How To Use Probiotics to Combat Miserable UTIs
Urinary tract infections are no laughing matter. I’ve been there, and you’ve probably been there too. 1 in 2 women suffer from this painful infection at least once in their lifetime – while many deal with reoccurring episodes.
And anybody who has experienced the symptoms of a UTI – the burn, the pain, the nausea, the fatigue – knows that any and all preventative measures are a welcome relief.
Let’s look at one of the more hopeful solutions to prevent UTIs. Something that can greatly reduce the chance of these painful infections from every popping up again: Probiotics.
What Are Probiotics?
We hear the term “probiotics” being thrown around frequently, but what actually are they?
Probiotics are living bacteria and yeasts, considered to be “good bacteria.” In fact, you already have some living in your body, and you may be eating them without even knowing it.
I will compare the words “antibiotics” and “probiotics,” so we get a clearer picture:
- ANTI-biotics are against living bacteria. They kill bad bacteria, but in that process they kill good bacteria too.
- PRO-biotics are for living bacteria. They add good bacteria back into your system.
So what do these little miracle organisms have to do with UTIs? Here is a list of 5 things you need to know about using probiotics to combat your urinary tract infections.
1. UTIs Are All About Bacteria
Ready for “The Urinary System 101”?
The urinary tract starts with the urethra. This tube connects to the bladder and allows urine to exit. When bacteria enter the urinary tract through the urethra, an infection can crawl its way up to the bladder, and even to the kidneys.
This phenomenon is more common for women 10 times over men (lucky us, right?) simply due to anatomy:
- It just so happens that women’s urethras are shorter, giving bacteria easier access to the bladder
- Sexual contact, as well as spermicide, can cause bacterial issues for the urethra due to its close proximity to the vagina
- The drop in estrogen from menopause ups the risk of UTI as well
- Pregnancy is another gender-specific risk factor
The way I see it is UTIs may be all about bad bacteria. But probiotics? They’re all about the good.
2. Good Bacteria vs. Bad Bacteria
One of my favorite health/wellness blogger, Wellness Mama, writes, “In our modern society, we’ve effectively managed to pasteurize, irradiate, and process out any naturally occurring beneficial bacteria while at the same time feeding harmful bacteria with a feast of processed starches and sugars.”
Increasing the count of healthy bacteria into your system boosts your immune system.
And as Livestrong points out, helpful bacteria can even “form a barrier to help protect us from bad bacteria by altering the pH or acidity level or by releasing toxins that harm the bad bacteria.”
If a UTI develops when the bad bacteria wreaks havoc in your urinary system (as we know from The Urinary System 101), prevention arrives when we stop that bad bacteria in its tracks.
Probiotics are the key element in that fight, just like any good story: good guy conquers bad guy.
Keep this extra fact in mind too: UTIs are treated with a round (or rounds) of antibiotics. This means your good bacteria count is suddenly downsized too, making you more susceptible to problems with bad bacteria.
3. Probiotics Are Truly Effective Against UTIs
While this may seem like a natural alternative to treatment by a medical professional, probiotics are so effective at preventing UTIs, even doctors are jumping on board.
This is largely due to the studies confirming, or at least supporting, the idea that probiotics can actually make a difference in this area.
One study put antibiotics up against probiotics for one year in a group of women with recurring UTIs. Let’s look at what they found:
- The antibiotic group went down from an average of 7 the year before to 2.9 during the trial
- The probiotic group went down from an average of 6.8 the year before to 3.3 during the trial
Though the recurrence was slightly higher with the probiotic group, there were some added benefits of probiotics that did shine through:
- Those using probiotics experienced no antibiotic resistance issues
- Women with “complicated UTIs” experienced higher reoccurrence with the antibiotics (4.4 average) than they did with the probiotics (3.4 average)
4. Daily Fermented Foods = Daily Probiotics
Now that we see how probiotics can help prevent UTIs, how do we get these little living organisms into our bodies?
- Naturally aged cheese
You can also find or make regular food items that happen to be fermented, including:
- Fermented salsa
- Fermented veggies
- Fermented fruits
Since the cost of buying fermented foods at the grocery store can add up, frugal shoppers like me can opt to make them.
The Nourished Kitchen blog has a list of recipes for fermenting your own food – you can find everything from traditional sauerkraut to creative fermented hot chili sauce and probiotic lemonade soda.
5. Probiotic Supplements May Be The Key
As helpful and delicious as fermented foods can be, sometimes we need an extra boost of probiotics. This is especially true when you are on a particular mission, like eliminating UTIs, or if you have just used a round of antibiotics.
It is valuable to combine these probiotic-rich foods with a supplement.
Probiotic supplements, those that contain Lactobacillus acidophilus, can provide between 5 and 10 million colony forming units each day to your body.
Let me give you a few tips to make sure the supplement can freely do what it is supposed to do:
- Since probiotic supplements are filled with live cultures, they typically have to be refrigerated
- Take a supplement with food to minimize stomach acidity that could cause harm to the live cultures
Conclusion: Start Probiotics; Stop UTIs
Two things are important to remember here:
- Probiotics have been shown to help prevent UTIs
- Consuming more probiotics is easy to do
Why not use these good bacteria to help ward off urinary tract infections that truly interfere with your life and cause miserable pain?
I would do anything to stop a UTI before it starts, and I’m sure you would too.
So start regularly including fermented foods into your diet, and add a probiotic supplement into your regular routine.