Now that the warmer weather is here, it is not only the sun and bug bites we have to watch out for. Many women are at risk of developing an unpleasant summertime surprise: a urinary tract or bladder infection, also known as UTI.
Urinary tract infections are the second most common infection that women experience. It is estimated that more than 25 percent of women ages 20 to 40 will have a UTI—and the risk increases during pregnancy and menopause. More than 8 million doctor visits per year are attributed to UTIs, and they are the second leading cause of lost workdays for women.
UTI symptoms can hit suddenly, causing urinary frequency, burning, and pain. There can also be cloudiness or blood in the urine. Getting prompt medical attention is critical. If left untreated the infection can become serious and cause kidney damage.
There are several reasons why UTIs are more common in the summer. If fluid intake is inadequate during warmer weather, dehydration can occur, causing the urine to become more concentrated and increasing the risk of bacterial growth. Wearing a wet and tight-fitting bathing suit and having more frequent sexual activity can also contribute to the problem.
Here are some tips to consider to keep your urinary tract healthy this summer and all year-long:
Drink plenty of water.
The Institute of Medicine recommends 3 liters a day for men and 2.2 liters for women.
Adopt healthy bathroom habits.
Wipe from front to back to avoid introducing bacteria from the rectum into the urethra. Clean up regularly, and especially before and after sex.
Cook your chicken thoroughly.
Recent reports have revealed that consuming chicken and eggs contaminated with E. coli bacteria can lead to resistant UTIs. When preparing chicken, be sure to clean your hands thoroughly afterward to avoid transmitting the bacteria to your body via your hands. If possible, buy organic meats and eggs to avoid ingestion of antibiotics and potential antibiotic resistance. Designate a cutting board to be used for raw meat and poultry and wash it immediately after use with hot soapy water.
Supplement with cranberry:
Cranberry contains compounds called proanthocyanidins that prevent bacteria from sticking to the bladder wall—so instead of causing infection, bacteria are flushed out of the body in the urine. The most widely researched and efficacious form of cranberry is Cran-Max. Studies have compared this specific form of cranberry ingredient to traditional antibiotics and pure cranberry juice (not cocktail juice) and found it to be just as effective—only better tolerated. Look for cranberry supplements that contain Cran-Max in your pharmacy or health-food store.
Be cautious with OTC drugs:
Certain medications can cause urinary retention. Examples include antihistamines and cold medications. When the bladder holds onto urine for a prolonged time, this increases the risk of bacterial growth. Talk to your pharmacist when considering over-the-counter medications to get advice on proper use and possible adverse effects.
About the Author
Sherry Torkos is a holistic pharmacist and the author of 18 books and booklets, including The Canadian Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine, The Glycemic Index Made Simple, and The Benefits of Berries.
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