Coping With UTIs

Finding Support and Living Well

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Urinary tract infections (UTIs) can disrupt your daily routine, but there are plenty of ways to keep your infection from getting the better of you. Along with following the treatment plan prescribed by your doctor, you can boost your emotional and physical wellbeing by making simple adjustments to your everyday habits.

Emotional

For many people, the pain and discomfort of UTIs can lead to emotional stress or have a negative impact on mood.

To keep your pain in control, consider using mind-body techniques to help you cope.

For example, recent research suggests that practicing meditation may enhance mood in people with chronic pain. You can also try soothing your stress with deep-breathing exercises, or simply listening to music that lifts your spirits or calms you down.

Physical

In addition to keeping up with your prescribed treatment, there are a number of ways to improve your wellness when dealing with a UTI. Here’s a look at several strategies that may help support your treatment plan.

Increase Your Fluid Intake

Although drinking plenty of fluids is always essential for good health, it’s especially important when treating a UTI. By guzzling water, you’re helping to clear your urinary tract of bacteria at a faster rate. What’s more, drinking plenty of water is crucial in transporting antibiotics to the urinary tract, so that the medication can do its work and knock out the infection.

For optimal hydration, a common recommendation is to aim for at least eight glasses of water per day. Some people need more, and some less (depending on factors like age, body weight, and medical conditions), so you should ask your doctor how much is appropriate for you.

And as you increase your water consumption, cut back on beverages that might irritate your bladder, including coffee, alcohol, and soda.

Empty Your Bladder More Often

Drinking more water means you’ll feel a more frequent urge to urinate. While the pain of UTIs may tempt you to hold it in, it’s best to follow through on that urge. That’s because emptying your bladder helps your body eliminate the infection-causing bacteria, which may help you recover more quickly.

Ease Pain With a Heating Pad

To soothe the discomfort of a UTI, try cozying up with a heating pad. When applied to your lower abdomen, heating pads can help lessen bladder pain or pressure. You may also find relief by soaking in a warm bath.

A Word About Cranberry Juice

It’s often claimed that drinking cranberry juice (or taking cranberry supplements) can help combat UTIs, with some proponents suggesting that the vitamin C in cranberries can curb the growth of infection-causing bacteria.

However, studies testing the UTI-fighting effects of cranberries have yielded mixed results so far. To that end, some recent research (including a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 2016) has found that cranberry may be of no benefit in reducing UTIs. If you're not sure whether it may benefit you, be sure to speak with your doctor.

Social

Secondary only to pneumonia, UTIs are one of the most common types of infection.

In fact, some statistics show that a woman’s risk of contracting at least one UTI during her lifetime may be more than 50 percent.

That means there’s no shortage of people who understand the pain and frustration of UTIs, and who may offer you support in coping with your symptoms. To that end, online support groups can be a great resource for those struggling with recurrent UTIs.

Practical

If you suffer from recurring UTIs, seeking medical attention at the first sign of a new infection is one of the best ways to take control of your health.

For people with chronic conditions that may interfere with personal care (such as multiple sclerosis), seeking hygiene support may also be helpful in treating and preventing UTIs.

Sources:

Hickling DR, Nitti VW. “Management of recurrent urinary tract infections in healthy adult women.” Rev Urol. 2013;15(2):41-8.

Hilton L, Hempel S, Ewing BA, et al. “Mindfulness Meditation for Chronic Pain: Systematic Review and Meta-analysis.” Ann Behav Med. 2017 Apr;51(2):199-213. 

Juthani-Mehta M, Van Ness PH, Bianco L, et al. “Effect of Cranberry Capsules on Bacteriuria Plus Pyuria Among Older Women in Nursing Homes: A Randomized Clinical Trial.” JAMA. 2016 Nov 8;316(18):1879-1887. 

National Institute of Child Health and Human Development Information Resource Center. “How many women are affected or at risk for UTIs & UI?” December 2016.