By Dr. Laura Figoski
Recurrent UTIs are so frustrating. Burning, pain, frequency and urgency are all such a drag. And taking antibiotics, again and AGAIN, to solve the problem can be disruptive to your microbiome. An ounce of prevention can help you avoid all this stress and discomfort.
- You've probably heard this one before: Pee after sex! Sex can be great, but it can introduce and push bacteria into places it shouldn’t go. By peeing after you’re finished, it helps to immediately flush things out so nothing lingers long enough to cause an infection. This goes for all forms of sex; Oral sex, hands and toys can also be carriers of bacteria. Oh, and while you’re at it, make sure to wash hands and toys well before and after use so there is not additional bacteria load.
- Keep things dry and breezy down there. Any warm moist environment is a favorite place for bacteria to thrive. So wear cotton underpants to help with breathability. Shower, or at the very least change pants and underwear, after a workout. Tight, restrictive clothing is only going to hold moisture in the wrong place. Go underwear free, whenever you can; perhaps even overnight. Be mindful of thong underwear, as these can move around more, bringing the bacteria from the gut in much closer proximity to the urinary tract, which is a recipe for infection. Also, consider other habits, like bike riding, spin class, horseback riding or anything that could cause friction to that sensitive area; it could be making things worse.
- Take a probiotic and eat live fermented foods. Keeping good bacterial balance throughout the body is going to help with overall immune health and keep your system strong enough to fight off infections. By ensuring that the friendly bacteria are nice and strong it makes it harder for anything infectious or unfriendly to take root. Probiotic supplements are a great option, but if you don’t want another pill to take, add in more live fermented foods. This can be unsweetened yogurt, sauerkraut, kimchi, and anything that uses lactic acid bacteria for preservation. Unfortunately, while delicious, kombucha is less helpful in this department as it can have sugars in it which will be counterproductive.
- Take regular pee breaks. Holding urine for a long time, or being so dehydrated that you don’t need to pee can give that E. coli more of a chance to take root. So drink up and pee freely, once every 1-2 hrs is a good rule of thumb.
- Consider your body products. Any lotion, soap, lube, bubble bath, douche, powder or spray that comes in contact with the area is a potential irritant. Use a gentle, ideally unscented, soap to wash regularly, and rinse thoroughly. Beyond that, anything else can be irritating and aggravating, even if it isn’t causing issues elsewhere in your body. Remember these are sensitive tissues. Vaginas are self cleaning, so douches and highly scented products will just disrupt the natural cleaning process and provide more opportunity for bacteria to grow.
- See your doctor. Recurrent UTIs can sometimes be an indication of other issues, or sometimes what is thought to be a UTI can actually turn out to be something else altogether. Treating an acute UTI is important, but recurrent frequent use of antibiotics is troublesome. So if in doubt, find a good, holistically-minded doctor, who will actually listen to your concerns and answer your questions and talk through ideas and options. If they just want to shove another antibiotic prescription in your face, it might be time to find a better ally.
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.