How Food Can Affect UTIs

By Deborah Jeanne Sergeant

If you frequently suffer from urinary tract infections, consider your diet. It can make a difference. To better support urinary tract health, consider making a few dietary changes.

Karen Scanlon is certified holistic health practitioner and owner of Intuit Nutrition in Liverpool. She asks clients who experience UTIs about their diet, particularly alcohol and starchy carbs such as white flour and sugar.

“Sugar is always a huge, red flag,” Scanlon said. “Staying away from processed foods is important. Sugar feeds all the stuff you don’t want. Coffee, depending upon the person, can make a difference. The adrenals sit right on the kidneys. Kidneys are part of the bladder organ set. Especially if you have a UTI, don’t have a lot of coffee.”

Scanlon said that to support good urinary tract health, people should eat more beans, sea vegetables like seaweed, dark leafy greens, berries, cucumbers and watermelon.

“If the kidneys are depleted, you’ll want warming spices like cinnamon, clove, black pepper, fennel or anise,” Scanlon said.

Drinking more water can make a big difference in reducing UTIs.

Kelly Springer, registered dietitian and owner of Kelly’s Choice, LLC in Skaneateles, said that water is “crucial to flush out the bacteria. It moves things through and rids the body of toxins. Hydration is a huge point.

“Just by adding water,” she continued, “it’s amazing how much health increases.”

She recommends drinking 20 oz. of water in the morning, 20 oz. at lunch, 10 oz. at snack time mid-afternoon, and 20 oz. around dinner.

“You’ll have less chances of UTIs, decreased joint pain and fewer headaches,” Springer said. “It’s healthier for digestion and supports a boost in immunity.”

And what about the home remedy of cranberry juice? Springer said that cranberries naturally contain an active ingredient that prevents the bacteria from sticking to the urinary tract.

“That’s why cranberries can greatly reduce the risk of recurring UTIs,” she said. “It could be cranberry juice blended with other juices. As a dietitian, I’d rather have you reduce sugar intake, as that can impaired the immune system. You can do dried cranberries as well. Cranberries in jam, dried ones in a coleslaw, or raw cranberries with a little honey, which is delicious. There are lots of ways to use cranberries.”

The recommended serving is 8 ounces daily.

Springer also tells clients to generally support the immune system with protein, which can help ward off UTIs.

“It’s recommended to get 15 to 30 grams of protein at each meal,” she said. “You don’t need more than that because the body can’t store it.

Laurel Sterling, registered dietitian, nutritionist and educator with Carlson Laboratories in Canastota, is also a fan of cranberries for UTI prevention.

“Drink 100 percent juice with tons of water,” she said.

She also said that fermented foods provide beneficial bacteria that support a healthy immune system, such as sauerkraut, Greek yogurts low in sugar, kombucha, kefir, pickles, and kimchi.

She added that it’s important to eat sufficient vegetables and minimize intake of fruit. Although it’s natural sugar, fruit is high in sugar.

“Keep away from sugars and alcohol as much as possible,” Sterling said. “Extra probiotics and cranberry supplements with d-mannose are very helpful.”