Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacteria for Urinary Tract Infections

In addition to garlic, you might want to get a daily dose of Lactobacillus acidophilus to help ward off infections caused by E. coli bacteria. This friendly bacteria lives in your intestinal tract where it forms a protective barrier, blocking the ability of infection-causing bacteria to grow. Lactobacillus acidophilus, like other friendly bacteria called bifidobacteria, produces lactic acid and hydrogen peroxide, compounds that suppress the growth of E. coli in the intestinal tract. A number of laboratory studies have shown that these bacteria prevent E. coli from attaching to the lining of the intestine and the vagina. One study even found that lactobacillus treatment reduced the recurrence of UTIs in women. These bacteria are often referred to as probiotic agents.

Probiotics may also enhance your body’s immune system. Two human studies found an increased number of immune compounds in people who drank fermented milk.2 In one study, bifidobacteria added to fermented milk led to an increase in white blood cell activity against E. coli.

If you are taking an antibiotic medication for your UTI, you should consider adding a probiotic supplement to your treatment regime. Antibiotics kill all bacte-ria—friendly and disease-causing. Taking a probiotic while you are on antibiotic therapy may lessen the chances of re-infection and decrease gastrointestinal upset caused by the drug.

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The recommended dose of a probiotic agent varies. The strength of a supplement is expressed in the number of live bacteria cells per capsule. If you have a UTI, take 1 billion to 10 billion live cells divided into three doses daily. If you are taking a supplement to keep your immune system healthy, one capsule a day is all you need. Take your supplement with a meal when your stomach contents are less acidic due to the presence of food. This allows a greater number of bacteria to withstand stomach acids and reach their final destination in the intestinal tract.

The potency of these supplements can be reduced by storage conditions and the duration of storage; that’s why you’ll find these products sold in the refrigerator section of your local health food store. Some brands, however, are manufactured to maintain their potency at room temperature. For example, Wakunaga’s Kyo-Dophilus™ has been tested and found to retain high bacteria counts for up to six years at room temperature.

Since research has shown that both Lactobacillus acidophilus and bifidobacteria offer health benefits, a product that contains both types is recommended. Many experts believe that supplements made from human strains of bacteria are better adapted for growth in the human intestinal tract. When choosing a product, you might ask the pharmacist or retailer if the formula contains human or non-human strains.

Don’t forget to add probiotic foods to your diet. Fermented milk products like yogurt, kefir and sweet acidophilus milk all contain live bacterial cultures.

Lifestyle Factors

One of the most important methods of preventing a UTI is to practice good personal hygiene. When you urinate or have a bowel movement, make it a habit to wipe gently from front to back; this will avoid spreading bacteria from the rectum into the urethra. When you feel the urge to urinate, try not to resist. A regular release of fresh, sterile urine will often wash harmful bacterial out of the urethra before it has a chance to travel into the urinary tract.

It is also a wise idea to clean your genital area before having intercourse, as this will remove harmful bacteria that may be accidentally transferred into the urethra. Urinating before and after intercourse will help to wash out any bacteria that has migrated into the urinary tract. If you are experiencing UTIs and are using a diaphragm or spermicide-coated condoms, you may want to consider another method of birth control. Always check the fit of your diaphragm and only leave it in for short periods of time.

Bacteria grow best in a warm, moist environment. Cotton is a fiber that provides good ventilation, so whenever possible you should wear cotton underwear or pantyhose with cotton liners. Avoid tight-fitting pants or other types of clothing that may trap heat, irritate tissues and promote bacterial growth. Washing your underclothes in strong soaps or bleach may cause irritations that could lead to a UTI. If you are susceptible to UTIs, avoid the chemical irritants in bubble bath, perfumed soaps, douches, feminine hygiene deodorants and deodorant tampons and pads.

Many women find that a heating pad, a hot water bottle or a warm bath will go a long way to relieve the pain and discomfort caused by a UTI.

The Bottom Line…

Leslie’s recommendations for managing urinary tract infections

1. To prevent or treat an existing UTI, drink at least 300 milliliters (10 fluid ounces) of cranberry juice each day.

2. If you want a change from cranberry juice, add 1/2 to 1 cup (125-250 ml) of blueberries to your diet.

3. If you are leery about the sugar, excess calories or artificial sweeteners in cranberry juice, try capsules of dried cranberry powder. Two capsules are roughly equivalent to a 300-milliliter (10 fluid ounce) serving of the juice.

4. To help flush bacteria from your urinary tract, drink at least 2 liters (8 cups) of water each day. If you exercise regularly add an extra liter of fluid to your daily intake.

5. If you are experiencing a UTI, avoid foods that can irritate your urinary tract— coffee, alcoholic beverages and spicy foods are a few examples.

6. To give your immune system a hand in fighting off a UTI, add garlic to your nutrition regime. If you decide to supplement, take one or two aged garlic extract capsules with meals.

7. If you are looking for added protection from infection-causing E. coli bacteria, take a probiotic supplement with your meals. Use a supplement of Lactobacillus acidophilus and bifidobacteria that contains 1 billion to 10 billion live cells per day. You can also add foods to your diet that contain lesser amounts of these friendly bacteria—yogurt, kefir and sweet acidophilus milk are examples.

9. During a UTI, consider trying the herbal remedy called uva ursi. Buy a product that’s standardized to 20 percent arbutin, one of the herb’s active ingredients. Do not take the herb for longer than one week and limit your use to five times a year. The herb is not safe to take during pregnancy and lactation.

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