In some cases urinary tract infections will clear up spontaneously, without any treatment; however, most UTIs are treated with antibiotics. The drugs may be given in a single large dose or may be spread over a course of three to seven days. A repeat infection is treated with a second course of antibiotics. Treatment is normally continued until your symptoms disappear and a urine test shows no bacteria.
It is not unusual for women to experience recurrent urinary tract infections. Some women have as many as three or four a year; others have them even more frequently. Nearly 80 percent of these cases are actually re-infections, caused by the same circumstances that produced the original infection. If you have recurrent UTIs, you should discuss treatment options with your doctor. Low daily doses of antibiotics for a 6-month period or a single dose of antibiotic after sexual activity may prevent long-term problems. Postmenopausal women with recurrent UTIs may find some relief through estrogen replacement therapy, particularly estrogen creams that are applied to the vagina.
Preventing and Managing Urinary Tract Infections DIETARY STRATEGIES Cranberry Juice
The juice of this native North American fruit has been used for years to treat and prevent urinary tract infection. It was once thought that the juice cleared up infection by acidifying the urine, killing bacteria in the process. It is now known that natural chemicals in the berry, known as proanthocyanins, treat UTIs by preventing the adherence of E. coli bacteria to the wall of the urinary tract. Instead of hanging around to multiply, bacteria are flushed out in the urine.
Urinary Tract Infections Treatment Photo Gallery
But will cranberry juice help you? Studies show that a daily glass of the juice may not only prevent a UTI, but may be effective at treating one. In a 1994 landmark study, researchers from the Brigham and Women’s Hospital/Harvard Medical School in Boston studied 153 women for six months.1 The women were given either 300 milliliters (10 fluid ounces) of cranberry juice or a placebo to drink once daily. At the end of the study, women drinking the cranberry juice were only about one-quarter as likely as the placebo group to continue to have UTIs. This improvement in UTIs was seen after two months of treatment.
How much do you need? There are no clear recommendations, but a dose of 300 milliliters (10 fluid ounces) per day was used in the 1994 study. The participants drank a cranberry cocktail that was 27 percent juice. Be sure to check labels—most cranberry cocktails contain 10 to 33 percent cranberry juice. To treat and prevent a UTI, 300 milliliters to 1 liter per day is often suggested.
Cranberry juice may not be for everyone, though. Drinking large quantities (1 liter or more) of the juice may aggravate kidney stones in some people. Stones made from oxalate and uric acid are more likely to form in acidic urine. Women with irritable bowel syndrome may experience diarrhea if they drink too much cranberry juice. If you are at risk for such problems, limit your intake to 300 milliliters (10 fluid ounces) per day.
Proanthocyanins, the same phytochemicals in cranberries that prevent bacteria from sticking to the urinary tract wall, are present in blueberries. If you don’t like cranberry juice, or you want a little variety, add 1/2 to 1 cup of blueberries to your daily diet. And you don’t have to wait until blueberry season to take advantage of their health-enhancing effects. Blueberries are available frozen, canned or dried year round. Be creative . . .
• Add frozen blueberries to a breakfast smoothie.
• Toss dried blueberries into your morning bowl of cold cereal, or mix them into oatmeal.
• Add dried blueberries to a green salad, then toss with a raspberry vinaigrette.
• Thaw frozen berries and mix into yogurt, or use them to top a scoop of low-fat ice cream.
• Use dried or frozen blueberries in baked goods like muffins and loaves. Water
Every single day, drink plenty of water to help flush the bacteria out of your system. Women who don’t exercise need to drink at least 2 to 3 liters (8 to 12 cups) of water each day. If you work out, add another liter (4 cups). Aim to drink 500 milliliters (2 cups) with each meal and with your mid-day snack. Take water with you when you’re on the go—have a bottle in the car, in your purse and on your desk at work. There’s no question that, if you are not used to it, drinking water is one of the more difficult habits to form. It’s all a matter of training yourself. And if you don’t have a water bottle around to remind you to drink, you’re apt to forget.
During your recovery period, it is wise to avoid coffee, alcohol and spicy foods, which may aggravate your irritable urinary tract. You may find that there are other foods that make your situation worse. Make a mental note of these. You may also want to look at the list of condiments and spices in chapter 23, “Interstitial Cystitis”—some of these irritating foods may also apply to you.