The Unexpected Medication That Could Increase Your Risk Of A UTI

You've been dealing with a urinary tract infection (UTI) for a while now. In fact, this is the third one you've had this year. You're starting to wonder if something you're taking could be the cause of your symptoms. Well, those antibiotics you're taking might be leading to your vicious UTI cycle.

According to Sultan Qaboos University Medical Journal, 50% to 60% percent of women develop a UTI in their lifetime. The review also noted that the most common type of bacteria to cause this infection is the Escherichia coli (E. coli) organism. This is a common type of bacteria in the gut that can wreak havoc on the urinary tract due to improper wiping, holding urine, and dehydration (per Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). This condition can lead to painful urination, frequent need to urinate, and abdominal cramps. Those with a severe infection might also experience blood in urine and fevers.

In this article, you can learn how to break the cycle of recurrent UTIs by discovering why antibiotics might be causing your infections. We'll also help you find a few ways to prevent and treat UTIs without using antibiotics.

Antibiotics can lead to recurrent urinary tract infections

The minute they start to feel the burn, many people grab their keys and head to the doctor's office for a prescription. However, that prescription for antibiotics could be the culprit of recurring UTIs. The problem with antibiotics is that they aren't picky when knocking bacteria out of your system. There are a lot of good bacteria your gut needs in addition to the harmful bacteria causing your UTI.

A 2022 study in Nature Microbiology showed that the gut biome of women with recurring UTI was depleted of microbial richness and good bacteria. Co-senior author Scott J. Hultgren, Ph.D., noted on the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis website, "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 UTIs. All they have is antibiotics, so they throw more antibiotics at the problem, which probably just makes things worse." The antibiotics do more than fight the bacteria within the bladder; they disrupt the good bacteria within the gut. And the E. coli gets moved into the urinary tract again. It's a vicious cycle. 

Lead author Colin Worby, Ph.D., a computational biologist, also noted in the same source that "Our study clearly demonstrates that antibiotics do not prevent future infections or clear UTI-causing strains from the gut." So, antibiotics can exacerbate the problem, and they can also allow worse bacterial infections to find their home. 

Antibiotic use can increase antibiotic-resistant infections

Antibiotic usage can make a person more prone to urinary tract infections, but it can also lead to infections that don't respond to standard antibiotic treatments. An article in The New York Times noted that antibiotic-resistant infections are becoming more common, with 1 in 3 UTIs due to E. coli being resistant to one of the most common antibiotics used to treat them, Bactrim.

Part of the problem is antibiotics are overused in specific populations. A 2021 study in Infection Control & Hospital Epidemiology showed that rural women were more likely to be prescribed antibiotics for longer durations than needed to clear the bacteria. Additionally, they also received an inappropriate antibiotic for the treatment of an uncomplicated UTI infection. Research in 2014 in Therapeutic Advances in Drug Safety showed that antimicrobial resistance is associated with overprescribing antibiotics.

The study authors recommended reducing the amount of antibiotics taken and the duration of antibiotics if they are necessary. They also promoted the delay of getting a prescription for antibiotics if possible. A carefully targeted treatment plan can help to alleviate the problem while avoiding some of the different issues that antibiotics can bring, according to Harvard Medical School. Trying home treatments first can help to break the vicious cycle of antibiotic use and recurring UTI infections.

Prevention and home treatment of a UTI

Water will be your best medicine for preventing a UTI. The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases noted that drinking enough water is vital to avoid infections. They said that you should drink at least 6-8 glasses of water a day and not hold your urine to help prevent getting an infection in the first place. 

Grabbing yourself a jug of cranberry juice or taking cranberry juice supplements can also be helpful. A 2018 study in Current Pharmaceutical Biotechnology showed that the consumption of cranberries was beneficial in helping with recurring UTIs in women. The study noted that "cranberry consumption may prevent bacterial adherence to uroepithelial cells, reducing UTI-related symptoms. Cranberry consumption could also decrease UTI-related symptoms by suppressing inflammatory cascades as an immunologic response to bacterial invasion." While further studies are needed on its efficacy, cranberry is noted as a complementary therapy that is safe for women. Probiotics are also a possibility in preventing recurring infections in women, according to the Turkish Journal of Urology, although more research is needed before they can be recommended.

Antibiotics are a double-edged sword for treating a UTI. The correct dosage and type can help treat an infection, but they've also been shown to be a factor in recurring infections. Overuse can also cause resistant infections.