How A Healthy Urinary System Starts With A Healthy Gut
“The Gut” has been a hot topic recently. You may have heard people talking about leaky gut, gut bacteria, or gut health. Why all the fuss? And why am I even connecting your gut with your urinary tract?
Well, because everything in your body is connected. And at the center of all these connected systems is your gut! If it is not working right… other areas in your body can suffer – including your urinary tract.
So here is our deep dive into understanding the gut, why gut health is so important, how it impacts your urinary tract and what to do/avoid for a healthy gut.
The Gut 101
When people say “gut” – what exactly are they talking about? The gastrointestinal tract (also known as the GI tract). It is essentially the food journey, starting at your mouth and ending at your anus. Of course, it includes all the stops in between.
Here is why the gut is important beyond matters of digestion:
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Somewhere around 100 trillion bacteria (a mixture of good and bad) exist in your digestive tract. 100 trillion. When you break them down, you have about 5,000 different strains of bacteria in there. All of this is your gut bacteria, or in more scientific terms, your gut microbiota or microbiome.
Science has already shown us how impactful this bacteria is to our entire body - from metabolizing nutrients to protecting against infection. And science is not done with these findings. We are constantly learning about new ways our gut bacteria impacts our body. New research shows some of the good bacteria can protect us from cancer, heart disease, and arthritis.
And one of its paramount functions: boosting your entire immune system. The bacteria in your gut can kill bad bacteria, fungi, and viruses.
To help you better understand the gut and bacteria, check out this Ted Talk on gut flora. It is less than 10 minutes, but you can learn so much great information:
Signs Your Gut Is Not Healthy
Before we get into the gut/urinary tract connection, let’s talk about some of the ways to know your gut may not be at a 100% functioning level. Here are some of the most common signs that your gut is unhealthy:
- You have digestive issues (gas, bloating, diarrhea, constipation, heartburn)
- You know you have food allergies – or possibly food sensitivities
- You struggle with anxiety, depression, brain fog, lack of concentration, or general irritability
- Your skin has problems like acne, eczema, psoriasis, or rosacea
- You are frequently getting infections
- You have autoimmune disease/s (like IBS or rheumatoid arthritis)
- You are a diabetic
- You have had many rounds of antibiotics
- You are deficient in important nutrients (like vitamin D, Vitamin B, or Magnesium)
If any of these (or maybe many of these) apply to you, you may have gut issues. Which means you are often also have many other health issues.
So How Are The Gut And The Urinary Tract Connected?
Which brings us straight to your urinary tract. A healthy immune system with plenty good bacteria that effectively kills bacteria is exactly what you body needs to prevent UTIs.
Now, this metropolis of bacteria residing in your gut is affected by different factors. Some are out of your control, like age or genes. Others are in your control, like diet, environment, or medications.
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And here’s the catch: antibiotics are one of the #1 disturbers of gut health. They destroy the good bacteria as they kill off the bad bacteria – which completely throws off the balance of your gut flora.
And what is the #1 UTI treatment? Antibiotics.
Doing things to rebalance your gut microbiome after taking antibiotics for a UTI is extremely important. Not only for your overall health, but also for your urinary tract health specifically.
I am going to give you two lists. One is some of the bad things that harm your gut; the other is good things that heal and realign your gut.
What Harms Your Gut
So why might your gut have issues? Here are some common factors that lead to gut issues:
- Overuse of antibiotics: We have already gone over this one. Antibiotics do not discriminate. They will kill all that NECESSARY good bacteria from your gut as well. This completely throws off the gut. Only use antibiotics when you absolutely have to.
- Chemicals: This includes everything from pesticides to the chemicals in your plastics and beauty care products.
- Stress: Lowering stress also lowers inflammation and cortisol… and it improves your gut health.
- Processed foods: Emulsifiers have been shown to harm your gut. Plus sugar and empty calories often found in processed foods are a recipe for gut disaster.
- Sugar: Speaking of sugar…Sugars have been shown to grow bad bacteria in your gut, heighten gut irritation, and even cause some autoimmune issues (like allergies and skin problems).
- Antibacterial Soap: Antibacterial products kill the bad bacteria, but they also kill the good. Just like antibiotics. Good old fashioned soap provides all the cleaning you need.
How To Heal Your Gut
Now the good news. Most of the foods and lifestyle habits that bring harm to your gut, destroy the good bacteria, or breed the bad bacteria can be changed.
Take antibiotics only when you absolutely have to have them. Choose organic produce and switch to all-natural cleaners to eliminate chemicals, choose whole foods over processed foods…. And so on and so forth.
You can also focus on these ways to boost your gut health:
- Probiotics: Probiotics are good bacteria, which is exactly what you need more of for a healthy gut. You can take them in pill form, but fermented foods and yogurt have them too. This should be a daily addition to your routine.
- Fermented Foods: Fermented foods include sauerkraut, kefir, kimchi, miso, and kombucha. They are naturally high in important probiotics and enzymes essentially for gut health. Not a fan of the fermented foods list? You can ferment just about anything from veggies to fruits.
- Fiber: Fiber plays such a significant role in keeping your entire digestive tract healthy and moving along properly. It is no wonder that it also helps balance your microbiome as well. Eating plants, lentils, chia seeds, and beans should be a daily choice.
- Sleep: In your pursuit of finding de-stressing activities, do not forget about simply getting enough sleep. It is one of the best ways to lower your cortisol levels.
- Exercise: Moving your body actually helps increase the good bacteria in your gut.
- Supplements: If you are deficient in primary nutrients, you may need to take some supplements to get you back on track. Common supplements include magnesium, vitamin B, and omega fish oils.
- Dirt: We normally fear that getting dirty will make us sick, but being too sanitized makes us sick too. Exposing ourselves to dirt (like gardening) and not over sanitizing is extremely important for balancing the bacteria in our bodies.
How To Keep Your Gut In Mind When You Have A UTI
If you have recurrent UTIs, there are two important steps you can take to make sure the overuse of antibiotics does not wreck your gut:
1. Try alternatives to antibiotics. D-mannose is a great supplement with science backing up its effectiveness in treating and preventing urinary tract infections
2. If you do take a round of antibiotics, make sure you are also taking a probiotic everyday and boosting your intake of fermented foods. Limit or even eliminate sugar at this time too. And remember: many people may tell you to simply eat yogurt for your probiotics. But many yogurts are filled with sugar. If this is your method, choose an unsweetened option and toss in some berries.
Healthy Gut = Healthy Urinary Tract = Healthy You
Now that you have a better understanding of the important role the gut plays, you can put an added focus on healing your gut for a healthier urinary tract.
Remember, our body systems all depend on one another. Boosting your immune system and warding off bacteria by improving your gut health is going to help keep your urinary tract happy and healthy. And a happy, healthy urinary tract is what you should be aiming for to prevent those terrible UTIs.