Urinary tract infections are common infections caused by bacteria that travel up the urethra, the tube that allows urine to flow out from your bladder. Left untreated, they can spread to your kidneys, causing an infection known as pyelonephritis, which requires antibiotics. Although nutritional factors haven't been shown to play a role in causing or preventing kidney infections, eating well can help ensure overall wellness and normal recovery. Certain foods may also lower your risk for future infections by keeping your immune system strong and your urinary tract healthy.
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Foods for Nausea and Vomiting
Nausea and vomiting can accompany kidney infections, worsening fatigue and making it difficult to meet your energy, nutrient and fluid needs. To prevent these effects, the University of California San Francisco Medical Center recommends eating frequent, small portions of low-fat foods, for digestive ease. Stick to mild-tasting foods, such as crackers, skinless baked potatoes, poached eggs and plain toast, until nausea subsides. Salty foods, such as crackers, canned soup and salted potatoes, can help restore sodium, an electrolyte you lose through vomiting that your body needs for proper function. To keep your fluid levels up, consume plenty of liquids, such as broth, gelatin, ice pops and herbal tea.
Foods for Immune System Strength
Once you're able to eat more normally, nutrient-dense foods can help ensure strong recovery and your body's ability to combat and resist additional infections. Choose whole grains, such as brown rice, quinoa, air-popped popcorn and oatmeal, for lasting energy and more nutrients than refined grains like white flour. Protein enhances tissue repair and strengthens immune function. Your best bets are lean sources, such as beans, low-fat yogurt and fish instead of fatty sources, such as red meat and whole milk, which increase inflammation. The omega-3 fats in oily fish, such as salmon, reduce inflammation and play an important role in immune function. Berries, citrus fruits, dark, leafy greens and other colorful fruits and vegetables are major immune system supporters, supplying rich amounts of antioxidants.
Cranberries for Prevention
Cranberries contain substances known as proanthocyanidins, which may help prevent harmful bacteria from attaching to urinary tract cells, guarding against infection. While research findings are mixed, a study published in "The Journal of Urology" in August 2012 showed that children who routinely consumed cranberries with high proanthocyanidin concentration for one year were 65 percent less likely to develop UTIs than children who consumed a placebo. Cranberries also contain valuable amounts of immune-strengthening antioxidants and healthy carbohydrates. If you're prone to UTIs, incorporate cranberries or pure cranberry juice into your diet for maximum potential perks.
Probiotics for Bacterial Balance
Probiotics, healthy bacteria prevalent in cultured dairy products, may also help prevent urinary tract infections. Although more research is needed regarding the benefits, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center, sources such as yogurt and kefir can make nutritious additions to your diet. Each also provides immune-boosting protein. For a low-sugar, antioxidant-rich option, top plain yogurt with fresh fruit, or combine yogurt and kefir in a smoothie. To make sure a product contains probiotics, look for live active cultures, such as lactobacilli and bifidobacteria, on the label.
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Urinary Tract Infection
- National Kidney and Urologic Diseases Information Clearinghouse: Pyelonephritis: Kidney Infection
- University of California San Francisco Medical Center: Diet Modifications for Nausea and Vomiting
- MedlinePlus: Electrolytes
- Linus Pauling Institute: Nutrition and Immunity, Part I
- McKinley Health Center: Macronutrients: the Importance of Carbohydrate, Protein and Fat
- American Heart Association: Whole Grains and Fiber
- The Journal of Urology: Cranberry Juice for the Prevention of Pediatric Urinary Tract Infection: A Randomized Controlled Trial