Summer is most people’s favourite time of year as our social calendars hot up with parties, holidays and social gatherings. So there’s nothing more irritating than getting a urinary tract infection (UTI) whilst away or just before a big get-together!
Distracting, uncomfortable and, at times, downright painful – all this can seriously hamper your fun. UTIs (often referred to as cystitis) are more prevalent in the summer months, especially in women under 40 years.
Nutritional therapist Hannah Braye tells TLL why could this be and what you can do to prevent cystitis getting in the way of a good time.
The first, and most obvious, reason is the increased risk of dehydration during summer, with warmer temperatures, increased physical activity and more time spent outdoors (often away from a readily available water supply). Decreased urination means bacteria is flushed from the urinary tract less often, allowing levels of UTI-causing bacteria to build up, increasing the risk of infection. Try to stay well hydrated by drinking two litres of water a day (more in higher temperatures or if exercising) and don’t hold it in when you need to pee.
A contributing factor to dehydration is also the amount of alcohol we consume in the summer months (after all, sunny beer gardens are pretty tempting for a post-work drink!) Alcohol is also high in sugar, potentially feeding UTI-causing strains of bacteria and irritating the lining of the urinary tract, exacerbating symptoms. If you are suffering with a UTI it is best to avoid alcohol entirely until symptoms have completely resolved for a few days. To prevent infections, drink in moderation and opt for low sugar options, such as using soda water and fresh lime as a mixer.
Change in diet
Alcohol isn’t the only source of sugar that may be contributing to the increased prevalence of UTIs in the summer. Whilst many people feel they eat more healthily, choosing lighter salad options, we also tend to have more social events, parties and holidays in the summer. BBQ food is often packed with refined carbs, such as white bread rolls and crisps, and the sound of the ice cream van is never far away, so it’s easy to indulge in sugary treats. Instead try opting for protein-rich foods, complex wholegrain carbs and making ‘nice cream’ by blending up frozen fruit with no added sugar.
UTIs are bacterial infections, most commonly E.coli which is responsible for around 80% of cases. Bacteria tend to thrive in warm moist climates, so increased summer temperatures can provide a haven for UTI-causing pathogens in the genitourinary area. Taking a daily live bacteria supplement high in beneficial lactobacilli strains (commonly in the urinary tract), is thought to help maintain a healthy microbial balance by suppressing pathogens such as E.coli.
Hotter weather also means more sweat, which can facilitate the transfer of bacteria from the anus and vagina to the urinary tract. Keep clean by showering regularly (using natural products which don’t disrupt the body’s own microbial balance), and opt for cotton underwear and loose-fitting cotton clothes.
Increased sexual activity
Perhaps it’s because people believe they look and feel better with a glowing tan, or just because our mood and energy are improved, but sexual activity is reported to be higher in the summer months, especially in the younger generation. This unfortunately increases the risk of UTIs as bacteria can be easily transferred during sex. Again, hygiene for both you and your partner is important. Urinating immediately after sex is also advised to help flush out bacteria.
People tend to sleep less during the summer months. This may in part be due to our natural circadian rhythms which change with the seasons, but could also be related to us burning the candle at both ends whilst enjoying those long summer evenings. Less sleep is inevitably going to have a detrimental effect on our immune system, which we need to be in tip-top condition to fight off infections such as UTIs. Try and stick to a bedtime routine in the summer and make sure you get some early nights during the week. If the morning light wakes you too early, consider buying an eye mask or investing in blackout curtains to help you sleep for longer.
Hannah Braye is from leading probiotic brand Bio-Kult. Bio-Kult’s Pro-Cyan is a scientifically developed triple-action formula that works with the body to help maintain normal levels of bacteria in the gut and urinary tract.