By Dr. Laura Figoski
Here are 8 easy changes you can incorporate into your diet to help keep your urinary tract in tip-top shape, especially when you are at risk of developing a UTI.
- Drink water. Kidneys filter metabolic wastes from the blood. In fact, over 180 liters of fluid are passed through the kidneys EVERY DAY! This means, your entire bloodstream gets filtered 60 times. If you’re dehydrated, this job is harder and the urine becomes more concentrated. Flushing out the system with lots of water helps to keep everything working smoothly and helps you get rid of all those wastes and any nasty bacteria that might be trying to stick around and cause an infection. A good rule of thumb is to drink between 60-100oz of water daily. You can look at your pee to see how on track you are. If your pee is light yellow or clear, you’re good. If it’s dark yellow or brown, then drink up!
- Add lemon. While lemon juice is itself acidic, the action it has on the urine is to make it more alkaline. Many bacteria that cause UTIs (like E. coli) thrive in acidic environments, so if you make the bladder more alkaline, the bacteria will have a harder time growing and causing issues. Also, you’re really better off drinking lots of water (see #1), so adding a squeeze of lemon will make it tastier and easier to achieve that goal.
- Eat your veggies. Here’s another thing that feels super basic, but is also so important for your urinary tract. Veggies help give you antioxidants and nutrients to fight off infections and decrease inflammation. They also help to keep your urine more alkaline. Many bacteria that cause UTIs (like E. coli) love pee that is more acidic, so if you change up the environment of the bladder to be more alkaline, then the bacteria will have a harder time growing and causing issues.
- Avoid alcohol and caffeine. Alcohol and caffeine can make you dehydrated, and because need to be filtered and excreted from the body, they add an extra burden to the kidneys. Also, caffeine specifically can increase urinary tract spasms causing more discomfort, frequency and urgency - not what you want if you’re already struggling with a UTI. Best to skip these in lieu of water or some herbal teas.
- Drink herbal teas. Not all herbal teas are the same. Different herbs have different functions in the body. Stick with teas made from dandelion, milk thistle or nettles to help with your kidneys and urinary tract. Or if you’re a little more DIY and want to make something at home, you can try doing an infusion of parsley, cornsilk, or thyme. Green tea is also a good option for its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, and since it's relatively low in caffeine you can feel free to drink up.
- Avoid sugar. There are so many reasons why and how sugar is problematic for the body. If you’ve got an issue with a bacterial infection, sugar is going to make everything worse. Bacteria thrive on simple sugars as food. If your goal is to eliminate unfriendly bacteria, then you don’t want to be feeding them at the same time. A sugar binge will also suppress your immune system making it harder to fight off any infection and keep your urinary tract in balance. And, to go further, excessive sugar consumption can lead to dehydration which will also make things worse. You’ll heal faster and stay well longer if you keep your sugar consumption low. If you’ve got a strong craving, stick with small amounts of dark chocolate or natural sources of sugar (like whole fruits).
- Eat garlic. One of nature’s most powerful antimicrobials. Garlic is a fantastic powerhouse food, and delicious. Add it to your favorite dishes, however you like it: roasted, minced or sliced, it will be useful.
- Limit meat, poultry and dairy. If you do eat them, definitely go organic. Meat and dairy isn’t the worst thing in the world and can be a great source of protein and nutrition, but excessive amounts can be troublesome for some people. And a super high protein diet can put more load on the kidney. Also, the antibiotics and hormones used in conventional meat and dairy operations can disrupt your own beneficial bacteria and lead you to be more susceptible to getting infections. So keep things in nice balance and go organic if you can.
About Dr. Laura Figoski, ND
Dr. Figoski is a top naturopathic doctor in San Francisco. She has received rigorous training in both conventional medicine as well as the natural healing tools of nutrition, botanicals, and holistic health. Her work focuses on identifying and treating the root causes of disease and supporting the body to heal itself to minimize the need for prescription medication. In her private practice, Dr. Figoski works with people who struggle with chronic disease and chronic inflammation, guiding and empowering them to take an active role in their own healing.