Can certain food and drink affect my chronic UTI? The simple answer to this question is food may affect you if you have a chronic UTI.
For some people with bladder infections, certain foods and drinks can add to the inflammation in the bladder. This is because substances in certain foods may irritate already sensitised nerve endings in the bladder causing symptoms to worsen.
If you have IBS or another gastrointestinal issue you may find that inflammation from the gut can worsen bladder symptoms due to increased bloating, bowel spasms, diarrhoea and pressure on the bladder. During defecation the stool can press down onto the bladder and urethra producing a sore reaction which can cause pain that lasts for some time afterwards.
Others can experience pain associated with constipation or loading of the rectum with stool which is alleviated by defecation.
What can I do?
- Try keeping a diary and noting which foods or drink cause issues
- Note down any reactions or changes if you exclude or reintroduce these
There are many different diets that could be followed if food causes symptoms to worsen. Becoming gluten, sugar, low carbohydrate or dairy free, or following anti-candida, alkaline or low histamine diets appears to help some people. But evidence is mainly anecdotal and there are no peer reviewed studies to confirm their effectiveness in the management of a persistent UTI.
As a starting point the IC Network have diet information.
Getting the right balance
All responses to trigger foods and drink are very individual. The information provided on this page is not prescriptive. If you think you have a trigger food or drink, they can be reintroduced once the bladder starts to heal and the inflammation reduces.
Many chronic UTI sufferers have noted their own triggers in social media forums as well as known bladder irritants – such as caffeine which is a diuretic/stimulant.
More about diet and supporting a healthy gut.
How much water should I be drinking?
Some people find that drinking 1.5-2 litres of water a day works for them and acidic urine is kept to a minimum. Others can drink less and are unaffected as their bladders are stronger and less inflamed. Anatomy also plays a part in water consumption. No one bladder is the same and this applies to size as well. So some will find that one or two glasses of water will have them rushing to the toilet, whilst others with much larger bladders can drink several glasses before they need to urinate.
The usual rule of thumb when it comes to the colour of urine, regardless of whether you suffer from bladder issues or not, is that it should look the colour of a pale white wine – any darker and the urine is too concentrated which may irritate a sensitive bladder due to uric acid in the urine.
Urine naturally carries the yellow pigment within it but foods and medications can affect the colour of your urine. B vitamins for example can cause a neon yellow appearance. Metronizadole, an antibiotic prescribed to treat Bacterial Vaginosis, can turn the urine a darker colour.
One useful point about hydration to note is that bacteria can ascend the urethra into the bladder within 2-3 hours and then multiply, setting up an infection. Keeping your urinary tract flushed through regular hydration and urination will help prevent this.
Too much water?
Avoid drinking too much water as this will flush out the antibiotics prescribed. When taking medications try to restrict fluids for an hour to allow them to be absorbed.
If you need to provide a urine sample for analysis try to limit fluids for around 3 hours beforehand. Too much fluid and your urine will be too dilute for anlysis by the laboratory or clinician. This will mean a spoiled test and the need for a repeat sample, thus delaying treatment.
Read more about the problems with urine dipstick tests here and the urine analysis here.
What about other types of liquids?
Alcohol does not replace water and can, for some, cause a flare.
Fruit juices, including cranberry may also irritate the bladder due to acidity levels, so if it is a trigger avoid or keep to a minimum when early in treatment.
Carbonated drinks such as sodas or sparkling mineral water contain carbonic acid which can irritate the bladder for some.
Tea or coffee are dehydrating and contain caffeine – a known bladder stimulant, irritant and which also acts as a diuretic. If you struggle with caffeinated drinks perhaps switch to decaffinated versions or herbal teas.
As ever what affects one person in terms of alcohol and non-alcoholic beverages, may not affect another. Some carry on drinking alcohol, tea, coffee and carbonated drinks throughout their infection treatment with no side effects.