UTIs are bacterial infections of any part of the urinary tract causing inflammation. More than half of all women in the UK experience a UTI in their lifetime and around a quarter have recurrent episodes. Most UTI bacteria move up from the colon (large intestine), but they might also be caused by bacteria from the vagina.
Lactobacillus are the primary bacteria in the vagina of healthy women as they are anaerobic and survive in this area. This species of bacteria is known to prevent potentially infective bacteria from entering the urinary tract.
Most UTIs are caused by a single species, Escherichia coli, which can attach to the lining of the bladder, kidney or urethra and then multiply and cause infection. In small numbers, E. coli lives alongside the good bacteria in the GI tract, but when the environment changes, E. coli can grow and become infective.
There is increasing clinical evidence to support the use of probiotics in UTI management. The mechanisms by which they have an effect have been shown to include balancing the immune system, reducing the bacteria moving up from the intestines and preventing bacteria from colonizing and surviving in the urinary tract. Research suggests that taking a well-balanced probiotic offers UTI-prone women support in boosting immunity generally and by displacing pathogenic bacterial strains in the gut, the colon, the vagina and the urethra.
Other nutrients that have been shown to help with managing UTIs include cranberry extract and a natural sugar called D-Mannose. Vitamin C supplements have also been shown to be helpful.
Finally, following a healthy balanced diet, drinking plenty of water and reducing intake of sugary food and drinks can also help to support immunity generally and to maintain the balance of healthy bacteria throughout the body.