Woman experiencing UTI symptoms and wondering what things to avoid

Things to avoid when you have a UTI: what you need to know

Written on January 27, 2023 by Theresa Vuskovich, DMD. To give you technically accurate, evidence-based information, content published on the Everlywell blog is reviewed by credentialed professionals with expertise in medical and bioscience fields.

Table of contents

A urinary tract infection (UTI) is a bacterial infection of the bladder and other structures in the urinary system [1,2]. You're more likely to get a UTI if you're a woman between 16 and 35 years of age [1]. You may have a UTI if you are experiencing bladder leakage, frequent urination, and pain when urinating [1,2].

If you are diagnosed with a UTI, your healthcare provider may prescribe antibiotics to speed up your recovery, depending on the cause of your UTI [1,2]. Your healthcare provider can help you figure out what's causing your UTI and prevent it from happening again [1]. Your healthcare provider may advise you about things to avoid when you have a UTI.

Avoid delaying care

Seek medical attention if you think you have a UTI or are experiencing symptoms of a UTI as soon as possible. Delaying treatment increases your risk of recurrent infections and complications. UTIs are among the most common infections healthcare providers see [3].

UTIs are caused mainly by the bacteria Escherichia coli (E.Coli), although viruses, fungi, and parasites can also cause UTIs [1,2]. Your healthcare provider will be able to determine if you have an underlying cause for your UTI. Structural abnormalities, abnormal bladder function, blockages, recent sexual intercourse, or having a urinary catheter can increase your risk of developing a UTI [2].

Diagnosing UTIs requires a urine culture, which are lab tests that check for bacteria in your urine [4]. A positive culture usually means a patient will receive antibiotics, including nitrofurantoin, trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole, and fosfomycin [4]. Treating your UTI can help you avoid some of the complications of a UTI, such as kidney infection and kidney stones [1].

Avoid becoming dehydrated

Another way to avoid a kidney infection while you have a UTI is to drink plenty of water [5]. According to a clinical study of 140 women, increasing daily water intake reduced UTI rates by 50% [5]. Every day, healthy women should consume approximately 2.2 liters of water [5]. If you have a UTI, drink water throughout your day.

Avoid eating spice and citrus

When you have a UTI, spicy foods can increase pain because they irritate the bladder. Avoid foods and spices such as peppers, hot sauce, and cayenne when possible. Oranges, lemons, and limes can also aggravate the pain associated with a UTI. Rather than eating citrus fruits, try fruits with less sugar, such as raspberries and strawberries.

Another beneficial fruit is cranberries. Clinical studies have demonstrated cranberry juice may reduce the risk or severity of a UTI for some people [11,12]. Why are cranberries beneficial for UTIs? Researchers have found compounds in cranberries, such as polyphenolics and proanthocyanidins, may interfere with bacteria's ability to attach to the urinary tract [12]. In most clinical studies, only a small number of people participated, so more extensive studies are needed to prove cranberry is effective for preventing and treating UTIs [12].

Avoid eating or drinking a lot of sugar

Sugar encourages bacteria growth, making you more likely to develop a UTI. If you have diabetes, you are at an increased risk of UTI [6]. You will want to avoid drinking alcohol, caffeinated sodas, artificial sweeteners, and coffee. According to a recent study, vegans and vegetarians are less likely to develop a urinary tract infection, possibly because their digestive tracts contain less E. coli [7]. However, more studies are required to demonstrate the benefits of a vegan or vegetarian diet for preventing UTIs. Eating a fiber-rich diet and fewer animal products may help you avoid UTIs [7].

Avoid having sexual intercourse

You will want to avoid sexual intercourse while you have a UTI [9]. If you have a UTI, sexual intercourse is painful. Intercourse with your partner can exacerbate your symptoms and put your partner at risk of infection [9].

Avoid delaying urination

Delaying urination puts you at risk of developing a urinary tract infection [8]. Holding in your urine can weaken your bladder muscles, making it difficult for your bladder to empty. Consequently, your body will hold onto more urine, causing bacteria to accumulate [8].

When the pelvic floor is strong, you may have greater control over urination [10]. Performing pelvic floor muscle exercises can help you maintain better control over urination and potentially avoid UTIs.

Avoid becoming constipated

Constipation may contribute to the development of a UTI [8]. The pressure created from constipation may contribute to poor bladder control and ultimately cause a UTI [8]. If you are experiencing constipation, try a stool softener to help alleviate your constipation.

Using Everlywell for online UTI treatment

With Everlywell, you can talk to a healthcare provider from the comfort of your home. UTI symptoms can be treated online with Everlywell. Everlywell offers UTI treatment online via telehealth and one-time prescriptions for a UTI diagnosis. Your healthcare provider will help you understand UTIs and how to prevent them from reoccurring.

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  2. Imam TH. Overview of Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs). Merck Manuals Consumer Version. URL. Accessed January 26, 2023.
  3. Wawrysiuk S, Naber K, Rechberger T, Miotla P. Prevention and treatment of uncomplicated lower urinary tract infections in the era of increasing antimicrobial resistance-non-antibiotic approaches: a systemic review. Arch Gynecol Obstet. 2019;300(4):821-828. doi:10.1007/s00404-019-05256-z. URL.
  4. Recurrent uncomplicated urinary tract infections in women: AUA/CUA/SUFU guideline (2022) - American urological association. Auanet.org. URL. Accessed January 23, 2023.
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  7. Chen YC, Chang CC, Chiu THT, Lin MN, Lin CL. The risk of urinary tract infection in vegetarians and non-vegetarians: a prospective study. Sci Rep. 2020;10(1):906. Published 2020 Jan 30. doi:10.1038/s41598-020-58006-6. URL.
  8. Zhu M, Wang S, Zhu Y, et al.. Behavioral and dietary risk factors of recurrent urinary tract infection in Chinese postmenopausal women: a case–control study. Journal of International Medical Research. 2020;48(3):030006051988944. doi:10.1177/0300060519889448. URL.
  9. Moore EE, Hawes SE, Scholes D, Boyko EJ, Hughes JP, Fihn SD. Sexual Intercourse and Risk of Symptomatic Urinary Tract Infection in Post-Menopausal Women. Journal of General Internal Medicine. 2008;23(5):595-599. doi:10.1007/s11606-008-0535-y. URL.
  10. Cho ST, Kim KH. Pelvic floor muscle exercise and training for coping with urinary incontinence. J Exerc Rehabil. 2021;17(6):379-387. doi:10.12965/jer.2142666.333. URL.
  11. Xia JY, Yang C, Xu DF, Xia H, Yang LG, Sun GJ. Consumption of cranberry as adjuvant therapy for urinary tract infections in susceptible populations: A systematic review and meta-analysis with trial sequential analysis. PLoS One. 2021;16(9):e0256992. Published 2021 Sep 2. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0256992. URL.
  12. Fu Z, Liska D, Talan D, Chung M. Cranberry reduces the risk of urinary tract infection recurrence in otherwise healthy women: A systematic review and meta-analysis. J Nutr. 2017;147(12):2282-2288. doi:10.3945/jn.117.254961. URL.
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