Urinary tract infection (UTI) is an inflammation caused by the invasion of bacteria into the urinary tract. While there is limited research on how diet affects UTIs, there are some foods that can be good for urinary health.
Milk is safe to drink if you have a UTI. However, yogurt and other fermented dairy products that contain “good” bacteria are better, because they can boost your immune system and prevent infections, decreasing the risk for UTIs.
Drinking plenty of water and eating fruits with high water content can help you stay hydrated and assist in flushing bacteria from the urinary tract. Bananas and other high-fiber foods are also good for urinary tract health.
Avoid excessive intake of caffeinated, alcohol or fizzy drinks. These can dehydrate the body and increase the risk of UTIs, as well as delay recovery from a UTI.
What causes UTI?
UTI is a common condition that can occur in any part of the urinary system, which is responsible for filtering waste and water from the blood and excreting them as urine. When bacteria from the skin or rectum invades the urinary tract, it can cause an infection that leads to inflammation of the kidneys, bladder or urethra.
Most urinary tract infections are caused by Escherichia coli (E. coli), a type of bacteria usually found in the digestive tract. Chlamydia and mycoplasma are bacteria that can infect the urethra but not the bladder.
While people of any age and sex can develop a UTI, women have a lifetime risk (over 50%) of developing a UTI compared to men.
Factors that may increase the likelihood of developing a UTI include:
- Frequent or intense sexual intercourse with multiple partners
- Poor personal hygiene
- Problems emptying the bladder completely
- Urinary catheter use
- Bowel incontinence
- Blocked flow of urine
- Kidney stones
- Recent urinary procedures
- Suppressed immune system
- Immobility for a long period
- Use of spermicides and tampons
- Heavy use of antibiotics, which can disrupt the functions of the bowel and urinary tract
What are symptoms of UTI?
While UTI symptoms depend on age, gender and other factors, common signs include:
- A strong, persistent urge to urinate
- Frequent, small amounts of urine
- Urine that appears cloudy
- Urine that appears red, bright pink or dark brown, which is a sign of blood in the urine
- Strong-smelling urine
- A burning sensation when urinating
- Pelvic pain in women, especially in the center of the pelvis and around the area of the pubic bone
How is UTI diagnosed?
Your doctor will make a diagnosis after verifying your symptoms and testing a urine sample to assess the presence of white blood cells, red blood cells and bacteria.
If you have recurring UTIs, your doctor may request further diagnostic testing to determine the cause through:
- Diagnostic imaging: Assesses the urinary tract using ultrasound, computed tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanning, radiation tracking or X-rays.
- Urodynamics: Determines how well the urinary tract is storing and releasing urine.
- Cystoscopy: Allows your doctor to see inside the bladder and urethra with a camera lens, which is inserted through the urethra through a long, thin tube.
- Intravenous pyelogram: Involves injecting a dye into the body that travels through the urinary tract, then taking an X-ray of the abdomen. The dye highlights the urinary tract on the X-ray image.
How is UTI treated?
Antibiotics are usually the first line of treatment for urinary tract infections. Your doctor may also advise you to drink plenty of fluids and maintain a healthy diet.
Which drugs are prescribed by your doctor depends on your health condition and the type of bacteria found in your urine. For a mild UTI, your doctor may recommend:
For a severe UTI, you may need to go to a hospital to get treatment with intravenous antibiotics.
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