Why Do I Keep Getting UTIs? New Study Reveals One Shocking Cause — Eat This Not That

It’s all too common for many women to battle a constant reoccurrence of the dreaded urinary tract infection (UTI). In fact, you may have experienced going to your doctor with painful symptoms of a UTI and were prescribed a course of treatment. You likely experienced some relief, only to find the infection is back … or did it even go away in the first place? ugh! Like many women in this situation, you’ve felt confused, perplexed, and beyond frustrated—you just want to kick this infection to the curb. You’re likely wondering, “Why do I keep getting UTIs?” Well, based on recent research, we have some insight on one cause that will totally shock you.

If you’re reading this and nodding your head because you totally get what we’re saying, you may be very surprised to learn that the antibiotic you’re taking for a UTI may actually cause another UTI, according to a new study. The repetitive, grueling process has to do with your gut health, and you’ll want to read on to learn more ASAP. And next up, be sure to check out The 6 Best Exercises for Strong and Toned Arms in 2022, Trainer Says.

woman sits on bed while dealing with pelvic pain
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If you’re familiar with the symptoms that come with a urinary tract infection, you know how unbearable and frustrating dealing with one can be. (Symptoms can include a constant urge to urinate, a burning sensation when you pee, urinating small amounts, cloudy urine that looks bright pink, red, or cola-colored, and pelvic pain.) You also may know that it’s common for a UTI to come back, starting the process all over again.

In case you don’t know, bacteria in the urinary tract is what causes a good majority of UTIs. Specifically, Escherichia coli (E. coli) bacteria that are in your intestines find their way into your urinary tract, according to ScienceDaily

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closeup doctor holding cubes that spell out UTI, medical concept, cause of UTIs
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When diagnosed with a UTI, the typical course of treatment is an antibiotic, which normally makes you feel better. But surprisingly, according to Harvard Health, 25% to 30% of women are plagued with another UTI again within six months’ time. In fact, it’s not uncommon for these nasty infections to become an all too familiar cycle, requiring more antibiotics soon after you just finished the previous course. But are they helping or hindering your situation?

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A recent study performed at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis and the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard reveals your gut microbiome may be the root of the continuous cycle of UTIs you are experiencing. Furthermore, that superhero known as your antibiotic that comes to the rescue to provide relief? It may be the very cause of repeated UTIs.

That’s correct. The study published in Nature Microbiology indicates that women plagued with persistent UTIs appear to be caught in a consistent pattern where the antibiotics prescribed to clear the infection puts them at risk for another one. Scientists found that doing a round of antibiotics fights bacteria from the bladder, but it does not address bacteria in the intestines. Because of this, the microbiome left in your gut can grow, spreading back to your bladder, and—you guessed it—another UTI is back in town. Essentially, by taking more antibiotics, you risk creating chaos in your gut microbiome (the good bacteria that resides in your intestines).

The participants in the study who experienced persistent urinary tract infections were found to have fewer varied microbiomes containing a lower level of “good bacteria.” This good bacteria is necessary to balance inflammation. This group of women was found to have a very bold immunological pattern in their blood, revealing inflammation.

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According to Scott J. Hultgren, Ph.D., the Helen L. Stoever Professor of Molecular Microbiology at Washington University and co-senior author of the study, “It’s frustrating for women who are coming in to the doctor with recurrence after recurrence after recurrence, and the doctor, who’s typically male, gives them advice about hygiene.” Hultgren adds, “That’s not necessarily what the problem is. It’s not necessarily poor hygiene that’s causing this. The problem lies in the disease itself, in this connection between the gut and the bladder and levels of inflammation. Basically, physicians don’t know what to do with recurrent UTI. All they have is antibiotics, so they throw more antibiotics at the problem, which probably just makes things worse.”

In an effort to learn why some females get persistent infections while other women rarely (if ever) get one, Hultgren worked with two other scientists in this study. The team included Ashlee Earl, Ph.D., senior group leader for the Bacterial Genomics Group at Broad Institute and the paper’s co-senior author, and computational biologist and the paper’s lead author, Colin Worby, Ph.D.

Perhaps we are treating the urinary tract infection, but not targeting the root of the problem that’s causing it. Your gut health seems to matter when it comes to a UTI!

Alexa Mellardo

Alexa is the Mind + Body Deputy Editor of Eat This, Not That!, overseeing the M+B channel and delivering compelling fitness, wellness, and self-care topics to readers. Read more

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