There are times when it feels like biology is destiny. And when it comes to women and urinary tract infections (UTI), there’s some truth to that age-old observation. A woman’s chance of contracting at least one UTI over her lifetime is close to 50%; once you’ve had a UTI, you know exactly what it is, how unpleasant and painful it can be and you’ll do whatever you can to prevent another occurrence.
Here’s an overview of the urinary system, how it flushes out waste, and how to help prevent infections.
- The kidneys sit just below your rib cage on either side of the spine. They play a major role in the body’s detox process, helping flush waste from the body through urination. Every day, the kidneys draw out about 1-2 quarts of urine for every 120-150 quarts of blood.
- The ureters are thin muscular tubes on each side of your bladder that carry urine from the kidneys to the bladder.
- Located in the pelvic region, the bladder is a hollow, muscular organ that expands as it fills with urine. Once full, it sends a signal to the brain, and we sense it’s time to urinate. It can hold up to two cups of urine. However, every person is different in terms of how often they produce and hold urine and how frequently they urinate.
- During urination, the bladder empties through the urethra, located at the bottom of the bladder. The muscles of the pelvic region, the bladder muscles, and the urethra work together like a dam to hold urine between trips to the restroom.
When bacteria travel up the urethra into the bladder, this may cause a urinary tract infection. The most common type of bacteria found in UTIs is the E. coli bacteria. If the infection spreads to the kidneys and ureters this can cause an upper UTI or pyelonephritis; left untreated it can affect other body systems and lead to serious health problems.
Tips for Maintaining a Healthy Urinary Tract:
Maintain healthy flora in the body. Proper balance of flora is not only important for GI function but for other systems too, such as the urinary system. Consider adding fermented foods to your diet and/or taking a probiotic supplement. Check with your practitioner about the one best suited to your concerns.
Stay Hydrated. Fluid intake, especially water, is vital to the health of the urinary tract. Water helps flush bacteria and other waste products from your body. The typical recommendation is to drink half your bodyweight in ounces of water (e.g., body weight = 140 lbs., water intake = 70 oz. daily). Check with your doctor on the proper amount for you.
Detox your Diet. You may not think of sugar, caffeine, nicotine, or packaged food as toxic, but they have no nutritive value. Regular use of these items stresses the systems designed to cleanse and preserve the integrity of your health.
Go Orange: Get your Vitamin C. Eating foods high in vitamin C has been shown to help promote urinary tract health and prevent UTI.
- NICHD.NIH.gov (National Institutes of Child Health and Human Development). “How many women are affected or at risk for UTIs & UI?” Accessed 3 August 2017: https://www.nichd.nih.gov/health/topics/urinary/conditioninfo/Pages/affected.aspx
- NIH.Gov. “The Urinary Tract & How it Works.” Accessed 14 July 2017 https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/urologic-diseases/urinary-tract-how-it-works
- University of Maryland Medical Center Online Database. “Urinary Tract Infection.” Accessed 14 July 2017: http://www.umm.edu/health/medical/reports/articles/urinary-tract-infection
- HopkinsMedicine.org “Urinary Tract Infection (UTI)” Accessed 14 July 2017: http://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/healthlibrary/conditions/kidney_and_urinary_system_disorders/urinary_tract_infections_utis_85,P01497/
- Gonzalo Javier Ochoa-Brust, et al., “Daily intake of 100 mg ascorbic acid as urinary tract infection prophylactic agent during pregnancy.” Acta Obstetricia et Gynecologica Scandinavica, (2007) 86: 783–787. doi: 10.1080/00016340701273189: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/wol1/doi/10.1080/00016340701273189/abstract
- Pizzorno, Joseph E, and Michael T. Murray. Textbook of Natural Medicine. St. Louis, Mo: Elsevier/Churchill Livingstone, 2013. Print.