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A urinary tract infection (UTI) is caused by bacteria.
Drinking alcohol can’t cause UTIs, though it can indirectly influence other risk factors like:
UTIs affect people of any age and sex, though they mainly affect women.1, 2
A UTI is an infection of the urinary system. It’s usually characterized by pain or a burning sensation during urination.
Bacteria, particularly Escherichia coli, cause UTIs. These germs live in the skin near the anus and urethra. They are usually harmless.
Once bacteria enter the urethra, they can trigger various types of UTI:3, 4, 5
Some UTIs don’t have any symptoms. If symptoms occur, they may include:3, 4, 6, 7
Risk factors of a UTI include:
Women are more prone to UTIs than men.
In the U.S., up to 60% of women will have at least one UTI in their lifetime. In men, only 12% will be affected.1, 2
The distance between a woman’s urethra and anus is shorter than that of men. This makes the urethra more accessible to bacteria.
Women also have a shorter urethra, allowing bacteria to reach the bladder faster.
During intercourse, there is a high chance that bacteria will be pushed into the urethra.
Sexually active women are more likely to get UTIs than sexually inactive women. Having multiple sexual partners also increases UTI risk.7
Hormone levels change during pregnancy, menopause, and post-menopause. This causes several body changes that make women more susceptible to UTIs.1, 8
Diabetes and certain diseases that weaken the immune system can increase the risk of UTI. If you have a weak immune system, your body will have a hard time fighting infections.9, 10
A patient with a urinary catheter has a 3 to 7% increased risk of getting a catheter-associated UTI.11
Some contraceptives, like diaphragms and spermicidal foams, are linked to UTIs.10, 12
Kidney stones and an enlarged prostate can increase UTI risk by trapping urine in the bladder. Urine might sit in the bladder longer than usual if the person has undergone surgery.9
Impaired bladder function and abnormal urinary structures (like a narrowed urethra) may also prevent the bladder from emptying completey.10
Some people are genetically predisposed to UTIs.10
UTIs are caused by bacteria.
Alcohol can’t cause UTIs. However, it can indirectly increase the risk of a UTI through other factors:
Alcohol consumption can indirectly increase UTI risk through sexual activity, particularly in women.
Alcohol can lower inhibitions, which may lead people to engage in sex. Frequent sex means a higher chance of developing a UTI.7
People have a higher risk of getting infections if they drink alcohol. This is because alcohol can weaken the immune system.
If you have a weak immune system, your body will have a hard time fighting infections like a UTI.13
Alcohol irritates the bladder. This can worsen the symptoms in a person with an existing UTI.14, 15
A painful bladder is a common UTI symptom. But it can be also be caused by other factors like:
Two reasons why you should avoid alcohol if you have UTI:
Alcohol is acidic and can cause bladder irritation. This can happen whether or not you have UTI.
It’s worse, though, if you already have the infection.14, 15
As UTIs are caused by bacteria, antibiotics can cure them. However, alcohol can interfere with certain medications.
Take sulfamethoxazole/trimethoprim (a common antibiotic for UTI) as an example.
If you take this medication with alcohol, you’ll experience unpleasant side effects like nausea, flushing, and increased heart rate.16
Here are other foods and drinks that can cause bladder irritation and worsen UTI symptoms:14, 15
Here are some remedies that can help if you have a UTI:
Several studies have linked UTI and infrequent urination due to low fluid intake.17, 18, 19
Drinking plenty of water flushes out bacteria from the bladder. This also reduces the concentration of bacteria along the urethra.
Evidence is mixed on the effectiveness of cranberry juice. However, it remains popular as a natural remedy for a UTI.5, 20, 21, 22
It contains proanthocyanidins, chemicals that can block bacteria from sticking to the bladder lining.23, 24, 25
Probiotics are live microorganisms that provide various health benefits.
You can find them in fermented foods like kimchi, kefir, kombucha, sauerkraut, and yogurt. You can also take them as supplements.
Inside the digestive tract, probiotics can restore the good bacteria destroyed by antibiotics.
There are reports that Lactobacillus, a common probiotic, prevents UTI in adult women.25, 26
There’s evidence that D-mannose is effective in treating and preventing UTI.27
It’s a type of sugar found in some fruits (like apples and peaches) and vegetables (like cabbage and broccoli).
A UTI doesn’t always cause symptoms.
If you do have symptoms, that means your body can no longer handle the infection on its own. If left untreated, UTI can become more severe once it spreads to the kidneys or bloodstream.
It would be best if you see the doctor in the following cases:6
The doctor will ask you for a urine sample. The testing lab will look for white blood cells, red blood cells, proteins, bacteria, and other microorganisms.
Sometimes, they will do a urine culture to determine which antibiotics will work for you. They may also do an ultrasound or a CT Scan to check if your urinary tract is normal.
After the tests, the doctor will prescribe an antibiotic. You must complete the entire course of treatment. If not, the infection may return, or you may develop antibiotic resistance.
The doctor may recommend other remedies to relieve any discomfort. This includes pain relievers, drinking plenty of water, and heating pads for pelvic and back pain.
The doctor will also advise you to avoid alcohol, caffeine, and other foods and drinks that can cause bladder irritation and worsen UTI symptoms.3, 10
Despite mixed evidence, cranberry juice remains a popular home remedy for UTI.
However, don’t drink it if you’re taking a blood thinner called Warfarin. This drug may interact with cranberry juice and cause unusual bleeding.28
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