- Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are really painful, and in some people, they happen repeatedly.
- A new study found that women with a history of recurring UTIs got fewer repeat infections when they drank an extra one and a half quarts of water per day.
- Women can also prevent UTIs by wiping front to back, peeing before and after sex, wearing breathable underwear, avoiding douches and other possible irritants, and not holding their pee, experts say.
One urinary tract infection (UTI) is bad enough, but some people experience what’s known as a recurrent UTI – an infection that comes back more than twice over the course of a single year, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG).
A new study finds that there may be a simple strategy for preventing these pesky repeat UTIs: Drinking more water.
The study was published Monday in JAMA Internal Medicine, the New York Times reported.
Here’s a closer look at the results – and the other habits women can practice to prevent painful UTIs in the future.
Drinking extra water lowered the number of repeat UTIs
You may have already heard that staying hydrated can help ward off UTIs, but so far there hasn’t been much scientific evidence to support this advice, the study authors wrote.
To test the idea, they recruited 140 women who drank less than one and a half quarts of water per day and averaged roughly three UTIs in the previous year. (By the way: Women get UTIs up to 30 times more often than men.)
Then they were randomly split into two groups. The control group continued their previous water-drinking habits, while other group started to drink an additional one and a half quarts per day. Researchers then contacted the women once a month for the next year to screen for any UTI symptoms.
The women in the control group average 3.2 urinary infections over the course of the year – but the women who drank the extra water averaged just 1.7. The extra water reduced the frequency of repeat UTIs by roughly 50%.
The study was funded by Danone, a company that sells Evian bottled water, and the women in the extra-water group were given free bottles of Evian during the study. However, study co-author Dr. Thomas Hooton told the New York Times that “there’s no reason to think that plain old tap water wouldn’t be just as effective.”
There is one caveat to note: These results don’t necessarily apply to women who have a one-off UTI every once in a while. The authors wrote that we still “do not know whether increased water intake is beneficial in women who are at lower risk for recurrent [UTIs],” since this study only looked at women who got them frequently.
But hydration is still important aside from UTI risk. Every cell in your body needs water to function, and severe cases of dehydration can lead to life-threatening emergencies. The easiest way to know if you’re drinking enough is to check your urine, experts say: A pale yellow colour means you’re hydrated, but a darker colour like apple juice means you need more fluids.
There are other habits that help prevent UTIs
There are other expert-approved ways to avoid the infection, too. The ACOG says women can prevent the UTIs by wiping from front to back after going to the bathroom, washing the skin around the anus and genital area, avoiding douches and other irritating feminine products, emptying their bladders regularly (rather than holding pee), urinating before and after sex, and wearing underwear with a breathable cotton crotch.
Using spermicides or a diaphragm for birth control also can cause more frequent UTIs, the ACOG says, so if you get them frequently, you may want to ask your doctor about switching to a different method.
And if you do notice UTI symptoms, see a doctor ASAP. The Mayo Clinic notes that untreated UTIs can lead to serious problems like permanent kidney damage, but promptly treated UTIs rarely cause complications.
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