UTIs nothing to do with hygiene—and everything to do with your gut

Recurring UTIs (urinary tract infections) have nothing to do with poor hygiene, despite what your doctor may say—it’s because you have poor gut health.

Doctors will routinely hand a woman another course of antibiotics, and suggest she improve on her hygiene—but the drugs are the worst thing to take and will make another infection inevitable.

And although a UTI is the result of E.coli bacteria getting from the intestines and into the urinary tract, it’s nothing to do with poor hygiene.  It’s because there aren’t enough bacteria in the gut to kill off the infection before it reaches the urinary tract.

Researchers from Washington University School of Medicine proved the point in a year-long study involving 15 women with recurring UTIs and 16 others who had never suffered from the condition.   

Both groups had E.coli bacteria, which is responsible for UTIs, but only those who suffered from the problem had a depleted microbiome, the universe of bacteria in the gut.  In particular, they were low in bacteria that produce butyrate, a short-chain fatty acid that fights inflammation.

The women with healthy guts were able to clear E.coli bacteria from their bladders before they infected the urinary tract

Women who take antibiotics weaken their gut microbiome further and make a further infection much more likely.  Although the drugs clear up the immediate symptoms, in the longterm they are making the problem worse.

“It’s frustrating for women who are coming in to see the doctor with recurrence after recurrence of UTIs, and the doctor, who’s typically male, gives them advice about hygiene,” said researcher Scott Hultgren.  “Basically, physicians don’t know what to do with recurrent UTI.  All they have is antibiotics, so they throw more antibiotics at the problem, which is probably making things worse.”

(Source: Nature Microbiology, 2022; 7: 630; doi: 10.1038/s41564-022-01107-x)

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