Diet tips for UTIs and cystitis
Dietary tips such as reducing your intake of inflammatory ingredients including processed meats, fizzy drinks and artificial sweeteners, plus, including more water for optimal hydration, sources of fibre to support your gut and good bacteria balance, and, including sources of cranberry for additional urinary tract protection; can all help manage symptoms of UTIs and cystitis.
Diet and UTIs
Cystitis is the inflammation of the bladder, and this inflammation is more often than not caused by an infection in the bladder. For many people this infection can be recurring and difficult to shift – and for some, cystitis can occur without any infection at all! Such as in the case of interstitial cystitis.
Many people suffering from recurring cystitis or interstitial cystitis look for natural methods or lifestyle adjustments that can help reduce their chances of developing cystitis and ease symptoms – and diet is one of the most important factors to consider. You are what you eat!
Our diets are too often full of things that can irritate the bladder, cause inflammation or reduce our immune system and allow infection to take hold.
Therefore, maintaining a generally healthy and balanced diet will help keep your body strong and more efficient at protecting itself from infection.
To help you out, I’ve got some tips of more specific things to focus on:
What to eat or avoid during a UTI
Whilst diet is important for managing UTIs and cystitis, so are other areas such as stress. So, you shouldn't be looking to make unsustainable changes to your diet and lifestyle that you simply can't keep up or which cause you more stress than good!
However, every little helps, and sometimes small changes can make all the difference to really getting on top of recurrent symptoms.
Eat or drink more...
Firstly, let's focus on the positives. Rather than worrying about cutting lots of food groups out, what helpful dietary ingredients could you work on adding more of in?
This is one of the most important tips, so if you can’t do anything else, at least do this! Drinking more water helps dilute urine, meaning it is less concentrated, and therefore less likely to irritate the bladder.
Nasty bacteria love stagnant urine, so drinking more water means that you will naturally empty your bladder more frequently, which means that bacteria don’t have time to multiply in the bladder.
Keeping hydrated also keeps the body in generally better condition, by helping the metabolism of energy from food, and the transport of nutrients around the body.
2. Complex carbohydrates
Complex carbs include brown bread, brown rice, wholemeal flour, quinoa, beans, and starchy, root vegetables such as potatoes, sweet potatoes and parsnips.
Getting more fibre into your diet will help prevent and relieve constipation (a symptom readily associated with interstitial cystitis, especially). Many complex carbohydrates are rich in fibre, so increasing these will help.
In addition, try to add in some seeds and nuts: I recommend picking up a packet of milled flaxseed/linseed from your local health food store, as these can really easily be added to smoothies, cereal, yogurt and (healthy) home baking. Linwoods have a really great, varied range, with added seeds, nuts or fruit for extra nutrients.
3. Cranberry juice
This is a slightly tricky one, as fruit juice, in general, is considered to be slightly acidic in the body, so can sometimes irritate the bladder, and often contains added sugars.
But cranberry juice is an exception, and researchers surmise that it can help prevent bacteria from sticking to the walls of the bladder, which makes it difficult for an infection to grow there.
If you want to try cranberry juice, make sure to buy fresh, not-from-concentrate juice such as Biotta's Mountain Cranberry Juice.
Why not read our blog for more on what the research says when it comes to Cranberry Juice for cystitis.
Alternatively, try our Cranberry Complex, a daily supplement which contains extracts of fresh cranberries, alongside other bladder-friendly herbs.
4. Vegetables, especially those that are green or leafy
Spinach, kale and broccoli are particularly good options. These are good for your whole body, are packed with vital nutrients and support the immune system – and obviously, the immune system is vital when it comes to detecting and handling any unfriendly bacteria, before they can take hold.
5. Fresh fruit
Fruit is packed with vital vitamins, minerals, fibre and unique phytonutrients, all of which, help support your whole body and contain the nutrients you need to encourage optimal immune functions.
Make sure to get in your 5 portions a day – and remember, variety is key.
6. Natural yoghurt
Good quality natural yoghurt can be a good source of good bacteria to help keep your bad bacteria in check, which should help reduce the chances of an infection starting in your bladder.
Alternatively, why not try some probiotic supplements. I recommend Optibac’s For Women, which contains bacteria that are clinically proven to reach your intimate area alive, which is great for preventing infection caused by bacteria coming up the urethra.
I also often recommend pairing this with For Every Day, a daily probiotic which helps keep your gut bacteria happy, which supports the immune system and helps you to get the maximum nutrients you can from your food. Both For Women and For Every Day are suitable for vegans, making them a great alternative to live yogurt.
7. Don't forget the prebiotics
Arguably, a first step before even turning to the probiotic supplements; why not consider a prebiotic.
Molkosan contains L+ lactic acid which helps to create an environment in which friendly bacteria need to thrive.
Combine this with your fruit and veg intake in a delicious smoothie: try the Molkosan Fruit Smoothie, it’s delicious! Please note that Molkosan is not suitable for vegans.
Eat and drink less...
Next up, which foods or drinks can be helpful to limit?
1. Acidic or inflammatory foods
More acidic foods can include tea, coffee, other caffeinated drinks including fizzy drinks, alcohol, processed meats.
These are more pro-inflammatory in the body and will only risk irritating the bladder or digestive tract further and exacerbating inflammation in and around these areas.
2. Simple carbohydrates
Simple carbs include sources of refined sugar, sugary foods and foods containing white flour, such as white bread or white rice.
See, nasty bacteria or similar micro-organisms love sugar and simple carbohydrates and thrive on them; so stop feeding them and they will struggle to survive!
What about supplements to help?
You might want to consider taking a vitamin and mineral supplement alongside a healthy diet. This acts as a backup to make sure you get all the vitamins and minerals you need from your diet – in particular, nutrients which are harder to come across in foods, such as zinc and vitamin D. This helps keep your body and immune system in tip-top condition, and ready to fight off infections before you even notice any symptoms.
You can also try Uva-ursi & Echinacea Complex. Uva-ursi is a fantastic herb which activates when it reaches the bladder to help cleanse it and prevent bacteria from growing there.
Handily, our complex also contains Echinacea, which helps support the immune system and its appropriate responses.
Originally published in August 2016, updated in June 2022