Most people enjoy going out with friends for an adult beverage from time to time, and it’s fairly common to consume a little more alcohol than recommended once in a while. Of course, most people are aware of the outcome of too much liquor, both short and long term. However, the average person doesn’t think about how alcohol can be related to urinary tract infections. For that matter, many different drinks have an effect on the urinary tract and how high the risk factor is for a UTI.
What does it mean to have a UTI?
The body carries bacteria naturally, but there is a balance of good and bad bacteria. In the urinary tract, it’s not normal to find bacteria, but sometimes, they enter through the opening in the urethra. Under certain circumstances, bacteria can settle in and flourish, which leads to an infection.
Symptoms can be irritating most of the time, and in some circumstances, completely debilitating. They include:
- Frequent, sudden, and urgent need to urinate
- Pain and burning when peeing
- Urine that is smelly, cloudy (contains pus), or discolored (contains blood)
- Incontinence or inability to empty the bladder
- Slow or intermittent urine stream
- Pain or pressure in the pelvis, lower abdomen, or lower back and flanks
- Low grade fever
When the infection progresses into the kidneys, where there could be several complications, a person may also experience a much higher fever, chills, nausea and vomiting, and unbearable pain in the lower back.
UTIs and alcohol consumption
Because UTIs are often caused at least partially by dehydration, it may seem intuitive that alcohol be avoided when one has developed. Alcohol is a diuretic, which keeps the bod drained of fluid, and this can further exacerbate symptoms of a UTI. However, what most people don’t realize is that alcohol consumption can actually cause the UTI in the first place.
- Harmful to kidney function. The kidneys are tasked with maintaining temperature and blood pressure, as well as regulating waste management and hydration. Excess alcohol consumption makes the kidneys have to work harder to filter out the harmful substances in the body, as well as causing too much fluid to be taken from the body and excreted, causing dehydration. In large quantities, alcohol can eventually lead to kidney disease. In addition, blood pressure can suffer, and the lack of proper hydration can damage the liver through improper blood flow.
- Vasopressin. This is a hormone that the body creates, which triggers the ability to reabsorb water as needed rather than allowing the kidneys to flush it out. This is a response necessary when the body is dehydrated. Alcohol actually inhibits the production of this hormone, and that causes multiple issues. First, once you have gone to the bathroom, you’ve triggered a diuretic response, and without vasopressin, the need to urinate will continue, until the body has harmed itself in excreting all the fluid it can.
- Sugar. Many alcoholic beverages are loaded with sugar. Sugar in the urine is a wonderful source of nutrients for bacteria, causing them to proliferate in the urinary tract and cause infection.
While a drink now and then isn’t going to create a harmful environment in the body, even a couple of drinks can cause problems for someone already prone to UTIs, and heavy alcohol consumption, or drinking on a regular basis, can lead to frequent infections.
Other drinks to avoid
It’s important to consider which beverages will cause more problems and pain when there is a UTI involved. Anything that acts as a diuretic, or causes a person to urinate more frequently, is an issue. Also, sugary beverages can be detrimental to health and cause more persistent symptoms. Some drinks to avoid during a urinary tract infection include:
- Coffee. The caffeine is both a diuretic and an irritant to the digestive and urinary tracts. If a boost in energy is needed, try taking a vitamin B supplement.
- Soda. Both the regular and diet versions are harmful, with sugar in one and caffeine in both. Don’t bother replacing the bubbly beverage with a citrus (lemon-lime) sugar free and caffeine free version, either. The acidic content can be just as much of a problem.
- Fruit juices. Anything highly acidic, such as orange and pineapple juice, can cause increased irritation and inflammation in the bladder and urethra.
Beverages to ease the pain
On the other hand, there are plenty of drinks that can help soothe the pain, as well as keep the body more hydrated during a UTI.
- Water. Water will always be the top recommendation for hydration and can help flush out the bacteria as it is killed with antibiotics. Even without an infection, six to eight eight-ounce glasses of water a day are recommended for proper health and hydration.
- Cranberry juice. No, cranberry juice will not cure a UTI. However, the antioxidant properties in full flavor, no sugar added cranberry juice can help ease the effects of symptoms, and it is good for preventative measures.
- Herbal teas. Be sure to choose a tea without caffeine, and consider one with soothing properties, such as chamomile or jasmine.
- Apple cider vinegar. It’s fermented, so it has probiotics, and it contains a number of vitamins and minerals that are supportive to the health of the bladder and urinary tract.
When it comes to having a UTI, it’s important to avoid anything that is going to make symptoms worse or make it more difficult to overcome the infection. In addition, utilizing any home remedies available to help relieve symptoms while waiting for antibiotics to take effect can increase quality of life and ability to maintain daily activities for that space of time. Most of all, making sure to take preventative action is crucial. Avoiding drinking too much or too often is essential not only to avoiding a UTI but also to making sure that several other problems don’t occur, ranging from liver and kidney disease to cognitive issues.