Recurrent UTIs and the IC Connection
Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are one of the most common bacterial infections among women. More than half of women will experience a UTI in their lifetime, and when they do, it can cause severe discomfort and pain. Many people with interstitial cystitis (IC) especially struggle with chronic UTIs. While UTIs and IC are distinct conditions, they share a common connection. Exciting new research is showing how an imbalance of bacteria could be at the heart of the two illnesses, and many more.
What is a UTI?
A UTI is an infection in the urinary system, which includes your bladder, kidneys, ureters, and urethra. While an infection can affect any of those parts, the most frequent type of UTI is caused by the occurs in the lower urinary tract, or the bladder and urethra. Despite your body’s best efforts to protect itself, when it is unable to remove the bacteria quickly enough or to restore microbial balance, it can result in infection. Certain factors can put you more at risk of developing a UTI, including having female anatomy, being sexually active, using certain types of birth control, and menopause. UTIs are considered recurrent if you experience two or more infections over a period of six months.
What are the symptoms of a UTI?
UTIs do not typically go away on their own. That is why it is critical to recognize the signs and begin to address it as soon as you can. Symptoms can depend on which part of the urinary tract is infected. However, characteristic symptoms can include:
- A strong and persistent urge to urinate
- A painful or burning feeling when urinating
- Only urinating small amounts at a time
- Urine that is cloudy, strong-smelling, or reddish in color
- Muscle aches or pains, including pelvic pain for women
- Involuntary leakage of urine
How are UTIs and IC connected?
It used to be believed that the human bladder was a sterile organ that could only be infected by pathogens or microorganisms that invade a host and cause illness. However, new research is challenging that understanding. Today, it is recognized that good bacteria called microbiota can exist in the bladder of a healthy adult. When the bacteria become unbalanced, it results in what is known as microbial dysbiosis, which can, in turn, result in several urinary conditions, including UTIs and intersitial cystits. So, rather than UTIs and IC being caused by an external invader, they could actually be caused by the loss of good bacteria that is already there.
This is an exciting finding because it opens up new avenues for both prevention and treatment of related conditions. Especially for those suffering from IC, it means that by addressing the microbiome in your gut and first restoring the bacterial balance there, you should be able to simultaneously alter the microbiome in your bladder and reduce the occurrence of UTIs and IC symptoms. By working to decrease inflammation in your gut and improve your immune function, you can start to reverse the dysbiosis in your bladder and free yourself from bladder pain and irritation.
How do you treat a UTI?
Working to address the root causes of inflammation and dysbiosis is the first step towards restoring balance and achieving health. While antibiotics can often be prescribed in the case of a UTI, chronic infections put you at risk of developing antibiotic resistance. Antibiotics can also further disrupt the microbial balance in your gut, bladder, and vagina.
If you find yourself with a UTI, make sure to drink plenty of liquids and urinate as often as you can, especially after sex. Eat as clean a diet as you can and eliminate inflammatory foods to ensure your body has the nourishment it needs to heal itself. Taking supplements can also be helpful, including grapefruit seed extract, oil of oregano, probiotics, and D-Mannose.
By focusing on reducing inflammation, boosting your immune system, and restoring the microbial balance in your body, you can help reduce your IC and UTI symptoms simultaneously.