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Everything You Need to Know About Urinary Tract Infections (And How to Avoid Them)

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If you’re a woman, you’re probably familiar with the “post pee twinge.”

The first stage is denial. “It can’t be. Surely I’m just a bit dehydrated.”

After a few minutes panic mode sets in. “NOOO! I don’t have time for this!!”

You frantically start chugging water while kicking yourself for throwing out that jar of raw cranberry juice. But seriously, have you tasted that bitter bog juice?

Urinary Tract Infections are horrible—and if you get one, urine for some misery below the belt. (Even a well-placed pee pun can’t lessen this pain in the pelvis.)

As I’m sitting here, uncomfortably, writing this, I’ve visited the bathroom five times. That’s one of the worst symptoms—the urgency. You dash to the bathroom in search of relief, only to feel the call shriek of nature again minutes later. UTIs are inconvenient, annoying, and incredibly uncomfortable.

I’ve suffered with a few over the years. My first was a few weeks after I got married. I recall the raised eyebrows when I asked my boss to go home early as symptoms began to flare.

“Oh, Honeymoon Disease,” she teased. Then nothing. I was right on tract (har har) for years with nary a twinge.

But then recently, I’ve been popping cranberry pills like candy. My most recent urinary tract infection was the third in a year. My husband can solemnly attest to the fact that it is NOT honeymoon disease related. At all.

So why so many, all of the sudden? There are several causes. I’m not going to say what I think mine are (#3, #5 and #6)

Here are the most common triggers of a UTI

1 Lady Business—women are more likely to experience UTIs than men due to our anatomy. The close proximity of the female urethra to the ‘out door’ makes it easier for bacteria to make its way up over and up. Men have the luxury of a lengthy urethra. So in this instance, length does matter.

2 The Honeymoom Effect—“Sexy friction” can kick up conditions for bacteria to invade the urethra leading to infection.

3 Dehydration– as though we need another reason to hydrate, but bacteria love it when we’re dry. So wield water as a weapon. Flush, flush, flush…

4 Hold It Right There—not relieving ourselves often enough can create the perfect environment for bacteria to party. As Elsa says, “Let it go!”

5 Swamp Thing—moist chocolate cake=good. Moist yoga pants=bad. Just a theory, but postponing your shower to check email, walk the dog, and do a few chores, in your post-gym super sweaty clothes can be a breeding ground for bacteria. (Um, I just Googled this and though developing a UTI via sweaty sweat pants isn’t likely, there IS a condition called “Sports Vagina.” No, seriously. Though not an ‘official medical condition’, the term describes an itchy, red, odorous situation that may result from sweat and tight, non-breathable clothes. The more you know…)

6 Old Lady Syndrome—I recently found out from my doctor that changes due to menopause can also lead to UTIs. What the? I was only joking when I asked him if “all these UTIs are an old lady thing?” Joke’s on me because they can be.

Lower Estrogen in perimenopause and the full change of life (do we still say that?) can lead to changes in our downstairs environment. This can create an imbalance of the “good” bacteria which can make us Senior Sallys more susceptible to UTIs. As if night sweats and chin hair wasn’t enough. Let’s throw in a burning crotch for kicks, shall we?

Treatment for a UTI

Preemptively, drink lots of water and practice proper hygiene. Also, urinate before sex. Wait, what? This one was news to me. There seems to be some debate about this, so just go with the flow on this one. But definitely pee after sexual activity. #disinfect

Certain foods and juices have been shown to help with UTIs. Unsweetened cranberry juice may help clear up a mild infection and also may prevent them as well.

If you have a UTI, avoid caffeine and alcohol until it clears up. These wonderful liquids sadly can irritate your bladder.

Don’t be a shero. If symptoms persist for more than a day or two, seek treatment.

My doctor prescribed a one time dose of an antibiotic that is specifically made to target UTIs. It’s a powder you mix with water and drink and I have to say, it’s delicious. Add a shot of vodka and you’ve got a bacteria fighting mojito. Oh wait, no alcohol.

That’s okay, you can celebrate with a glass of pinot (pee-no) when you’re all better.

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