If you've ever had a urinary tract infection (UTI), you're familiar with the itching, burning sensations, and pain when using the bathroom. It can be excruciating. And it's a pain 10 in 25 women will experience in their lives.
Lots of folks think this is just a women's issue.
But here's the thing... Men also get UTIs. In fact, three in 25 men will get a UTI in their lifetime.
Your urinary tract is actually comprised of your kidneys, bladder, and three tubes: two ureters and one urethra. The ureters carry waste from the kidney to the bladder and the urethra drains urine from the bladder.
An infection in the urinary tract can involve any of these organs.
Both sexes experience similar symptoms:
- Painful urination
- Urgency and increased frequency in urination
- Burning sensation
- Pain in lower abdomen
Typically, women get UTIs when bacteria enter through the urethra. The most common reason is from natural bacteria on the skin transferred during sex. That's why the best way to prevent UTIs for women is to urinate no more than 30 minutes after sex.
Men are less likely to get a UTI from sex. Men more often get UTIs from bladder or kidney infections. (Women can as well, but it's not as common.)
What's more, men – especially men over 50 – are likely to get a UTI from a prostate condition called benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH). The prostate gland sits just under the bladder. But sometimes it swells and wraps around the connection between the urethra and the bladder. That means urine can build up and bacteria can grow.
If you have a UTI, the bacteria can spread, sometimes even into your kidneys. That can cause serious problems.
For instance, if left untreated, a kidney infection can cause blood poisoning. That can be deadly. It can also leave permanent scars in your kidneys that diminish their ability to function.
Cranberries are a common home remedy, whether in pill or juice form. Unfortunately, the science on cranberries is mixed. Some point to benefits in younger women, but most randomized trials showed results about the same as placebos.
One thing is evident though – neither the pill nor juice can cure a UTI. However, I still recommend eating cranberries and blueberries for their health benefits... The antioxidants alone will help boost your immune system to fight infections.
For many of us, our bodies can fight off a UTI in a few days. But if you have a compromised immune system or the symptoms last more than a couple of days, you should visit your doctor.
The key here is prevention...
Five Ways to Prevent UTIs
1) Drink plenty of water. A new study out of the University of Miami studied young women who experienced recurrent UTIs. Those who upped their water intake each day by about five cups each day (for a total of 12 cups of fluids) had about half the amount of UTIs over the course of the study.
Dehydration is a critical problem for many folks. It takes a toll on your kidneys, raises blood sugar levels, triggers headaches, and more. You can read our article about how much water we recommend right here.
2) Exercise. A study from Aalborg University in Denmark found that just four hours a week of light to moderate exercise cuts the risk of bacterial infections. This makes sense, given that the more you move around, the better your circulation and immune system. Those who exercised had, on average, 10% fewer bacterial infections than those who didn't exercise at all. What's more, urinary tract infections dropped 32% for moderate-activity exercisers.
Do what I do and aim to walk every day for at least 30 minutes... I like to walk a few blocks around my office during my lunch break. And enjoy other activities like yoga or gardening to get your full four hours of exercise a week.
3) Control your diabetes. Folks with type II diabetes have an increased risk of UTIs. One cause is high levels of sugar in your urine. Bacteria flourish in high-sugar environments, meaning they can more easily grow. Diabetes also influences vascular changes and kidney problems which can both contribute to reduced urination and bacteria growth.
We've covered diabetes a lot in our letter. You can read more about how to fight the growing epidemic right here.
4) Probiotics. A 2008 review of data on recurrent UTIs pointed to the use of probiotics as an "important medical strategy." Probiotics, remember, are healthy bacteria that keep our gut working properly. Illness can wipe out our natural bacteria, so it's good to replace them from time to time. My favorite way to build healthy bacteria is plain yogurt or kimchi. Read more on probiotics right here.
5) Bowel habits. Constipation is one of the causes behind UTIs. When you have stool backed up, it can press on the bladder, making it harder to empty it. Likewise, diarrhea can also introduce extra bacteria into your system. Staying regular means eating right, getting plenty of water, and exercising. You can read more about how to beat constipation right here.
Following these five tips should keep your urinary tract healthy and pain free. If you have any other tips, we'd love to hear them. And don't forget to send questions to our mailbag – it's been light lately! Write to us here: [email protected].
What We're Reading...
- Cleveland Clinic cracks down on the cranberry myth.
- A look at the urinary tract and what it does.
- Something different: Behavioral finance takes center stage.
Here's to our health, wealth, and a great retirement,
Dr. David Eifrig and the Retirement Millionaire Daily Research Team
Buffalo, New York
October 10, 2017