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The Bladder Dietitian's™ Guide: Top Foods to Prevent UTIs


Picture this: tiny E. coli bacteria, usually from our rear end or our lady parts, decide to take a detour to our bladder, causing what's known as an acute uncomplicated UTI. It's like they're on a misguided adventure, leaving us with symptoms like burning during urination, frequent trips to the bathroom, and a general feeling of discomfort or pain.


Pink E. coli bacteria that cause a UTI

Treating UTIs typically involves a short course of antibiotics. But here's the kicker: while antibiotics save the day, they can also wreak havoc on our body's delicate ecosystem. Long-term use can alter the natural balance of bacteria in our gut and nether regions, paving the way for the rise of multidrug-resistant superbugs (1). Not exactly the superhero ending we were hoping for.


So, what's a girl to do? Prevention is key. And believe it or not, your diet might just hold the secret to keeping those UTIs at bay. But before we dive into the details, it's essential to note that while diet can play a role in both preventing urinary tract infections, there are no foods that help UTI once you're already dealing with one. So, let's dive into the world of UTI-fighting foods together, while also considering which foods to avoid with UTI.


Hydration is Important


Want to give your urinary tract a helping hand? It's as simple as staying hydrated. Drinking plenty of water helps prevent UTIs by flushing out harmful bacteria and also keeps your urinary tract healthy and happy.


You may have other questions about beverages, such as: What to drink for UTI? Is milk bad for UTI? Which juice is good for UTI? Best alcohol to drink with UTI? 


I’m going to keep it short and simple: water is your best friend! And although you may think you can drink water to flush out UTI, that isn’t possible once an infection has begun. So, sip on water throughout the day as part of your prevention plan and use this guide from the US Institute of Medicine to determine your daily water intake needs. 


However, try to steer clear of caffeine. While that morning cup of coffee might be tempting, caffeine's diuretic effect can actually dehydrate you, making it harder for your body to flush out bacteria.


Plant-Based Foods and UTI Prevention


Did you know that your dietary choices could impact your risk of getting a UTI? According to research, people who opt for a vegetarian lifestyle have a 16% lower chance of experiencing uncomplicated UTIs compared to their meat-eating counterparts (2). And here's the kicker – this protective effect is even more pronounced among non-smokers, giving us another reason to ditch the cigarettes and embrace plant-based goodness.


So, what's the secret sauce behind the vegetarian advantage? Well, for starters, vegetarians steer clear of meat, which happens to be a hotbed for the bacteria responsible for UTIs. By skipping the animal products, vegetarians dodge exposure to the primary pathogens that cause UTIs, reducing their risk of infection. Additionally, the changes in the mix of bacteria in the digestive system of vegetarians, including fewer harmful E. coli bacteria, might help reduce the risk of getting UTIs.


However, the perks of a vegetarian diet go beyond just avoiding meat. Plant foods are loaded with phytochemicals – natural compounds with antibacterial properties – that can help fend off UTIs. From cranberries, elderberries, blueberries, and herbs like roselle – they're like nature's little warriors, battling bacterial adhesion and reducing biofilm formation to keep your urinary tract happy and healthy.


And let's not forget about nuts! While more research is needed, nuts may also contain antibacterial compounds that could contribute to UTI prevention (2). So, whether you're a full-fledged vegetarian or just looking to add more plants to your plate, you're giving yourself a leg up in the battle against UTIs. 


Check out my yummy and comforting Vegetarian Shepherd's Pie recipe HERE! And if you also deal with IC (on top of UTIs), you can get your 7-day Vegetarian IC Meal Plan e-book HERE, curated by yours truly, The Bladder Dietitian™. 


Acidify Urine to Decrease Bacterial Growth


Ever heard the phrase "fight fire with fire"? Well, when it comes to UTIs, sometimes it's more like "fight bacteria with acidity." By acidifying urine, we create an unwelcome environment for those pesky bacteria to thrive (3). So, how do we do it? It's all about incorporating certain foods into our diet that naturally lower the pH level of our urine.


This list contains foods that help UTI prevention by making our urine more acidic, which inhibits bacterial growth and reduces the likelihood of infection:

  • Cranberries

  • Plums

  • Prunes

  • Corn

  • Lentils

  • Breads/starches

  • Peanuts

  • Walnuts 


But that's not all – Lactobacillus helps maintain a lower pH level in healthy female urinary and vaginal microbiome, creating an environment with a lower pH level that's less hospitable to UTI-causing bacteria (1). So, by boosting our intake of acidifying foods and supporting the growth of Lactobacillus, we can tip the scales in our favor and keep those UTIs at bay.


Consider Cranberry Supplements


Filled with potent doses of proanthocyanidins (PACs), a recently published study investigating cranberry supplements revealed encouraging findings in the prevention of recurrent UTIs, especially among women who have experienced multiple infections in the past (4).


In the study, women with a history of recurrent UTIs took daily doses of cranberry supplements and experienced a significant reduction in UTI rates compared to those who took a placebo. Not only did the supplements cut UTI occurrences by nearly half, but they also led to a slight improvement in quality of life for participants.


But how do cranberry supplements work their magic? It's all about the power of PACs. These compounds help reduce the number of E. coli bacteria – the primary culprits behind UTIs – in the urinary tract, making it harder for them to cling to cells and cause infection.


The best part? No adverse events were reported, meaning cranberry supplements offered a safe and effective way to ward off those dreaded UTIs (4). So, next time you're browsing the supplement aisle, consider adding cranberry supplements to your arsenal in the fight against urinary tract infections.


The Power of D-Mannose Products


Enter D-Mannose – a natural compound with impressive medicinal and nutritional perks. Derived from food sources, D-Mannose boasts the unique ability to block bacteria from adhering to the cells lining the urinary tract, making it a formidable weapon against UTIs (1).


But what sets D-Mannose apart is its remarkable bioavailability. When taken orally, D-Mannose is rapidly absorbed by the body and safely excreted in the urine, where it gets to work in flushing out those pesky bacteria. You can read my full article on D-Mannose supplementation HERE.


Research has shown that D-Mannose products offer a trifecta of benefits: they can stop harmful bacteria from taking hold in your bladder, fight off tough bacteria that resist multiple drugs, and make antibiotics work even better (1). So, whether you're looking to prevent UTIs or bolster your treatment regimen, D-Mannose products might just be the secret weapon you've been searching for.


Exploring the Benefits of Probiotics


Ever heard of the phrase "good bacteria"? Well, that's where probiotics come into play. When our body's natural balance of bacteria gets out of whack – like when there's not enough of the friendly Lactobacillus species – it can pave the way for recurrent UTIs.


But fear not, because probiotics are here to save the day! By taking probiotic supplements, we can potentially boost the colonization of protective microbes in our urinary tract, outcompete harmful bacteria for resources, and even put a stop to the formation of stubborn biofilms that bacteria love to hide in (1).


Now, not all probiotics are created equal – some strains are more effective at preventing UTIs than others. The highest efficacy was shown with (1):

  • L. rhamnosus GR-1 

  • L. reuteriB-54

  • L. reuteri RC-14

  • L. casei shirota

  • L. crispatus CTV-05 


So, if you're considering adding probiotics to your regimen, be sure to look for these powerhouse strains to give yourself the best shot at UTI prevention.


Prevention is Paramount


Incorporating some or all of the dietary recommendations outlined above into your daily routine can significantly reduce your risk of contracting a urinary tract infection. Remember, prevention is key – once you've been diagnosed, there isn't a specific list of foods to avoid with UTI. By taking proactive steps to support your urinary tract health, you can minimize the likelihood of UTIs and maintain overall well-being.


As The Bladder Dietitian™, I’ve done the research and laid out the evidence-based facts so that you have the most credible information. And please know, you’re not alone. Having dealt with bladder issues myself, I’m one of only TWO RDs in the world specializing solely in Interstitial Cystitis and bladder conditions! 


If you’re ready to find relief, I have so much to offer - find the support and services you need to combat your bladder woes HERE.



Sources:

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC10138837/

  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6992707/

  3. Escott-Stump, S. (2008). Nutrition and Diagnosis-related Care. Wolf Road, IL: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.

  4. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/38214795/


Author: Callie Krajcir, MS, RD, The Bladder Dietitian

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