Life loves to hit us with double-whammies. Take irritable bowel syndrome urinary tract infections for example. If darting to the bathroom were an Olympic sport, you’d probably be the G.O.A.T. Jokes aside, is there a relationship between IBS and UTIs? While the direct link between IBS and UTIs calls for further research, we’ll walk you through probable explanations and keys for treatment as well as prevention.
First of all, what causes IBS?
Irritable bowel syndrome is a common disorder that affects the large intestine. Symptoms include cramping, gas, diarrhea, alternating bouts of diarrhea and constipation, and mucus in the stool. IBS can be triggered by stress, hormones from your period, or food. While there is no definite answer, IBS might be caused by:
- Nerves in your digestive tract. Misfired signals between the brain and the intestines can result in pain and cramping in the lower abdomen. The miscommunication between signals can cause your body to overreact to changes that naturally happen during the digestion.
- If you have IBS, it could be because you have a high amount of immune-system cells in your intestines. This causes your intestines to become inflamed which is why you feel pain and have diarrhea.
- Your gut microbiome could be off. “Good” bacteria and “bad” bacteria exist harmoniously in your intestines, but with IBS, this good bacteria can is easily overthrown by viruses and harmful bacteria.
What does this have to do with my urinary system?
While the direct link between UTIs and IBS is unknown, health professionals believe there is interplay due to proximity and triggers.
- Your bladder and large intestine are in close proximity to one another and are both are in charge of expelling waste.
- This means that some of the same muscles and nerves facilitate both processes.
- If poorly coordinated signals between your intestines and brain cause your IBS, those nervous system abnormalities could also affect your bladder.
- Urinary retention occurs when the nerve signals between your brain, sphincter and bladder muscles are scrambled. You may try to pee, but the sphincter won’t open up, nor will your bladder muscles squeeze to push out the urine. If your bladder holds urine for prolonged amounts of time, this allows opportunistic bacteria to flourish and cause a UTI.
- If you are prone to UTIs or IBS, stress can aggravate symptoms and lower your immune responses. When you are stressed about your health, social life, family, or work, it could trigger your IBS which could also cause a UTI or vice versa.
- Food can also aggravate IBS and UTI symptoms. Caffeine, energy drinks, spicy foods, acidic foods, citrus and artificial sweeteners should be avoided if you have a UTI. Dairy, wheat, cabbage, and beans can also trigger IBS.
Prevention and treatment
If you feel your UTIs are triggered by IBS or vice versa, take charge and contact your doctor. They can run blood tests, a urinalysis, and stool samples to get you the treatment you need. If your health provider hits a roadblock, ask them to refer you to a urologist or a gastroenterologist.
In addition to seeing your doctor, here are some tips for managing your UTIs and IBS:
- Alter your diet so your large intestine and urinary system can heal.
- Try stress management techniques: mindfulness, meditation, yoga, and hobbies (drawing, coloring, writing, etc.).
- If you are using the bathroom frequently due to your IBS, wipe front to back to avoid spreading fecal matter to the opening of your urethra.
- Stay hydrated. Drink plenty of water and take a water bottle with you on the go.
- Drink Uqora, an effective drink mix that stops UTIs before they start.
- Consider biofeedback. It helps you better understand your body’s functions through electrical sensors and will indicate where to make make changes, and which muscles to relax.
IBS and UTIs have a way of affecting almost every aspect of your life: social, intimate, work, eating habits, and fitness routine. Don’t be ashamed of your health issues, you are not alone. If you are looking for a support group in your area or need someone to talk to, contact the IBS Network.