Could your toiletry bag be contributing to UTIs?

Which bathroom cabinet essentials could be putting you at risk?

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Qualified Nutritionist (BSc, MSc, RNutr)
@EmmaThornton
Ask Emma


21 December 2018

1 – Antibiotics

If you suffer from recurrent urinary tract infections (UTIs), then you might have antibiotics on standby, but is it possible that they could be making your symptoms worse in the long term? Whilst antibiotics may be necessary to get some stubborn infections under control initially (although read my blog if you’re not sure), unfortunately as well as fending off the bad bacteria that are likely to be contributing, they can also harm the balance of our good bacteria. 

See, we not only need sufficient good bacteria to help keep troublesome digestive symptoms at bay, but also to help protect against infections caused by bad bacteria or yeast which can give rise to uncomfortable episodes of UTIs, cystitis, thrush or candida. 

Top tip: 

Don’t take antibiotics unnecessarily. If a course is required to help get things under control, my advice is to always take a course of probiotics alongside them and otherwise, using our Uva-ursi & Echinacea drops may be appropriate to help get that niggling infection under control. Be sure to always ask your doctor if you aren’t sure.

2 – The pill

Whilst it isn’t clear cut and it may depend on what type of pill you’re on as well as a number of other factors, the pill and the balance of hormones which it provides could potentially be having an influence on your risk of UTIs. Read my blog for a more detailed insight!

Top tip:

If you suspect your symptoms could be linked to hormones, my tip is to keep a periods symptoms diary, or download a free app, to allow you to more easily track what’s going on. If your symptoms tend to crop up around the same time each month, then this is a sure sign that hormones could be having an influence. 

If you’re on the pill or another form of hormonal contraceptive, don’t be afraid to chat to your doctor regarding this. They could try switching the balance of hormones to help better suit your needs and this could make all the difference!

3 – Soaps

Whilst most of us will jump in the shower without a second thought, your personal hygiene regime could potentially be having an influence if you suffer from persistent UTIs. The area in and around your urinary tract has a specific pH balance which naturally helps to fend off bad bacteria, so if we upset this balance by using harsh soaps or body washes, we can give bacteria the opportunity they need to thrive. 

Soaps and body washes can also risk drying out your skin and the delicate mucous membranes that line your urinary tract. If these special membranes become drier, then they also become more susceptible to damage. 

Top tip: 

Did you know that during menopause our mucous membranes are more at risk of drying out? An omega-7 Sea Buckthorn oil supplement  can help to keep them moist and lubricated (down below but also all over), whilst you might want to consider trying a probiotic supplement in combination, especially if you experience other symptoms such as thrush too.

4 – Bath products

Similar to the idea of soaps, bath products can also cause unnecessary irritation. It’s also a common myth that sitting in a bath can help relieve symptoms of cystitis (there’s even talk out there that peeing in the bath can offer relief – ew!), however in reality, perfumes, additives and bacteria that could be lingering in your tub (or from the rest of your body) might not be the best solution. Read my blog for more cystitis myths uncovered!

Top tip:

Showers might be preferable over baths when it comes to stubborn UTIs (if the warmth is comforting, opt for a hot water bottle to lay on your lower abdomen instead). But, whether you’ve decided to opt for a bath or shower in the end, why not try switching to some gentler personal hygiene products if you’re struggling to keep outbreaks of cystitis at bay? 

Our friends over at Jan de Vries have a nice variety of natural body wash products if you’re  looking to try something new.

5 – Wet wipes

Wet wipes are one to consider too: in some cases they could help to keep your symptoms under control, however, if wipes are a staple in your toiletry bag yet you suffer with recurrent UTIs, it might be useful to consider what they’re doing and how exactly you’re using them. 

Bacteria tend to thrive in moist, warm conditions so the wipes could be adding to some of that extra moisture. Next, half the battle when it comes to UTIs or cystitis is keeping bacteria out of the wrong places. Wet wipes may well help to leave you feeling cleaner initially, but just remember to always wipe front to back and never in the other direction or this could only add to your problems. 

Top tip: 

If wet wipes are a go-to in your toilet bag, why not opt for a gentler version. Natracare intimate wipes are a good option to help you feel fresh, but you won’t need to worry about all the nasties which could leave you feeling irritated.

6 – Lubrication

When it comes to UTIs or cystitis, especially if you’re a regular sufferer, bedroom habits should also be something to consider. Again lubrication may be helpful for you, especially if you feel that dryness is an issue for you. Dryness in and around the vagina and urinary tract can create the perfect opportunity for bacteria to thrive and we know that issues such as thrush and cystitis are often closely related.

Top tip:

So, it’s definitely not to say you should have to refrain from having sex if you’re a sufferer of recurrent cystitis or UTIs, but it’s important to ensure that dryness isn’t exacerbating your symptoms and it’s important to keep cleanliness before and after sex top of mind too. Always remember to go to the loo straight afterwards!

7 – Sanitary products 

Sanitary products are a necessity until we reach a certain age and menopause, however could the product you’re picking be having an influence on the incidence of UTIs? Sanitary towels or tampons can harbour bacteria if they aren’t changed regularly enough, so it’s important to keep on top of that, and also, dryness is another factor to consider. Don’t use too great an absorbency rating, also go lower and change more often where possible.

Top tip: 

Did you know that sanitary products are often bleached to make them look white? Unsurprisingly, this extra ingredient can cause unwanted irritation and dryness and, remember, this can put you more at risk of subsequent infections! 

If you want a gentler approach, why not opt for more natural, untreated sanitary products and as an added extra, a female probiotic can help to stave off UTIs or thrush if you’re more prone to these types of infections around the time of your period.

8 – Anti-diarrhoeal meds

If episodes of looser bowels put you on edge, then you might have a packet of Imodium or something similar in your toiletry bag, handy in the case of emergencies. However, did you know that altered bowel habits and instances of cystitis could be linked? This can all come down to an altered balance of bacteria in your gut. Bad bacteria can often be at the root of the cause when it comes to altered bowel habits, and this is also the root cause of cystitis too – go figure!

Top tip:

If you think digestive issues could be tied in with your inability to shift those UTIs once and for all, then we’re here to help. Why not sign up to our free digestion campaign, 5 Steps to Better Digestion, where our Digestion advisor Ali runs through 5 days worth of advice and product picks to help get your digestion and related symptoms back on track.

Uva-ursi and Echinacea – for cystitis

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Can cystitis and thrush be linked?

If you suffer from both recurring thrush and cystitis, or find that when you develop one, the other follows soon after, you’ll know how frustrating it can be.

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Here’s what I recommend

Emma our women's health advisor recommends Uva-ursi complex to help ease symptoms of cystitis and cranberry to maintain bladder health.

Learn more

Did you know?

Cystitis is sometimes known as ‘honeymoon cystitis’. Why? Well, during sex, bacteria can spread from the perineum to the urethral opening. The risk of developing cystitis is therefore increased depending on the frequency you have intercourse (sorry honeymooners!).

7 reasons you keep getting cystitis

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