Study Shows a Vegetarian Diet Can Help Prevent UTIs

One of the most common conditions that I see at A Woman’s Healing Center is a urinary tract infection (UTI). I know just how uncomfortable (and sometimes even disruptive) these infections can be, and that’s why it’s important to take preventative measures. So today, I wanted to share some information on a new study that has shown that a vegetarian diet can help prevent UTIs.

What Is a UTI?

A UTI is an infection that happens in the urinary system. They can occur in the urethra, ureters, or kidneys, but are most often found in the bladder.

What Are the Symptoms of a UTI?

The symptoms of a UTI vary from person to person. The location of the infection can also affect your symptoms. Some of the common symptoms include:

  • A frequent urge to urinate, but not urinating much when you do go
  • Pain or a burning feeling when urinating
  • Urine that smells bad or looks cloudy
  • A feeling of pressure in your lower abdomen

Younger women with UTIs may see blood in their urine. If this occurs, please get in contact right away. Older women with UTIs may feel shaky, tired, weak, or confused.

If you have any of these symptoms listed above along with a fever, that may mean that the infection has reached your kidneys, in which case you should come in to see us so we can diagnose and treat the problem.

What Causes a UTI?

There is no real “cause” of a UTI, but there are certain factors that can put you at a higher risk of getting a UTI. You may be at a higher risk of infection if:

  • You’re sexually active
  • You are pregnant
  • You use a diaphragm or spermicides with a condom
  • You’ve gone through menopause
  • You have certain conditions, like diabetes or kidney stones
  • You either have or have recently had a catheter in place

How Are UTIs Treated?

Once I have diagnosed you with a urinary tract infection (typically with a urine sample), I will prescribe antibiotics to treat it. If treated right away, the antibiotics will typically begin to relieve your symptoms within a day or two. But remember, it’s important to continue taking them until they are gone, otherwise your infection might come back.

It’s important to come in as soon as you think you might have a UTI because an untreated infection can spread to your kidneys and other parts of your body. If the infection has reached your kidneys, it will still be treated with antibiotics, but you may not feel relief as quickly. The most common symptoms of a kidney infection are fever and pain in the back where the kidneys are located.

How Can I Prevent UTIs?

While there are lots of homemade “cures” out on the internet (for example, cranberry juice), there are some tried and true methods of preventing a UTI.

To cut down on your risk of getting a UTI, you should:

  • Urinate when you feel the need- the longer the urine stays in the bladder, the more time that bacteria has to grow and cause infections
  • Wipe front to back
  • Do your best to drink six to eight glasses of fluid each day
  • Avoid douches, wipes, and feminine sprays
  • Urinate before and after sexual activity

What Does the Study Tell Us?

In addition to the steps above, this recent study has shown that following a vegetarian diet may also help prevent UTIs, especially in women.

The study, which was led by Dr. Chin-Lon Lin of Tzu Chi University in Hualien, Taiwan, took place within a population of 10,000 Buddhists living in the Taiwanese islands. About 1/3, or 3,200 of the participants were vegetarian. The rates of UTIs were tracked for over a decade, and while the research couldn’t establish a cause-and-effect link, it showed that those individuals who did not eat meat were 16% less likely to get a UTI. It also showed that of the individuals within the vegetarian population, vegetarian women were 18% less likely to get UTIs.

So why did this correlation show up? Well, researchers pointed out that many UTIs begin from microbes that are found in the intestinal tract; more specifically, from Escherichia coli (E. coli), which accounts for about 65-75% of all UTIs. Poultry and pork are two major sources of E. coli for non-vegetarian diets.

What Does This Mean?

While these findings are certainly exciting, there is still a need for more research to prove a more direct link between following a vegetarian diet and preventing UTIs. But that doesn’t mean you should ignore them completely; your diet and lifestyle still play a part in your risk of urinary tract infections, and eating a vegetarian diet may be a big help in preventing them.

In addition to trying out a vegetarian diet, I recommend following our other preventative suggestions above and speaking with us at A Woman’s Healing Center any time you believe you’re having symptoms of a UTI. We’re here to answer your questions and help you get the right treatment. If you’d like to request an appointment, please get in contact with us, or fill out the form below.

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