You might already know that your microbiome helps regulate digestion and metabolism, promotes natural energy and mental clarity, assists with healthy immune function, and even helps keep your skin looking great. But did you know that the bacteria in your gut can have a big impact on how well your urinary tract works too?
Although we’ve been inundated with messages that all bacteria are problematic, the truth is that we wouldn’t be able to function without a lot of the bacteria in our bodies. The urinary tract is no exception: while research is ongoing, having a balanced microbiome is associated with better urinary tract functioning overall.1
So what can you do to support a healthy microbial balance for your urinary tract? Here are four simple things to try:
1. Hydrate like your life depends on it.
Our bodies are made of 55-60 percent water, so it comes as no surprise that proper hydration is an important factor in supporting your urinary health––and research shows that getting enough water can help support your urinary tract health in all kinds of ways.3,4
So do what you can to get more water throughout the day. While everyone's exact needs are different (because each body is different), we generally recommend trying for half your bodyweight in ounces per day.
It might sound like a lot, especially if you’re not used to it, but remember, you don’t have to get all of your water by drinking it. You can also up your water intake by eating water-rich foods and vegetables, like cucumbers, celery, tomatoes, bell peppers, cauliflower, watermelon, spinach, strawberries, broccoli, and grapefruit.
There are also loads of tips and tricks that make drinking more water easy, including carrying a water bottle with you throughout the day, drinking a glass of water when you wake up and before you go to bed, and sipping on water with lemons, ginger, turmeric, or other natural flavorings in it throughout the day.
What’s more? When you have a good balance of beneficial bacteria in your gut microbiome, your body is able to better absorb nutrients and properly regulate the absorption of water in the colon.5
2. Pass on the cranberry juice––but do try cranberry extract.
You might have heard that cranberries are good for keeping everything working properly in your urinary tract. And this is true, sort of. Research shows that the proanthocyanidins (PACs) found in cranberries can make it harder for certain types of bacteria to stick to the walls of your urinary tract.
But it’s important to get your PACs from a good source, like cranberry extract. Researchers have found that cranberry extract can increase the odds of good urinary tract health, but cranberry juice is much less effective.6
Why? Because you have to drink a lot more cranberry juice to get the same effect, plus cranberry juice tends to come with a lot of sugar, which isn’t great for your microbiome or your overall health.
3. Consider including some D-Mannose in your diet.
D-Mannose is a natural simple sugar that’s found in cranberries, peaches, and apples, among other things, and it can help support your urinary tract health by sticking to undesirable bacteria in your urinary tract, making it easier for them to be excreted.
And, although D-Mannose is a sugar, it’s mostly excreted in your urine instead of being metabolized by your body, so it doesn’t have the same type of effect on your blood sugar as, for instance, a regular cranberry juice would.
4. Boost your gut microbiome.
Although we tend to think of the body as being a bunch of separate parts, it’s actually intricately interconnected. What happens in one part of the body has an effect on the other parts, whether you realize it or not. This is why, for instance, your skin can be a good indicator of what’s going on with your gut, or why some people get on and off headaches when they eat foods containing gluten.
Your gut (and specifically, the bacteria it contains) plays a huge role in your overall health. And we really mean huge: 80% of your immune system is in your gut!7 So keeping your gut microbiome healthy is a great way to support your immune function, which in turn supports the health of your urinary tract. Similarly, researchers have found that a balanced gut microbiome increases the odds of your urinary tract staying healthy, so do what you can to support the good guys living within your digestive tract.
Fortunately, there are several really simple, easy things to do, all of which can have a big impact on your experience of good health.
Some really easy ways to support your gut microbes include:
1. Eating prebiotic foods.
Think of prebiotic foods like the fertilizer for your microbiome: they give the bacteria that extra boost they need to really thrive. And the great news is, they’re in a lot of foods that you may already eat, including tomatoes, jicama, artichokes, dandelion greens, garlic, leeks, onions, asparagus, bananas, kiwifruit, apples, sauerkraut, miso, kefir, and pickles.
The problem? It’s extremely difficult in our modern world to consume the quantities of prebiotic fiber that our ancestors ate (and they had fantastically diverse microbiomes!). If you want to make things even easier, try a prebiotic powder. It's not a replacement for a healthy diet, but it is a good way to get some prebiotics to your bacteria quickly and regularly. Lots of options there––and even choosing just one to increase in your diet can be a great first step.
2. Get moving.
Exercise not only makes you feel better in general, it’s fantastic for your microbial health. In fact, it may increase the amount of beneficial bacteria in your gut by up to 40%!8 Feel like doing it outside? Even better! Being around dirt and animals means exposing yourself to a wide range of bacteria, which is great for your microbiome.
3. Don’t stress…especially over cleaning.
Stress is really rough on your gut bacteria, so try to take things a little easier. Things like meditation, or simply breathing deep a few times a day, can really help keep your stress levels manageable, which in turn makes your gut bugs happy. If you’re choosing just one thing to stress less over, then make it dirt.
Our modern Western culture tends to be a bit overzealous when it comes to hygiene and cleaning, so much so that we often end up wiping out good bacteria unintentionally. And contrary to popular belief, overly sterile environments are tough on our immune health. So take a breath, relax, and let the sanitizer go!
4. Replenish your gut with an effective probiotic, especially one that supports your urinary tract.
If you’re new to this whole bacterial health thing, an effective probiotic can be a good way to take your gut from good to great. Even if you're already living pretty healthily, there are lots of things that can deplete your microbiome without you realizing it, from ingredients in personal care and cleaning products and antibiotics in food or medications to the modern Western diet —they can all really do a number on your bacteria.
And if you’re specifically interested in how you can maintain your urinary health, we’d recommend PRO-Women. It’s got a great mix of targeted bacteria to support your digestion, immune, and metabolic health, plus it includes urinary support from cranberry extract and D-Mannose.
Urinary issues are no fun to deal with and having them reprise every so often is stressful and uncomfortable. Fortunately, you can naturally head off the cycle of doom and gloom and promote a healthy urinary tract by tending to your good flora within.
1. Whiteside S.A., Razvi H., Dave S., Reid G., Burton J.P. (2015). The Microbiome of the Urinary Tract––A Role Beyond Infection. Nature Reviews Urology, 12(2). doi: 10.1038/nrurol.2014.361
3. Mitchell, H.H., Hamiltion, T.S., Steggerda, R., Bean, H.W. H. H. The Chemical Composition of the Adult Human Body and Its Bearing on the Biochemistry of Growth. The Journal of Biological Chemistry, 158.
4. Popkin, B.M., D’Anci, K.E., Rosenberg, I.H. (2010) Water, Hydration, and Health. Nutrition Reviews, 68(8). doi: 10.1111/j.1753-4887.2010.00304.x
5. Conlon, M.A., Bird, A.R. (2015). The Impact of Diet and Lifestyle on Gut Microbiota and Human Health. Nutrients, 7(1). doi: 10.3390/nu7010017
6. Foxman, B., Cronenwett, A., Spino, C., Berger, M.B., Morgan, D.M. (2015). Cranberry Juice Capsules and Urinary Tract Infection after Surgery: Results of a Randomized Trial. The American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, 213(2). Doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ajog.2015.04.003
7. Vighi, G., Marcucci, F. Sensi, L. Di Cara, G. and Frati, F. Allergy and the Gastrointestinal System. Clinical and Experimental Immunology 153(Suppl 1). doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2249.2008.03713.x
9. Campbell, S. C., Wisniewski, P. J., Noji, M., Mcguinness, L. R., Häggblom, M. M., Lightfoot, S. A., . . . Kerkhof, L. J. (2016). The Effect of Diet and Exercise on Intestinal Integrity and Microbial Diversity in Mice. PLOS ONE, 11(3).
Rachel Allen is a writer at Hyperbiotics who's absolutely obsessed with learning about how our bodies work. She's fascinated by the latest research on bacteria and the role they play in health, and loves to help others learn about how probiotics can help the body get back in balance. For more ideas on how you can benefit from the power of probiotics and live healthier days, be sure to subscribe to our newsletter. To learn more about how a healthy microbiome can enrich your life, subscribe to our newsletter.