Urinary tract infections are unpleasant for some women IBS sufferers
Article by Sian
IBS and UTI's
IBS seems to increase the likelihood of urinary tract infections in women.
UTI’s are miserable. At the least they can be irritating; at the worse they can be agonizing. Some-one described it to me as trying to “urinate fiery acid through a pinhole” and that is an apt way to explain the pain.
The causes of UTI's
Urinary tract infections are caused by bacteria entering the urethra. usually the bacteria will be flushed out when we urinate, which is why doctors advocate drinking a lot of plain water, but sometimes it will multiply and cause an infection.
The most common is cystitis. This can sometimes cause a kidney infection, known as pyelonephritis, which is much more serious.
In women the incidence of UTI's is much higher than in men, due to the fact that the urethra is situated very close to the anus. Fecal bacteria, such as e-coli, can be spread more easily. The male prostate gland also produces a secretion which neutralizes bacteria.
Sexually active women may also be prone to bladder infections, and this is sometimes known as 'Honeymoon cystitis'. Bacteria may also enter the urethra through unclean toilets. Diet may be a factor; the bladder wall can be irritated by certain foods or drinks and become more susceptible to an infection.
The connection between IBS and Urinary tract infections
People suffering IBD-D (Diarrhea prevalent) may find it hard to properly cleanse themselves and this can spread the bacteria easily from the anal area to the urethra.
It is worth mentioning that some women experience diarrhea and IBS symptoms at the time of menstruation. If one is at home then it is advisable to properly clean the private area. This is much more difficult if one is at work, traveling, using some-one else's bathroom or public toilets.
There does seem to be some connection between IBS and UTI's, and while it may be due to diarrhea and the contagion of fecal matter, there may also be other causes.
I have certainly gone through periods of IBS pain, but without diarrhea and developed a bladder infection. It is not proven, but there appears to be a correlation between the closeness of the bladder and bowels.
I also have what one of my doctors calls Irritable Bladder which can last for weeks. This is not an infection, as I have been tested, but a constant urge to urinate and sometimes soreness of the urethra, but without the intense burning of a UTI. Apparently this can be triggered by a UTI and not much can be done about it, as it is not treatable by antibiotics.
At the moment, the thinking seems to be that women who suffer IBS tent to be prone to UTI's, but there may be several different factors involved.
Treatment of Urinary tract infections
Urinary tract infections are treated easily by antibiotics, and I would advise that if it hurts to pass urine, and it is cloudy and strong smelling, to make an appointment with your doctor as soon as possible, or even go to a walk-in center which treats any-one, if it is quicker and there is one available to you.
My cystitis comes on very fast and is unbearably painful and I admit to begging the receptionists at my doctors. My GP's surgery now knows that I am prone to UTI's and usually see me. I have had to go to the walk-in center at times however.
I would also advise that the next time you go to your doctor's, ask for a urine sample tube, so that you can have a sample ready for them to test as soon as you go in. If you have pains in the region of your kidneys, please do tell the doctor as a kidney infection is worse than cystitis.
Your surgery should also automatically send a sample to the local hospital so that it can be tested for the most effective antibiotic, as there are several which can be prescribed.
During your UTI drink plenty of water and Cranberry juice and take vitamin C, all of which have been recommended to me by more than one doctor and Triage nurse.
Apparently some women find passing urine so painful that they stop drinking so they will not have to try, but of course, the bacteria need to be flushed from the bladder.
I have also found that the antibiotics do work swiftly so that urinating is not so painful a short while after taking them. It has been suggested that it is best to take an antibiotic before going to bed at night, as it maximizes the concentration of the drug in the urine.
A hot water bottle on the stomach may help the pain, and adding eight to ten drops of Tea Tree oil to a bath is said to kill the bacteria which causes both Urinary tract infections and yeast infections (Thrush).
Prevention of Urinary tract infections
I am sure we UTI sufferers have heard these recommendations so many times!
After using the toilet always wipe front to back, to avoid spreading fecal matter to the urethra opening. If you need to clean and are at home, this would be advisable.
Some people are fortunate enough to have bidets, which are solely for the purpose of washing after using the toilet.
If you are in a public place or some-one's house be prepared. You can buy wet toilet wipes - rather like baby's wet-wipes - which are sold in packs and can be put into a handbag.
This is something I intend to research, since my doctor has told me to be clean ' but not too clean.' He said that the danger of highly perfumes bath creams, soaps, shower gels, vaginal douches, sprays and wipes, kill the friendly bacteria and do more harm than good.
I do not know at this moment if wet toilet wipes contain any ingredient which kills both friendly and harmless bacteria, but I intend to find out.
I have also been advised not to use perfumed bath foams or soaps, but only un-perfumed vegetable soap. I do add Tea Tree oil to my bath water, and every-one should rinse their private parts with clean water before getting out of the bath to wash away soap residue.
Before moist toilet tissue was available, I used to tear off a large sheaf of cotton wool pleat and tuck it in a compartment of my handbag, to moisten it and wipe with it. I had seen relations do this to their baby's bottoms to finish cleaning them. It was makeshift, and at that time I did not know what caused bladder infections, I only knew that diarrhea could be messy and that I did not feel clean using dry toilet paper alone.
Sex and Urinary tract infections
Sexually active women can also be very prone to Urinary tract infections, to the extent that some will develop a bladder infection every time they have sex and may be prescribed a continuous dose of antibiotics.
The position a woman adopts during intercourse may push bacteria into the opening of the urethra, and a change in the position may be worth considering.
All women should ensure their bladder is relatively (not painfully) full before sexual intercourse, and empty it within fifteen minutes of sex, so that the urine can flush away any bacteria. Again, vaginal douches should not be over-used, since they can ‘over-clean' and kill the friendly bacteria.
If a woman washes her private parts after intercourse and urinating, it should be with clean water, a little un-perfumed soap and gently, so as not to herself push any remaining bacteria into the urethra. She should then rinse thoroughly. It would also be beneficial to drink a glass of Cranberry juice or a large glass of water so that she may need to urinate again not long after.
As a doctor said to me, the urethra is a warm, moist environment and perfect for the breeding of bacteria. I was advised not to wear anything tight around the crotch, jeans or trousers or tights (pantyhose) but rather leggings which contain Lycra and thus stretch skirts and stockings.
Any-one prone to UTI's should drink a lot of plain water and empty their bladder when they feel the need to. The urine should be straw colored. Dark urine indicates that you are not drinking enough water.
Fruit juices to help with Urinary tract infections
There does seem to be a real benefit to raking Cranberry juice - and I will also add Blueberry, since there is a specific tannin found in these two fruits which prevents bacteria such as e-coli sticking to the walls of the bladder.
There have been trials which show that a daily consumption of Cranberry Juice - one glass in the morning, one at noon and one in the evening - can prevent recurring infections. One such trial I read of stated that women who took Cranberry juice each day post infection, had remained free of UTI's for two years.
It has also been noted that many people stopped drinking the juice, and that it's taste is not popular, but Cranberry capsules are also effective.
A friend of mine in Germany swears by Bearberry capsules, sometimes the North American Cranberry is known as Bearberry, although there are other species and was mentioned in 13th century Welsh manuscripts as a medicine.
When taking the juice, look for a brand with a high concentration of pure juice, over 20%. It should be one of the first ingredients after water. The highest concentration I have found is 25%, although I am looking into finding purer juices.
Another remedy which I have recently read of is Hibiscus juice, said to posses seventeen times more antioxidant anthocyanins than Cranberry juice.
The anthocyanins help to prevent the bacteria adhering to the bladder wall. It is also said to be more palatable than cranberry juice, but I have not been able to find it in any shop in the area and will be contacting the manufacturer of Simply Hibi, who distribute the drink.
I would be glad to hear from any-one who has other recommended treatments or preventative measures for Urinary tract infections, or women who suffer both IBS and bladder infections and how they cope with them.
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