ever experienced a urinary tract infection (a woman's lifetime risk of contracting at least one UTI ranges from 40% to 50%), you know they are highly unpleasant. So unpleasant, in fact, that the second you get rid of one, you look for ways to prevent it. Fortunately, there are several ways to stop UTIs the natural way—and many of them have to do with simple lifestyle habits.
But first it's important to know what is happening when you get a UTI. While the underlying cause of them can vary, one suspect remains consistent: feces. As Harvard Health states, "the infections are usually caused by Escherichia coli (E. coli), a bacterium that lives in the intestinal system. If E. coli are carried from the rectum to the vagina, they can enter the urethra (the tube that carries urine from the bladder) and infect the bladder."
To find out how to prevent UTIs effectively and naturally, we consulted sex and reproductive specialist, author, and doula Erica Chidi Cohen. She's also the woman behind Loom, a wellness center and educational community in Los Angeles.
Whether you want to prevent a UTI or are in the midst of one, keep reading to learn how to keep your bladder, reproductive system, and kidneys healthy.
The Supplement: D-Mannose
When it comes to effective supplements that help reduce the risk of developing a UTI, Cohen recommends D-Mannose. She explains that it works by keeping the lining of your urethra slippery so the UTI-causing bacteria won't attach (and instead flushes out when you urinate). In other words, it supports your body's natural cleansing process. Cohen also says probiotics have been linked to vaginal health and work to restore the balance of microflora in the vagina.
The Lifestyle: Healthier Habits
Many UTIs take hold because we forget some of the most basic healthy living habits (e.g., how to properly wipe after using the restroom, staying sufficiently hydrated, and holding your bladder for extended periods of time). When it comes to restroom habits, it's recommended that women wipe from front to back after using the toilet. This will help stop the spreading of E. coli from feces. Another tip: stay hydrated. Harvard Health says, "drink plenty of water, which increases urination, thereby flushing out bladder bacteria." This will ensure your urine is clean and healthy.
The Food: Cranberries
While there are mixed opinions about whether cranberry juice cures UTIs, whole cranberries and vitamins that contain the same nutritional value do have proven health benefits. Studies reveal that cranberries may fend off UTIs, thanks to their antioxidant properties that stop bacteria from entering the bladder and prevent E. coli from sticking to the urinary tract.
The Pain-Reliever: AZO
Of course, there are times when we simply can't prevent a UTI—even if we take all the precautions. If you're experiencing discomfort and don't have quick access to a doctor, try an over-the-counter painkiller like AZO. On top of pain relief, it contains methenamine, which slows down the growth of the bacteria and helps to control your UTI until you can seek treatment.
What home remedies or healthy habits do you practice to prevent UTIs? Share them with us in the comments below.