Introduction to UTIs
Urinary tract infection (UTIs) is one of the most common bacterial infections, particularly affecting women. Can our diet help prevent a UTI?
What are urinary tract infections (UTIs)?
Urinary tract infections (UTIs) begin when bacteria enter the urinary tract, multiply and attack the mucosa in the urinary bladder, ureters and/or the renal pelvis. It is an infection of your bladder, kidneys or the tubes connected to them.
Although the urinary system is designed to keep out such microscopic invaders, these defences sometimes fail. When that happens, bacteria may take hold and grow into a full-blown infection in the urinary tract.
The most common UTIs occur mainly in women and affect the bladder and urethra. Up to half of the women will suffer at least one episode of UTI in their lifetime and one in four of these women will develop a recurrence.
Symptoms of UTIs
Symptoms are caused by an excessive host response to infection and an inflammatory tissue infiltrate is the main cause of symptoms and disease.
Urinary tract infections don’t always cause signs and symptoms, but when they do, they may include:
- upper UTI (pyelonephritis) classically presents with fever and flank pain
- lower UTI (cystitis) typically presents with some or all of the following: dysuria, frequency, haematuria, and suprapubic tenderness.
- A strong, persistent urge to urinate
- A burning sensation when urinating
- Passing frequent, small amounts of urine
- Urine that appears cloudy
- Urine that appears red or bright pink— a sign of blood in the urine
Risk factors in Urinary Tract Infections in Women
- Common in women because of their anatomy; the shorter urethra and the relative proximity of the urethra to the anus.
- Sexual intercourse and the use of spermicide
- Postmenopausal women are particularly prone to recurrent UTI
- Reduced oestrogen levels increase the risk of vaginal atrophy, which results in vaginal dryness and increased pH
- Low oestrogen levels are associated with post-voiding residual urine in the bladder, which is a further risk factor for UTI.
Family history suggesting a genetic predisposition.
- Urinary tract abnormalities
- Blockages in the urinary tract
- Suppressed immune system
- Catheter use
Mechanism of action
UTIs are usually caused by bacteria entering the urinary tract. The bacteria enter through the tube that carries urine out of the body (urethra). Women have a shorter urethra than men. This means bacteria are more likely to reach the bladder or kidneys and cause an infection.
Foods to eat and avoid during UTIs
Urinary tract infection (UTI) is usually an ascending infection caused by bacteria derived from stools. Since the bacterial composition of stools is dependent on the diet, it is likely that the risk of UTI will change with the change in the diet.
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Kontiokari, T., Nuutinen, M., & Uhari, M. (2004). Dietary factors affecting susceptibility to urinary tract infection. Pediatric Nephrology, 19(4), 378–383. doi:10.1007/s00467-003-1410-z
Walsh, C., & Collyns, T. (2017). The pathophysiology of urinary tract infections. Surgery (Oxford), 35(6), 293–298. doi:10.1016/j.mpsur.2017.03.007