The common and debilitating problem of UTIs could be combatted by simply improving one's diet, according to new research.
The curse of the UTI is one that millions of men and women in the UK are familiar with. UTIs are particularly common in women, simply because of the closer proximity of the urethra to the anus - causing an increased likelihood of bacterial transfer.
For years, increased acidity of urine was thought to help prevent infection. However, scientists at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, have recently discovered that this may not be true in the case of UTIs. In fact, the decreased acidity of urine and the presence of small molecules related to diet appear to influence how well bacteria, and consequently infections can grow in the urinary tract.
Siderocalin is a protein that is part of the body’s natural defence against infection, depriving bacteria of the iron needed to grow and spread. In the Washington University study scientists found that Siderocalin actually works better in a higher pH, particularly when urine has a more neutral level similar to that of pure water.
Infection was also found to be less likely when aromatic metabolites were present in the urine. These are small molecule, related to diet, which are created in the gut as food is processed and metabolised. Scientists believe some of these metabolites may act as iron binders; they help Siderocalin to hold onto iron, preventing the iron from assisting the growth of bacteria causing UTIs.
What does this mean for treating UTIs?
The findings in Washington University's study suggests the possibility of a new approach and new treatment strategy in relation to UTIs.
The bacteria-busting protein Siderocalin could be given a helping hand in depriving bacteria of the iron it needs to grow; while changes to the diet could increase the proteins effectiveness by decreasing the urine pH and increasing metabolite production.
Of course, cranberries have long been recommended as treatments for UTIs such as cystitis. And the latest research helps to shed a little more light on why drinking cranberry juice, for instance, can be so effective in alleviating troublesome symptoms. Cranberries are known to increase metabolite production, thus making it harder for bacteria to grow.
Significantly, treatment based on diet and manipulation of urine pH would allow treatment of recurring infections, which can be less responsive to current antibiotic treatment. Also, the risk of side effects would also be lessened. For instance, dietary-based treatment would not disrupt levels of natural bacteria in the body in the way current antibiotic treatments can.
What is a UTI?
Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs) are one of the most common infections treated by GPs and pharmacists. Millions of people in the UK will suffer from a UTI during their lifetime and women in particular are susceptible to recurring infections. In fact, 50% of women will develop at least one UTI during their life.
Cystitis is perhaps the best known UTI, although it is an infection that specifically affects the bladder rather than the tract of the urethra itself. included within the umbrella term of UTIs, but is an infection specifically of the bladder.
UTIs cause a number of uncomfortable symptoms. These include dysuria (a pain or a burning sensation when urinating), a need to urinate often, and pain in the lower abdomen. Some UTIs clear up naturally after a few days, but some patients require antibiotic treatment to get rid of the infection, particularly those in which the infection is reoccurring.
If you’re suffering from cystitis or another UTI then you may wish to seek the help of your local pharmacist. The most common medication prescribed for infections such as cystitis is Trimethoprim which works by killing certain types of bacteria. Taking Trimethoprim two times a days for three days is effective in treating cystitis and is available to purchase online at Express Pharmacy.