Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are one of the most common and costly secondary health complications for people with spinal cord injuries. Neurogenic bladders, resulting from spinal damage, require the necessary practice of intermittent catheterization, which can introduce unwanted bacteria into the bladder. These unwanted microbes can cause recurrent bladder infections and these may lead to many debilitating and life threatening conditions such as fatigue, fever, autonomic dysreflexia, sepsis and kidney failure. The most efficient and natural treatment for UTIs is prevention. Here are three easy, self-care steps you can take to help prevent the development of UTIs.
Choose the Right Diet
As with any type of infection, UTIs occur when the body’s defense system is low. Nutrient deficiency is the most common cause of low immune function, therefore the first essential step to protect your body against infection is to build and maintain a strong immune system by eating a healthy diet. Increasing your consumption of foods rich in vitamins A, C, E, & zinc such as citrus fruits, papaya, berries, kale, broccoli, spinach, sweet potato, almonds, sunflower & pumpkin seeds, apricots, brown rice, mushrooms and eggs help boost and support the immune system. Reducing your intake of acid-forming foods, such as red meat and sugar, while consuming more alkalinizing foods like vegetables and natural yogurt also help inhibit the growth of bacteria. Increasing your daily flow of urine by drinking 8 glasses of water, unsweetened cranberry juice and/or herbal teas made from Bearberry & Yarrow will flush bacteria from your system andwill also help prevent these microorganisms from attaching to the lining of the bladder and directly fight infection in the bladder respectively.
Choose to Get Active
The second vital step to prevent UTIs from developing is to get moving. Participating in some form of moderate exercise or assisted physical activity has several direct and indirect effects on the immune system. Foremost, working-out boosts the production of macrophages, the cells that attack bacteria. Exercise also increases blood flow, which not only enables these macrophages to circulate through the body more quickly so they can attack, destroy and remove bacteria, but it also assists kidney function. Additionally, physical activity moderates the effects of stress, a condition that is known to decrease the immune system.
Chose the Right Products
The third step to significantly reduce your risk of UTIs is to use highly specialized catheterization products. The insertion of catheters into the bladder can irritate and inflame the tissue lining the urethra. When tissue is inflamed it becomes more susceptible to bacterial invasion and infection. Ensuring that the catheters you use have soft coated eyelets and are pre-lubricated with a sterile hydrophilic coating will help reduce the risk of irritation, inflammation and infection.
Making healthy lifestyle choices and using safe, sterile bladder management devices can help boost your immune system and prevent UTI’s, thus enhancing and protecting your overall health, independence and quality of life.
Joanne Smith BA, RT Dip, CNP (posted with permission from Coloplast Canada)