By Deborah Jeanne Sergeant
If you frequently suffer from urinary tract infections, consider your diet. It can make a difference. To better support urinary tract health, consider making a few dietary changes.
Marge Pickering Picone, a certified nutrition consultant, is CEO of Professional Nutrition Services of Rochester, Inc.
She asks clients who experience UTIs about their diet, particularly alcohol and starchy carbs such as white flour and sugar.
She said that supplements containing L-cysteine and amino acids can help “calm down bacteria in mucus membrane.”
She also reminds clients that high stress can change the flora in the gut and make the body more hospitable to bacteria. It can also increase acidity levels of the body.
Drinking more water and cutting back on wine can make a big difference in reducing UTIs.
“Bodies don’t process things as well when we age, so your body is handling a lot more glucose in the body,” Pickering Picone said. “The muscles aren’t as strong so they don’t store as much glucose in their muscles. It’s the whole body itself are changing. It’s not just the diet.”
Cindy Fiege owns and operates Harmony Health Store in Spencerport, said it’s important to avoid irritants to the bladder, including caffeine, alcohol and spicy foods and sugar, to reduce the risk of UTIs.
And what about the home remedy of cranberry juice? Fiege said that cranberry juice cocktail contains added sugar, an ingredient that feeds bacteria. Those with an artificial sugar substitute may irritate.
A serving of a cranberry drink that contain a blend of apple and cranberry juices without any sugar represent the best option for cranberry juice.
“You can also buy cranberry supplements,” Fiege said.
They are said to make it difficult for bacteria to stick to the lining of the urinary tract. Adding whole cranberries (not the jellied kind eaten at Thanksgiving) to smoothies or other foods can also help.
Barb Goshorn, a registered nurse with a master’s degree in applied clinical nutrition who works at Goshorn Wellness in Webster, said that consumption of water is important to fight UTI.
“You should hydrate while you have a UTI,” she said. “You want to flush out the system. Water will reduce the bacterial count in the urine.”
She said that it’s also important to supplement with acidophilus to support digestive and urinary tract health, as this boost the immune system and can prevent the colonization of bacteria. Fermented foods like plain yogurt and kefir contain this good bacteria.
“Onion and garlic have sulfuric properties,” Goshorn said. “There’s a tremendous amount of research about the effects of these on digestive health.”
She also said that flax seed can soothe the lining of the urinary tract.
It’s also important to pay more careful attention to hygiene, such as avoiding powder in the underwear or douching.
“Wipe from front to back, not the other way,” Goshorn said.
Loose styles of cotton underwear allow better air circulation. People prone to UTIs should also remove damp clothing after exercise or swimming, as these can promote irritation and infection.
“Don’t hold your urine,” Goshorn added. “We get busy and try to hold it, but when you have to go, go.”
She recommends seeking the advice of a health care provider for anyone who suspects a urinary tract infection, since the infection can affect the bladder and kidneys if not treated promptly with antibiotics. Symptoms include increased urine frequency, burning, and possibly blood.
“The older population might not have those symptoms,” Goshorn said. “They might have mental changes that are similar to dementia, but are very sudden. Or cloudy urine that has a foul smell. They should definitely have a check for UTI.”