Staying hydrated is at the top of the UTI prevention commandments, but is that all there is to fending off chronic cystitis?
JAMA Internal Medicine recently published a study that concludes increasing daily water intake by 1.5 liters could keep recurrent UTIs away. And, in case you missed it, the Internet loved these findings.
What does this study tell us?
- Researchers focused on 140 premenopausal women who reported three or more episodes of cystitis per year. Cystitis, or a bladder infection, is a type of UTI.
- The sample size was randomly split into two groups:
- One group drank their normal daily fluids plus and additional 1.5 liters (almost 6.5 cups) of water per day over a 12 month period.
- The control group drank their usual amount of fluids for 12 months.
- The study discovered that women who drank an additional 1.5 liters of water per day had 50% fewer bouts of recurrent cystitis than women who did not drink additional amounts of water.
What is it about water that reduces recurrent cystitis?
It’s the amount of water. “The benefit of increased fluid intake for prevention of cystitis is thought to be from dilution and flushing of bacteriuria, thereby reducing attachment to uroepithelial cells, reducing nutrients for growth, and/or improving clearance,” the study authors explain. Basically, the more you pee, the easier it is for bacteria to be flushed out of your bladder.
This study is great because water is cheap and accessible. Even if you drink tap water. But we shouldn’t be exactly jumping for joy.
Everybody’s UTI experience is different. The reader comments below the New York Times article about the study illustrate how drinking more water works for some, but not others. One reader comments, “Sometimes, you just have a weird kink somewhere in your anatomy that shelters bacteria, regardless of how much water you drink (I drank so much water, I almost made myself sick). UTIs are, in my opinion, more of a chronic problem than many women realize.” Another writes, “This study matches my experience -- I can often stave off a UTI by drinking more water than I usually do. However, if you get frequent UTIs, try wearing loose-fitting pants. For me, wearing tight jeans is the number one trigger of symptoms.” UTI prevention hacks and UTI triggers vary for people, so why are we buying that drinking more water is some groundbreaking cure-all?
The women in the control group averaged 3.2 urinary infections over one year, while those who drank extra water averaged 1.7. Yes, having less UTIs is great, but nearly averaging 2 UTIs a year is still too many UTIs.
So is this really the best we can do –– water?
60% of people with vaginas will develop a UTI in their lifetime, and about 25% more will have another UTI in 6 months. Up to 75% will have another within a year. Recurrent UTIs have been a major public health issue for decades. UTI treatment accounts for 15% of antibiotic use, which adds to the growing problem of antibiotic resistance. For years we’ve been misled by ineffective cranberry products and even blamed ourselves for not drinking enough cranberry juice when getting a UTI. Now every time a UTI comes on it’s because we aren’t drinking our 1.5 liters a day?
Staying hydrated is an obvious UTI defense, but we can’t ignore the fact that chronic cystitis is a complex condition complicated by biofilm, anatomy, age, and health conditions. Furthermore, the study only focuses on premenopausal women but we know that postmenopausal women are at a heightened risk for UTIs.
The bottom line:
While reducing cystitis episodes 50% by drinking more water is a simple and affordable solution, so many of us who've been struggling with UTIs have already been doing that—for years. If you want more control over cystitis, don’t settle for stale solutions, dressed up as new. Aim for prevention with Uqora.