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Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs) are common infections in women of childbearing age. But men, children, and the elderly can get them, too. Because they are 30 times more common in women, we can easily overlook UTIs in other populations –especially because they don’t always present with the same symptoms. Here’s a short overview of UTIs, how they may show up symptom-wise, and what to do if you get one.

What Are UTIs?

Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs) occur when there’s a bacterial infection somewhere in the urinary tract. That could be in the kidneys, ureters, bladder, or urethra. They are most common in the bladder or the urethra. Most people don’t find out they have a UTI from a test but from pain and symptoms that cause them to see a doctor. The most common symptoms are frequent urination, burning, and a slight tint to the urine (from blood). Women come into Wellness Way clinics for UTIs all the time. But what can be done? Why do people get UTIs in the first place?

UTIs are most often (80-90% of the time) caused by an overgrowth of E. coli. While E. coli has a negative connotation due to food poisoning or food recalls, this species is a normal part of your gastrointestinal, urethral, and vagina flora. But if it overgrows or moves into other sterile organs, it can cause inflammation, pain, and other symptoms. UTIs can also involve infection by other species, such as staphylococcus, pseudomonas, or Klebsiella pneumoniae.

Women and UTIs

Women of childbearing age are the most common sufferers of UTIs. In fact, 50 to 60% of women have dealt with a UTI at least once. Women are more likely than men to get UTIs because of their shorter urethras and the shorter proximity between the urethra and anus. That means they have a greater opportunity for bacterial infection. Women are at an even greater risk of UTIs if they are sexually active, use certain types of birth control, or are pregnant.

Symptoms

When women get UTIs, they most often notice:

  • Burning sensation during urination
  • Frequent and/or urgent urination
  • Cloudy or tinted urine
  • Strong-smelling urine
  • Pelvic pain

If women develop a UTI in the upper urinary tract, they can also experience fever, chills, nausea, or vomiting.

Causes

While women can get UTIs due to pregnancy, most causes of UTIs in younger women have to do with a weakened immune response or lifestyle choices. For older women, it’s more tied to low estrogen levels and other conditions:

  • Holding it too long – Yes, you have a lot to do, but you can make time to pee! Make sure you’re urinating about every 4 hours. Holding it could contribute to a UTI.
  • Underwear choices – While silky and satiny panties may be sexy, they could be causing chronic UTIs. Because they don’t breathe, they tend to hold moisture in the vaginal area. As a result, they create an environment that is friendly to UTI-causing bacteria. Cotton is breathable and allows air to flow, keeping delicate areas dry. Of course, you could also choose to go straight up “commando.”
  • Eating too much sugar Diabetes is a risk factor for UTIs, and if you’re hypoglycemic, you are heading in that direction. For example, if you get light-headed because you haven’t eaten in a while, you may be consuming too much sugar. A high sugar intake also weakens your immune response, increasing your risk of infections.
  • A drop in estrogen levels – Low estrogen levels due to stress or other hormone imbalances can lead to chronic UTIs. Estrogen hormones maintain vaginal tissues and good bacterial balance down there. So, when estrogens decline, you’re more vulnerable to infections like UTIs.
  • Not drinking enough water – Dehydration can lead to UTIs if the urinary system is not getting flushed out often enough.
  • Sex with a man who has bacteria down there – His bacteria can transfer to you. Try adding coconut oil (rich in antibacterial lauric acid) before sex – or have him take a shower first.
  • Use of spermicidal birth control – These antimicrobials can disrupt the balance of bacteria in that region, increasing the risk of UTIs.

Children and UTIs

Children can also get UTIs. It can happen in potty training toddlers due to poor (inexperienced) hygienic habits. School-aged children may put off going to the bathroom during classes. “Holding it” too long can lead to an increased risk of UTIs.

Symptoms

When children get UTIs, you will most often notice:

  • Complaining of pain or burning when peeing
  • Frequent trips to the bathroom
  • A change in toilet habits, like wetting their pants or wetting the bed
  • Unpleasant smelling pee
  • Cloudy pee or blood in the pee
  • Lack of energy and tiredness
  • Lack of appetite
  • Tummy ache

Of course, many of these symptoms have other causes or contributing factors, but pain or burning when peeing are pretty reliable signs.

Causes

Causes of UTIs in children may relate to school schedules, poor hygiene, or tight-fitting clothing.

  • Holding it too long – Bacteria builds up, leading to a UTI.
  • Poor hygiene habits – While children are still learning to wipe themselves, they may get soiled toilet paper too near their genitals.
  • Constipation – Constipation may put pressure on the bladder, causing issues in elimination.
  • Tight-fitting clothes – Tight-fitting panties or even “tights” can contribute to UTIs in girls.
  • Too much sugar – Again, sugar raises your risk of infections in general.
  • Bubble Baths – Bubble baths are fun but can lead to UTIs in girls as they allow bacteria and soap to get into the urethra.

Men and UTIs

Men are more likely to get UTIs as they get older. But depending on their current health issues, younger men can also develop a UTI. It’s common but may be underreported since men don’t usually want to tell anyone when things hurt “down there.” They may think they have an STD.

Symptoms

Most UTI symptoms in men are the same as in women. However, while women can have pain in their pelvic area, men are more likely to have pain in their rectum.

  • Frequent urination
  • Burning sensation during urination
  • Cloudy or tinted urine
  • Unpleasant smelling pee
  • Pain in the rectum

Men are less likely to get UTIs in general, but anything that can get in the way of urinary flow, like an enlarged prostate or kidney stones, can lead to a UTI.

Causes

Here are some of the primary causes of UTIs in men:

  • Enlarged prostate – This may put pressure on the urinary tract, leading to decreased flow and increased risk of infection.
  • Kidney or bladder stones – Blockage of the urinary tract increases your risk of infections.
  • Eating too much sugar – Sugar increases your risk of all kinds of infections. Diabetes is a risk factor for UTIs.
  • Holding it too long – Again, this can increase the risk of bacteria building up, creating an infection.
  • Not drinking enough water – Dehydration can lead to UTIs if the urinary system is not getting flushed out often enough.

Again, men are more likely to get UTIs as they get older due to certain age-related issues, like an enlarged prostate or hospitalization. (with a catheter).

The Elderly and UTIs

UTIs are fairly common in the elderly due to other medical conditions, poor hygiene, lack of movement, a lowered immune response, and a higher sugar intake.

Symptoms

When elderly people get UTIs, you will most often notice:

  • Frequent urination
  • Urgent urination (perhaps with incontinence)
  • Confusion
  • Chills or fever
  • Strange smelling urine
  • Pelvic pain

Depending on their mental status, they may not be able to describe their symptoms to you. In that case, look for the above signs. Other indicators of a UTI include a decrease in appetite, agitation, low energy, and difficulty moving around. If they develop a kidney infection, it could lead to back pain, nausea, or vomiting.

Causes

There are many potential causes of UTIs in the elderly, including a general breakdown of tissues from aging, hygiene issues, and living in nursing homes.

  • Conditions affecting the nerves – Conditions like Alzheimer’s or Dementia, Parkinson’s disease, or diabetes can affect the nerves that control the urinary system, leading to UTIs. This is known as a “neurogenic bladder.”
  • Catheter use – A Catheter Associated UTI (CAUTI) may occur when a catheter is contaminated or isn’t emptied or cleaned often enough.
  • Estrogen deficiency in postmenopausal women – Estrogens do a lot to keep women healthy. They stimulate the proliferation of certain protective bacteria and contribute to the maintenance of vaginal tissue. When they decline as a woman enters menopause, things tend to collapse and there’s an increased risk of infection.
  • Poor hygiene habits – As people get older and need to wear disposable underwear, they may not keep themselves as clean, increasing the likelihood of developing a UTI.
  • Not drinking enough water – Dehydration can lead to UTIs if the urinary system is not getting flushed out often enough.
  • Too much sugar – We repeat: Diabetes is a risk factor for UTIs.

When people come up with a “natural remedy” for UTIs, they are most likely to recommend drinking cranberry juice.

Can’t You Just Take D-Mannose or Drink Cranberry Juice?

Here’s the thing: D-mannose (a sugar molecule from cranberries) works well for E. coli infections. The E. coli is attracted to the D-mannose and attaches to it, which makes it easy to flush it out of your system. But what if your UTI isn’t caused by E. coli? What if it’s caused by Klebsiella or some other infection? Then D-mannose won’t work, and you’re left still dealing with pain and symptoms. Then you may need to look at alternative herbs or supplements, like uva ursi (a natural diuretic), oregano oil, or saccharomyces boulardii.

Or maybe the D-mannose worked at first, but then the UTI reoccurred. That means the immune system couldn’t keep the infection down. And that’s where testing comes in. If it keeps coming back, you need to look deeper to see what else is out of balance in the body.

The Swiss Watch Explains It All

At The Wellness Way, we explain the systems of the body by comparing them to the gears of a Swiss Watch. Each “gear” affects all the others. That means if something is out of balance in one area of the body, it will have consequences for other areas. That’s where seemingly unrelated symptoms show up. Increased sugar intake, prolonged stress, and other irritants can lead to imbalances in the body that eventually lead to a UTI. When UTIs are recurring, it indicates an immune problem caused by a deficiency or imbalance. To address a UTI, you need to know what’s behind the imbalance and remove it.

Don’t Guess, Test!

To address UTIs, you have to look at why you have chronic inflammation and an activated immune response in the first place. That starts with a stool test and possibly an immune panel. You need to know what type of infection is causing the UTI so that you know the best supplements and protocols to eliminate it. Different herbs and supplements work for different infections. That’s where The Wellness Way comes in. We can order a stool test and help you interpret the results. It’s often necessary to do a series of supplement protocols to 1) help the body eliminate the infection but also 2) give the body the tools it needs to get back in balance. Reach out to a Wellness Way clinic today!

Resources:

  1. Urinary tract infections | Office on Women’s Health (womenshealth.gov)
  2. Normal Flora – Medical Microbiology – NCBI Bookshelf (nih.gov)
  3. Recurrent Urinary Tract Infections Management in Women – PMC (nih.gov)
  4. Urinary tract infections in women: etiology and treatment options – PMC (nih.gov)
  5. Urinary Tract Infections More Common in Diabetics – Renal and Urology News
  6. Spermicide-Coated Condoms and Urinary Tract Infections (aafp.org)
  7. Urinary tract infection (UTI) in children | NHS inform
  8. Urinary tract infection in the neurogenic bladder – PMC (nih.gov)
  9. Catheter-associated Urinary Tract Infections (CAUTI) | HAI | CDC
  10. Recurrent Urinary Tract Infections Management in Women – PMC (nih.gov)
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