What is Urinary Tract Infection?

Passing urine is something everyone needs to do to ensure that waste materials don't build up inside the body. Most of the time it’s not something you need to think about, until it becomes problematic. A urinary tract infection or UTI occurs when any part of your urinary system becomes infected, and this can cause you to experience some painful symptoms when you go to release urine.

Urinary tract infections are fairly common in women and can be managed with the right combination of treatment. Read on to learn more about the symptoms of a UTI and how these can be alleviated.

What is a UTI and how is it caused?

The urinary system in your body plays an important role in keeping you healthy. Its main function is to make urine from wastes and extra fluid that can accumulate inside you, enabling you to pass these out of your body easily. It’s made up of three components – the kidneys, the ureters and the bladder.

The kidneys filter your blood continuously to produce the urine, which is then carried through ureters (smooth tubes of muscle) into the bladder. When the bladder is filled your body signals the need to urinate, which empties the bladder and enables the whole process to keep going.

Most types of UTIs are infections of the bladder, caused by bacteria such as E.coli travelling up the urethra (the tube that transports urine from the bladder outside of the body). This type of UTI is called cystitis. If the infection spreads to the kidneys and ureters, it is called pyelonephritis.

While the ideal scenario would be avoiding any type of urinary infection, the (relatively) good news is that cystitis tends to be more common and is more easily treated. Pyelonephritis is considered to be an upper UTI and requires more serious medical attention.

In most cases an infection of the bladder will be manageable if it is treated sooner rather than later, so it’s important to understand what the symptoms are and what you can do about them. If the issue is left untreated for too long the bacteria can spread to the kidney and cause more serious problems.

Symptoms of a UTI

Unfortunately a UTI may not always give you warning signs through physical symptoms. However, if symptoms do arise they will normally include feeling a strong and repeated urge to urinate. You may feel an unpleasant burning feeling when you do pass urine, and you may only be able to release small amounts at frequent intervals throughout the day.

The urine itself might look cloudy, red or pink-tinged and it may also be accompanied by a stronger smell than usual. Women are more likely to get a UTI and the infection has a stronger likelihood of recurring.

Treatment options

Antibiotics are a common treatment for UTIs, but the humble cranberry can also be a powerful solution. As an antioxidant, cranberries help to fight the damage from free radicals in the body. They may also play an important role in preventing a UTI from happening at all.

Researchers believe cranberries contain certain chemicals that prevent bacteria from adhering to the cells lining the inside of the urinary tract. This reduces the risk of these harmful bacteria being able to multiply and wreak havoc on your urinary system.

A 2008 study from the Worcester Polytechnic Institute supports this statement, showing that cranberry juice creates a type of energy barrier between two varieties of E.coli bacteria and the urinary tract cells. The study also revealed that cranberries had no effect on non-harmful bacteria, which indicates that consuming the fruit won’t disrupt the existing balance of beneficial bacteria in the gut.

Cranberries are readily available in many forms today. Whether fresh, juiced, dried, frozen or in supplementary form, boosting your intake of this super fruit could help your urinary system fight off an infection.

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