Urinary tract infections are the second most common type of infection, according to the National Kidney and Urologic Diseases Information Clearinghouse, accounting for roughly 8.3 million doctor visits every year. They develop when bacteria clings to your urethra -- the tube that carries urine out of your body. Although foods do not cause UTIs, healthy dietary habits may help prevent or support medical treatment in reducing your symptoms.
Because nutritious foods may strengthen your body's resistance to infections, eating primarily low-nutrient foods may increase your risk for a UTI. Once you have one, cutting back on refined foods, such as white bread and sugar, red meat and commercially prepared cookies, cakes, crackers, french fries and processed foods, may improve your symptoms, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. Alcohol and caffeinated beverages, such as coffee, tea, energy drinks and soft drinks, may worsen your symptoms.
Blueberries, cranberries and unsweetened cranberry juice contain natural substances that help prevent bacteria from binding to bladder tissue, according to the UMMC, lowering your risk for UTIs. Once an infection occurs, fiber-rich foods such as beans, lentils, whole grains, raspberries and artichokes, may help reduce your symptoms. Colorful fruits and vegetables, such as berries, citrus fruits, tomatoes, broccoli and bell peppers, provide plentiful antioxidants, which support your body's ability to resist and heal from infections. For added benefits, choose primarily healthy fat sources, such as olive oil, nuts, seeds and avocados and replace red meat with lean protein sources, such as tofu, beans and fish. Yogurt and kefir contain a beneficial form of bacteria called probiotics, which may also help prevent UTIs.
In a study published in the "American Journal of Clinical Nutrition" in March 2003, researchers analyzed the dietary habits and UTI symptoms of 324 women in Finland. Women who consumed fresh juices, particularly berry juices, and cultured milk products containing probiotics experienced significantly fewer UTI symptoms compared to women who did not. The researchers concluded that dietary habits may be a significant risk factor for UTI recurrence and suggested dietary guidance as a valuable first step toward prevention.
If you suspect a link between your diet and your urinary health, seek guidance from your doctor or dietitian. Because food allergies may play a role in UTIs, the UMMC recommends eliminating potential allergens, such as wheat, corn, dairy products and food additives. Dietary supplements may help alleviate nutrient deficiencies, particularly if you have difficulty eating a healthy, balanced diet. Supplements that may help manage UTI symptoms include basic multi-vitamins, probiotic supplements and omega-3 fatty acids, which may reduce inflammation. To avoid side effects and interactions with medications, seek pre-approval from your doctor.
- National Kidney and Urologic Diseases Information Clearinghouse: Urinary Tract Infections in Adults
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Urinary Tract Infection in Women
- "American Journal of Clinical Nutrition"; Dietary Factors Protecting Women from Urinary Tract Infection; Tero Kontiokari et al.; March 2003