10 not-so-common questions about UTI causes

5 min read

UTI questions

We scoured the web for some of your most obscure questions about UTI causes, and here’s what we found. (Keep in mind, “cause” is used loosely here. The only thing that truly causes a UTI is bacteria entering the urinary tract. But for the sake of simplicity, we’ll use it here.)

Can eating chicken give you a UTI?

Short answer: Possibly.

Long answer: If you consume poultry or meat contaminated with uropathogenic E. coli — the kind that causes most UTIs — the bacteria could escape the digestive system and make their way into your urinary tract, triggering an infection. Uropathogenic E. coli are not monitored by the USDA, which means the poultry we eat is not routinely tested for the UTI-causing bacteria. And rates of contamination can be high. One 2018 study tested 2,452 samples and found E. coli in nearly 80% of them.

The takeaway: Always cook your poultry to an internal temperature of at least 165 degrees Fahrenheit to kill off bacteria. And whenever possible, go for free-range poultry, which is less likely to be contaminated.

Can a Brazilian wax cause a UTI?

Short answer: Yes.

Long answer: Pubic hair acts as a protective barrier for the vulva. It traps bacteria and creates a cushion between the labia to prevent chafing. So, going bare can expose your vulva to more bacteria and cause irritation — the perfect recipe for a UTI. Waxing also creates micro-tears in the skin through which bacteria can easily enter and create other complications, like folliculitis and staph infections.

The takeaway: Hygiene is key. Make sure your aesthetician wears gloves, uses single-use supplies, and thoroughly cleans the space between sessions. After your wax, take a shower and gently cleanse the area with cool water. And avoid waxes altogether if you experience any irritation or breaks in the skin — it’ll only make it worse.

Can hot tubs cause UTIs?

Short answer: Yes, but it’s rare.

Long answer: There have been notable cases where people developed UTIs within 48 hours after being in a hot tub, specifically from the bacterial strain Pseudomonas aeruginosa. But a 2000 study examining risk factors for recurrent UTIs found no significant difference in rates of infection among women who used hot tubs versus those who didn’t. That said, having sex in a hot tub can up those odds.

The takeaway: If you can resist it, just avoid hot tub sex.

Can spin class cause UTIs?

Short answer: Yes.

Long answer: Just like sex, cycling creates friction, pressure, and heat that can lead to irritation. Paired with tight clothing and opportunistic bacteria, a spin class or an outdoor cycling session can easily lead to a UTI.

The takeaway: Always wear fresh, breathable underwear when biking or spinning and change out of sweaty clothing as soon as possible.

Can you get a UTI from masturbating?

Short answer: Yes.

Long answer: Any below-the-belt sexual activity increases your risk because bacteria from the vagina and anus can find their way into the urinary tract. Penetrative sex puts you at greater risk, but masturbation can also lead to a UTI, especially if it involves prolonged pressure on the urethral area. Direct clitoral stimulation is less likely to lead to a UTI.

The takeaway: Always wash your hands first. And if you’re prone to UTIs, pee after masturbation just like you would after penetrative sex.

Can you get a UTI from wiping with Starbucks napkins?

Short answer: Yes, but unlikely.

Long answer: It all depends on how they’re packaged, handled, and stored. It’s safe to say napkins picked up from a public place will have been exposed to some type of bacteria. Plus, napkins tend to be coarser than toilet paper, so they can irritate the urethra and increase your risk of getting a UTI. And if you’re carrying napkins around in your purchase in case of a pinch, they’ve definitely picked up some bacteria along the way.

The takeaway: It’s best to carry packaged tissues with you. But the body is pretty resilient. Wiping with a Starbucks napkin is not high on the list of UTI risk factors.

Can the keto diet cause UTIs?

Short answer: Possibly.

Long answer: The typical keto diet is high in acidity, with dairy, meat, poultry, and coffee dominating the menu. Consuming lots of acidic foods could disrupt the vagina’s natural pH, making it more alkaline and increasing your risk of bacterial overgrowth. A healthy vagina is acidic by nature, which keeps infection-causing bacteria in check. So any disruption to this delicate balance can leave you open to UTIs.

The takeaway: If you’re going keto, try adding more alkaline foods to your diet, like leafy greens, cruciferous veggies, nuts, and fruits.

Can you get a UTI from a public toilet seat?

Short answer: Unlikely.

Long answer: UTI-causing bacteria don’t survive long without a host. They thrive in moist, warm conditions, so a toilet seat is probably not going to give you an infection.

The takeaway: Still, just lay down the seat cover, if only for peace of mind.

Can certain sex positions cause UTIs?

Short answer: Yes.

Long answer: Any sort of penetrative sex ups your odds, but certain sex positions do put you at higher risk for a UTI. Anal sex can notably increase your odds of getting a UTI because E. coli bacteria that live in the anus can easily travel elsewhere. And any positions that involve a lot of back-and-forward motion or entrance from behind (like doggy style or reverse cowgirl) can up your odds too.

The takeaway: If you’re having anal sex, make sure not to switch directly to vaginal penetration after. And, as usual, always pee after sex — and drink Uqora.

Can coconut oil as a lube cause a UTI?

Short answer: Probably not.

Long answer: Coconut oil is often touted as a natural antibacterial and antifungal (though the science is fuzzy on this one). So it might actually sound like a great option if you suffer from UTIs, yeast infections, or other vaginal infections. But that hasn’t been proven. And if it was the case, we’d recommend against it anyway, because introducing any sort of antibacterial agent to the vulva could mess with vaginal flora and cause more problems. However, double-dipping is a very real problem with coconut oil or any substance that comes in a tub. If you’re sticking your fingers into it over and over, you’re introducing bacteria that could, in fact, cause a UTI when transferred to your skin.

The takeaway: If you like it, go for it. It’s better than using a synthetic lube. Just avoid dipping your fingers directly into the container.


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