Could the Right Supplement Help you Prevent a UTI?

August 22, 2018 14 min read

Woman holding a leaf up to her face in the fall

For a woman with a urinary tract infection (UTI), relief is crucial. The sooner she can get rid of the infection and get on with her life, the better.

But for women who have recurrent UTIs, prevention is key. Those women who know how to prevent a UTI can keep pesky doctor's appointments, endless antibiotics, and a whole lot of pain away for good.

What's the best way to prevent a UTI? The research points to women's supplements, especially those containing probiotics and D-mannose.

Why Do Women Get UTIs?

Women and UTIs go hand in hand. In fact, according to the European Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology and Reproductive Biology,one woman in three will have at least one UTI during her lifetime.

To put this in perspective, the Sultan Qaboos University Medical Journal reports that the UTI ratio of women to men is 8 to 1. That means for every eight women who get a UTI, only one man does.

Women get UTIs more frequently than men due to anatomical differences between the sexes. A woman's urethra is shorter than a man's. This means bacteria has a shorter distance to travel in order to move from outside the body to the inside.

In addition, as the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists points out, the opening of a woman's urethra is in front of the vagina. During sexual activity, bacteria near the vagina can move into the urethra, and once there, they can proliferate.

In a study in the American Journal of Emergency Medicine, researchers found that 70 percent of UTI cases were caused by Escherichia coli (e. coli). This pathogen is commonly found in the intestinal tract, and it moves out of the body with fecal matter. A woman could be introduced to e. coli strains when things that touch her backside (like fingers) brush up against the urethral opening.

UTIs can also be triggered by bladder health issues. Urine is the perfect growth medium for bacterial cells, and they thrive in the warmth and dark of the bladder. Women with medical conditions that prevent the complete emptying of the bladder can harbor and support the growth of bacteria. Women who require catheters to empty the bladder can also be susceptible to UTIs, as bacteria can move up the catheter and into the bladder.

UTIs and Traditional Medicine: Developing Issues

Since UTIs are caused by bacteria, they're treated with antibiotics. The right type of antibiotic can help to kill off the colony, so it won't continue to grow and spread. That's vital, because the bacteria that cause a UTI can move into the kidneys, and a kidney infection can be life-threatening. Antibiotic treatment is the best way to keep that from happening.

Unfortunately, the bacteria that causes UTI symptoms can be sensitive. If bacterial cells are exposed to antibiotics repeatedly, which might happen if you have UTIs over and over again, those cells can become resistant to the power of antibiotics.

When antibiotic resistance sets in, infections can grow larger and larger. That can lead to severe illnesses that can only be treated in the hospital.

Researchers writing in the journal Open Forum Infectious Diseases examined the rate of UTI hospitalizations between 1998 and 2001, and they found an increase in the number of cases of 76 percent. The rate of increase was twice as high in woman when compared to the rate of increase in men. This statistic suggests that people treated with traditional antibiotics when they get a UTI just aren't getting the cure they need. Their infections persist and worsen until they need help in the hospital.

Researchers are (reasonably) worried about statistics like this. If bacteria continues to grow stronger and stronger, doctors have few tools available to save the lives of people who have infections.

Some researchers suggest that antibiotic resistance can be addressed through the judicious use of the medications. If they're only given when they're absolutely required, these researchers suggest, fewer resistant cells will appear.

The other solution proposed is different. A doctor writing in ACEP Now suggests that UTIs are over-diagnosed in the United States, and that many things that seem like a UTI could be something else altogether, including vaginitis or cervicitis. This doctor suggests that antibiotics shouldn't be given unless it is absolutely certain that a woman has a UTI and not something else. A woman in this situation would have to wait until her test results came back with a definitive diagnosis.

While it's quite possible that some women diagnosed with a UTI have something else altogether, and it's possible that some women get antibiotics too early, women who hope to ride out their symptoms and wait to seek help until the diagnosis seems clear could face very serious consequences.

The Trouble with At-Home Treatments

Few women with a raging UTI can watch and wait for their symptoms to fade. The burning and the pain are incredibly distracting, and the need to urinate can keep a woman locked in the bathroom for hours. There's no way you can work, go to school, or even think straight with a UTI. Every fiber in your being is looking for relief.

There are plenty of lifestyle bloggers and health food gurus that suggest UTIs can be cured with:

  • Raw cranberries
  • Garlic
  • Vitamin C
  • Apple cider vinegar

Unfortunately, there is no evidence to suggest that these therapies actually work for women who are in the midst of an infection. So why do people continue to claim that they do work? The confusion stems, in part, from the way researchers conduct their experiments about women and UTIs.

Consider cranberries. In a study published in the Journal of Medicinal Food, researchers found that cranberry products prevented e. coli cells from adhering to the bladder wall. Researchers suggest that this can keep bacteria from colonizing the bladder, which could result in UTI protection.

It's easy to read a study like this and think that researchers have found an at-home cure for UTIs. Unfortunately, this study isn't about curing an infection in progress. This is a study that is, potentially, about prevention. It explains how a product could make the bladder less hospitable to the beginning of an infestation with colonies of bacteria. It does not explain how to kill millions of bacterial cells that have already set up shop and are doing nicely.

A woman's immune system does have the power to kill off bacterial cells. But unfortunately, researchers suggest that most women simply don't have immune systems that are powerful enough to help them overcome an infection.

In a study published in the journal Archives of Internal Medicine, researchers asked women with UTI symptoms to postpone antibiotic therapy for two days, while other women got the antibiotics they needed without a delay. Of the 113 women who agreed to postpone treatment, only one had a sterile urine culture in 2 days. Of those women who had a large number of bacteria in their urine, only 7 percent had clear cultures in two days. The vast majority of these women were not better when they waited for care. Many of them were worse.

Meanwhile, the women who did not delay in getting medications had a completely different experience. The cure rate among women given a single dose of antibiotics was 84 percent, and the cure rate among women treated for seven days was 98 percent.

Studies like this show just how powerful antibiotics can be in the fight against UTIs. And they demonstrate how futile it is to try to treat an infection at home. Natural remedies don't work, and the immune system can't do the job alone.

So what can women focus on? The answer lies in prevention.

Infographic detailing the benefits of Physician's Choice Women's Probiotics for preventing UTIs

The Role of Probiotics

Probiotics are live organisms that help to support the health or the success of the host they're introduced to. Probiotics are found in natural foods, including yogurt and sauerkraut. They're also found in supplements people can take orally.

Probiotics move through the digestive tract, and they take up residence in spots within the human body where they can thrive. Many cells found in probiotics work best in the human gut, so when we think of probiotics, we often think of cures for diarrhea and irritable bowel syndrome.

But some probiotic strains do best within the vagina. In fact, in a study published in the Journal of Mid-Life Health, researchers wrote that oral intake of some kinds of probiotics can modify the flora found within the vagina. In fact, they said, taking some forms of probiotic normally can, in some cases, bring the flora in the vagina to a level that researchers would consider normal or even optimal.

That matters, because the flora within the vagina has the potential to protect a woman from a urinary tract infection. Researchers writing in the World Journal of Urology report that the organisms that dominate the flora of a healthy vagina can spread from the rectum to the perineum and work a little like a barrier that keeps bad pathogens out.

Probiotics can also be helpful for women who have had multiple antibiotic treatments due to prior UTIs. Antibiotics don't discriminate, when it comes to bacteria. If a cell seems somehow foreign, it is killed with antibiotic therapy. The healthy flora in the gut and the vagina can be completely killed off with antibiotic therapy, leaving a woman open to more UTI attacks.

Probiotics can help to restore a woman's healthy vaginal flora. In a study published in FEMS Immunology and Medical Microbiology, researchers found that only 40 percent of women had normal flora at the start of the study. They suggest that this could be considered an "innate abnormality of women with a history of urogenital infections and antibiotic treatment." After providing supplementation for 28 days, 90 percent had healthy vaginal flora. Clearly, this is a therapy that works.

If probiotics are so helpful for women, why don't doctors tell their patients about them? In an article published by BMJ, researchers suggest that doctors just don't understand how probiotics work, and they're not sure they should tell their patients about them. In a study quoted within the article, only 31 percent of physicians had any knowledge about probiotics.

Just because doctors don't routinely hand out probiotics doesn't mean they don't work. What it does mean is that women may need to be proactive about their own vaginal flora, using probiotics to boost health. In time, doctors will catch on. But women can't afford to wait for that to happen.

Blending in the Benefits of Cranberries

A little earlier in this article, we debunked the belief that cranberries can help to stop a UTI that's already in progress. Now, we'd like to talk about how cranberries might help you to prevent the next UTI.

In order for a UTI to take hold, bacteria must invade the bladder and stick to the bladder wall. Otherwise, those nasty bacteria cells would wash out of the body with the woman's next trip to the bathroom. In order to colonize the bladder, those bacteria cells need to stay put.

Cranberries are packed with Type A proanthocyanidins. That's a fancy way of saying they contain an element that can interfere with bacteria's ability to cling to the bladder wall.

When women are given enough cranberry, they can see a reduction in UTI risk. In research cited by Medical News Today, researchers found that women taking cranberry capsules reduced their risk of UTIs by 50 percent.

It's the capsule part of this study that's important to remember. The women in this study were given capsules that contained the cranberry equivalent of four 8-ounce servings of pure cranberry juice. This isn't the sort of juice that's typically found in the grocery store. That juice is packed with water, sugar, and artificial colors. Some even include grape juice. Cranberry juice, on its own, can be incredibly unpleasant to drink, and most women won't stick with it. The beverages are unpleasant, and each drink can pack a caloric punch. Food producers add ingredients to make the drink tasty, and those added ingredients can reduce potency.

Supplements are different, as they contain the active ingredients women need, without unpleasant tastes or added calories.

Studies that explore the link between UTI and cranberry juice make this clear. In a study published by Mayo Clinic Proceedings, researchers found that cranberry juice had no impact on a woman's risk of UTIs during a 6-month period.

The takeaway here is that cranberry supplements can do what juice simply can't. Cranberry supplements can be a powerful tool for women who want to prevent the next UTI.

But it's vital to remember that this is a tool that should be used for prevention. Even powerful supplements can't be used to cure a UTI in progress.

The Boost of D-Mannose

In order for a UTI to blossom, bacteria needs to latch onto the sides of the bladder and then multiply. D-mannose is a type of sugar naturally found in cranberries, peaches, blueberries, and other fruits. It has the power, when taken in supplement form, to keep bacteria from adhering. That means it has the power to prevent a UTI or to stop one in its very early stages (before you notice symptoms).

The research on D-mannose has been incredibly exciting. For example, in a study published in the World Journal of Urology, researchers gave D-mannose to some participants, while giving placebo medications to other groups. At the end of the study, 98 women in 308 had a recurrent UTI. Of those, just 15 were taking D-mannose. All the others took placebo.

This is a fascinating study, as it demonstrates how D-mannose has the power to stop an infection from taking hold in otherwise healthy women. Other studies have shown how D-mannose can be helpful for women at risk for UTIs due to other medical conditions.

Women with multiple sclerosis, for example, have a high risk of UTIs. The condition can keep women from fully emptying the bladder, and that retained urine can be an ideal growing medium for bacteria. Some women with multiple sclerosis also need a catheter, and that can provide a direct pathway into the body for bacteria.

In a study in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery, and Psychiatry, researchers found that the number of UTIs women with multiple sclerosis had dipped dramatically when they took D-mannose, and that was true whether the women had catheters or not.

Researchers have also examined the long-term use of D-mannose, hoping to understand whether it might be effective for women to take for months on end, whether they had UTI symptoms or not. In a study in the journal European Review for Medical and Pharmacological Sciences, researchers found that just 4.5 percent of women who took D-mannose for 6 months had a recurrent UTI, compared to 33.3 percent of women who did not take the supplement.

Clearly, D-mannose has power. But you must take supplements to get the benefit. The element is present in fruit, but at low amounts. You need to take a supplement, which has concentrated amounts of D-mannose, in order to experience the real benefit.

Other Prevention Steps to Try

While there aren't reliable ways to treat a UTI at home, there are many things you can do to prevent an infection from taking hold.

Wipe From Front to Back

As we mentioned earlier, UTIs are often caused by e. coli bacteria, which commonly live in the digestive tract. Those bacterial spores can be scattered on your backside, and when you wipe down after a bathroom visit, you may move bacteria along by wiping back to front.

Research backs up this claim. In a study in the journal Acta Obstetricia et Gynecologica Scandinavica, researchers found that wiping back to front was associated with a greater UTI risk, when compared to wiping front to back.

Don't be stingy with toilet paper. Wipe just once from front to back, and get a new batch if you need to wipe again.

Drink Plenty of Water

In an overview article in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, researchers examined all the studies between dehydration and UTI, and the results were inconclusive. Some stated that drinking extra water helped, while others said hydration didn't matter.

The authors report that the studies were old, and deficits in design of the studies could account for the confusion. But in general, they said the case for adding extra water to prevent UTI is sound.

The more water you drink, the more often you'll need to visit the bathroom. Each visit gives you the opportunity to push bacteria out of your body, so it can't latch on and cause harm. And a bladder that is well hydrated tends to avoid inflammation, which can also lead to UTI.

Clean Up After Sex

You exchange more than tender feelings with sex partners. In a study in the Journal of Infectious Diseases, researchers found that e. coli cells isolated from the male partner were often found in the urine of female partners. In these cases, the man's e. coli cells had infiltrated and caused the infection. The woman's e. coli cells (which had unique chemical markers) were not to blame.

Make sure to keep things clean during sex. Don't allow toys or body parts used in kinky sex acts to also be used in your vagina unless they're sterilized first. Head to the bathroom right after sex, and clean up with warm water. Make sure your partner does the same before you engage in sex again.

Avoid Spermicides

Spermicides can help you avoid getting pregnant, but they can also irritate the lining of the vagina, and that inflammation can tax your immune system and disrupt vaginal flora. This makes your body a perfect host for bacteria and a resultant UTI.

Spermicide gels and foams should be avoided, and research suggests that even condoms could cause trouble. In a study in the American Journal of Epidemiology, researchers found that among women exposed to spermicide-treated condoms, those products were responsible for 42 percent of their UTIs.

There are plenty of condom types out there that do not contain spermicides, and they could be a better choice for women hoping to avoid a UTI.

Avoid Diaphragm Use

A diaphragm works best, according to the American Pregnancy Association, when it is combined with a spermicide. Women who use a diaphragm without spermicides can experience failure rates of 20 percent or more.

Spermicides have been connected with UTIs, but diaphragms themselves have also been associated with UTI risk. While they're easy to clean, some women don't clean them properly and store them under ideal conditions. That means they can be vectors for infection, which can lead to a UTI.

Frequently Asked Questions

Does D-mannose really work against urinary tract infections?

Yes. Research published in the World Journal of Urologysuggests that women who take this supplement see a significant decrease in the risk of a recurrent UTI, when compared to women who don't take D-mannose. Studies like this show that the supplement really does work.

How do I permanently cure urinary tract infections?

Urinary tract infections must be treated with antibiotics, and women must take the antibiotics per doctor's orders until all the pills are gone. Women who follow this plan should see their UTIs fade away. Then, they should find a supplement that contains probiotics and D-mannose, and focus on at home prevention (wiping back to front, drinking plenty of water, avoiding spermicides, and cleaning up after sex) to keep the infection from coming back.

How does cranberry juice help your urinary tract?

Cranberry juice does not help your urinary tract. Commercial cranberry juice is loaded with sugar, and often contains different types of juice (like grape), which render the impact of the cranberry worthless. Cranberry supplements are much more potent, and they do have the power to help keep bacterial cells from sticking to the walls of the bladder.

Does D-mannose come from cranberries?

D-mannose is found in many different fruits, including cranberries, blueberries, and peaches. Supplement makers may use any of these fruits to make the products they'd like to sell to their customers.

Is D-mannose safe to take every day?

Yes. In a study published in the World Journal of Urology, researchers gave D-mannose supplements to women for six months, and side effects were rare. This was a study of the supplement's use in preventing UTIs, and the women who took the supplement had added protection, when compared to the women who did not.

Women who have one UTI are at risk for another one, and D-mannose seems safe for women to take for months, if not years.

Will D-mannose help a kidney infection?

Kidney infections and UTIs are closely related. Often, the bacteria that causes a UTI moves up through the urinary tract into the kidneys, and once there, an infection begins. D-mannose can help to prevent UTIs, and that could help to prevent kidney infections. But D-mannose cannot cure a kidney infection already in progress.

How much D-mannose should I take?

Every product comes with a different dosing schedule. Follow the dosing recommendations given by the producer of your supplement.

One Supplement, Many Benefits

At Physician's Choice, we believe in simplifying your supplement solutions. We offer you just what you need, from sources you can trust. And we make shopping easy. We've combined the power of probiotics with cranberries and D-mannose to create the perfect supplement for women who care about beating the next UTI. Each pill also contains prebiotics, so your probiotics will have the food they need to thrive.

All of our products are professional grade and third-party tested, so you'll know that you're getting the quality and potency you need. Our supplements are made from natural, non-GMO ingredients. They're free of chemical coatings, heavy metals, yeast, pesticide residues, and other contaminants. These are supplements you can trust.

We'd love for you to try our supplement for women. Order yours here.