If you’ve felt it… you know that burn.
The dread washes over you…it’s back again.
You know what’s in store: the burning, of course…constantly feeling like you need to find a bathroom… another trip to the doctor for a urine sample…And probably another round of antibiotics.
That’s life when you’re struggling with recurrent urinary tract infections (UTIs).
And based on the number of women I see with this issue…recurrent UTIs are a major issue that gets very little attention from mainstream medicine.
(In fact, your doctor might not even want to admit it’s happening.)
But if it is happening to you…I’m not being dramatic when I say it’s like a recurrent nightmare.
Today I want to shine a big, bright light on this common issue: explaining not just WHY it happens, but steps you can take to treat existing UTIs and keep them from coming back.
Why Did I Get The First UTI?
If not normal, UTIs are actually very common in women. It’s simply a matter of anatomy: women have shorter urethra, and with the proximity of various openings (you know what I mean), bacteria transfer is inevitable.
Other factors that increase the risk of UTI include:
- Sex (especially with a new partner, who is introducing new bacteria)
- Exercise (especially in tight-fitting pants)
- Holding urine
- Hormone fluctuations
Most UTIs are caused by naturally occurring E. coli bacteria that hangs out in the gut. If you have more of that bacteria in your gut, it’s also more likely some of it will migrate down to the urinary tract and cause issues.
My main point here is that there shouldn’t be any shame around getting a UTI – it happens! But if they’re happening over and over again – you don’t have to live that way. So why does it happen?
What Causes Recurrent UTIs
First, I have to tell you an unfortunate truth: The more UTIs you have, the more likely you are to get another.
I know – it’s not fair. But here’s why: the most common treatment for UTIs is antibiotics. Antibiotics wipe out good AND bad bacteria. They don’t discriminate. That can lead to an imbalance of bacteria, weakened immunity, and an easy way for any bacteria that escaped the antibiotic treatment to build back up very quickly. That leaves you at increased risk not just for more UTIs, but bacterial vaginosis and yeast infections, too.
Candida overgrowth can also be a root cause of UTIs. (It’s sort of a chicken-or-the-egg situation, where it’s hard to say if candida came first, or candida was able to flourish because of repeat antibiotic use. Either way, candida has to be treated.)
Recurrent UTIs are also often associated with hormonal contraceptive (the Pill) and long term antibiotic use, such as for acne treatment.
Hormone changes – such as premenstrual – as well as flares of gut conditions (IBS, SIBO, etc.) both also often set off UTIs in my patients.
Recurrent UTIs can also be a sign of an autoimmune-type condition called Interstitial cystitis (IC) that causes chronic pelvic pain.
Depending what the root cause of your recurrent UTIs is, treatment will need to be tailored – but it’s usually some combination of gut microbiome rehab and hormone balancing (more on that to come).
Negative Test Nancy
Remember how I said some doctors don’t even want to admit recurrent UTis are an issue? Part of that has to do with a major testing issue.
The standard UTI test (urinalysis), which looks for white blood cells in the urine to confirm bacterial infection of the urinary tract or kidneys, is not 100% accurate – in fact research has suggested it may be accurate only as much as 30% of the time!
(Because it was designed to detect kidney infections, it uses a threshold for white blood cells that is much higher than many UTIs cause.)
Even worse – the next most commonly used test – a bacteria culture – is based on the now disproven idea that urine is sterile. We actually know urine is teeming with tons of bacteria that should be there…. So a positive bacterial culture doesn’t mean much, either.
And finally, we know that bacteria produce biofilms – I think of them like protective layers of goo on the outside of bacteria – that help them prevent shedding in urine and evade testing.
If you have the symptoms of a UTI, know what it feels like because you’ve had it before, go to the trouble of getting tested, and then get a false negative? It’s incredibly frustrating.
Even if your test is technically negative, you could be dealing with a UTI. There could be multiple causes. There could be multiple solutions. And working with an expert is the best way to suss all this info out.
How To Treat Recurrent UTIs
As I mentioned before, treating recurrent UTIs depends on what the root cause is.
Got crazy PMS that gives you a UTI every month like clockwork? Hormone balancing and healing may be your answer.
Have a wicked case of IBS that comes with a side of UTIs? Gut healing will be key for you.
Been using antibiotics 4x/year for the last 5 years? We’ll need to come up with a customized plan to heal your microbiome and get it thriving again.
Interstitial cystitis at play? I’ve seen patients make major improvements with diet and gut healing work.
But no matter your root cause, if you’ve got a current UTI, we need to take care of it first. (No antibiotics required.)
My method involves:
- Supporting the vaginal microbiome (with both oral and vaginal probiotics)
- Using a biofilm breaker
- Using herbs and supplements to address the infection (more effective and less likely to cause resistance compared to antibiotics, in my opinion)
- Following up with probiotics for preventing recurrent UTIs (this is backed by research)
Normally, I only share my tested UTI protocol with clients…but if you’ve made it this far, I want you to have it, too!
Think of it as a sneak-peek into what working with me as a practitioner is like. I hope it helps.