UTI 101: The Antibiotic Challenge
What’s worse than experiencing a urinary tract infection (UTI)? For as many as 30 percent of all women, it’s knowing that they may experience another UTI at some point over the following six months.
Several variables can play a role in making women more vulnerable to recurrent UTIs than others, according to the Mayo Clinic:
- Estrogen levels changing during menopause.
- The shape of your urinary tract.
- Bacteria invading your urethra during sex.
- The presence of bladder or kidney stones.
The common bacteria issue that triggers a UTI, at least 85 percent of the time, is exposure to E. coli bacteria.
Typically, physicians prescribe a round of antibiotics to treat a UTI, usually with good success. But what happens in cases when these infections happen repeatedly and why?
Bad Bacteria In Hiding
A team of scientists from Washington University School of Medicine, Harvard and MIT tracked the health of 31 women over the course of a year, including 15 with histories of recurrent UTIs, via blood and urine samples taken at the start of the study period and stool samples collected every month.
During those 12 months, 24 UTIs were diagnosed and only from women who had already experienced infections. When patients were diagnosed with a UTI, additional blood, stool and urine samples were taken, according to the study appearing in Nature Microbiology.
Interestingly, researchers found the presence of E. coli had nothing to do with repeat UTI infections.
The real difference-maker among women experiencing recurrent UTIs was a more common problem: A less diverse balance of healthy gut bacteria, allowing more disease-causing species to hang around and multiply.
Also, women with recurrent UTIs had microbiomes that contained low amounts of bacteria that produce butyrate, the short-chain fatty acids created when the gut processes soluble fiber that reduces chronic low-grade inflammation.
Better Options For Treating UTIs
Although more laypeople understand the problems with taking antibiotics and sometimes taking multiple rounds of them, the ones who don’t seem to be doctors…
Many physicians who ignore the connection between UTIs and good gut health prescribe antibiotics in a vacuum hoping that throwing more drugs at the problem will eventually solve it. Unfortunately, that strategy often makes things worse, according to Dr. Scott Hultgren, co-senior author of the study.
The women in the group with no recurrent UTIs were better able to clear the bad bacteria before they caused problems than those experiencing recurrent infections due to “a distinct immune response to bacterial invasion of the bladder potentially mediated by the gut microbiome,” says lead study author Dr. Colin Worby.
“Our study clearly demonstrates that antibiotics do not prevent future infections or clear UTI-causing strains from the gut, and they may even make recurrence more likely by keeping the microbiome in a disrupted state.”
There are plenty of things you can do to avoid a UTI that have nothing to do with taking a drug, from following good hygiene practices to staying hydrated and avoiding products that irritate your urethra.
And, if you’re looking for solutions for handling a UTI or preventing one from reoccurring, consider taking a probiotic with multiple species of beneficial bacteria from the Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus families like EndoMune Advanced Probiotic.