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Women's Health

UTIs: A Common Woe

A Painful Problem
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Prevention Is Best

Antibiotics can only do so much to alleviate these symptoms, says Christiane Northrup, MD, a woman's health specialist in Maine. While the drugs may eliminate the bacteria causing the infection, they also can kill "helpful" vaginal bacteria. In turn, she says, you'll be less prepared (at least until the helpful bacteria repopulate after the drugs are stopped) to defend against future UTIs and yeast infections, and possibly suffer from diarrhea.

Once a UTI has cleared, preventing a subsequent one can avoid another round of antibiotics and the problems it may cause, says Sander. The National Kidney Foundation agrees. The organization recommends drinking at least eight 8-ounce glasses of water a day, which encourages you to visit the bathroom more often and gives your body additional opportunities to flush out any residual harmful bacteria.

Washing your genitals with soap and water every day (especially before and after sexual intercourse), taking a shower instead of a bath, wiping from front to back after bowel movements (to limit the introduction of intestinal bacteria), urinating after sexual intercourse, and urinating when you need to rather than holding it are also helpful in limiting unwanted bacterial migration up the urethra to the bladder.

Taking It Into the Kitchen

Supplement these precautions with a few home remedies. Many doctors recommend drinking unsweetened cranberry juice, which may prevent bacteria from adhering to the wall of your bladder, making them easier to flush.

Cranberry juice too sour for you? Try 1,000 to 2,000 mg of vitamin C every day. It has the same effect, Northrup says. It's a good reason to drink vitamin C-rich orange juice or other citrus juices instead of coffee, soda pop, or other beverages containing caffeine, which may irritate your bladder lining. Doctors also recommend avoiding alcohol and spicy foods for similar reasons.

These precautions may sound like a lot of work, but not for Sander, who has weaved UTI prevention into her lifestyle. After quelling two full-blown infections with antibiotics, she began to drink copious amounts of water and cranberry juice. She says she believes that her precautionary attitude has kept another infection -- with its excruciating pain -- at bay.

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