Women who drink three pints of water a day half their risk of getting urinary tract infections, a new study claims.
For most female adults, UTIs are a painfully regular experience. It causes a burning sensation, severe cramping, and pain during urination.
While the infection is most commonly contracted from unprotected sex with a new partner, some girls – even in relationships or using protection – find it difficult to keep the infection at bay.
Now, researchers at the University of Miami School of Medicine have shown that women with a high intake of water have roughly half the risk of their lesser hydrated peers.
‘While doctors have long assumed this is the case and often recommended that women at risk for UTIs increase their fluid intake, it’s never really undergone a prospective trial before,’ said Dr Thomas M. Hooton, lead author of the study.
‘It’s good to know the recommendation is valid, and that drinking water is an easy and safe way to prevent an uncomfortable and annoying infection.’
The most common advice for prevention is to pee before and after sex, and to use a condom during sex, to lower the risk of rectal bacteria reaching the urethra.
Women are also advised to stay hydrated, but this theory had not been tested.
Drinking more fluids increases the rate of flushing of bacteria from the bladder and also likely reduces the concentration of bacteria that enter the bladder from the vagina.
This reduces the opportunities for bacteria to attach to cells that line the urinary tract, which is necessary to cause an infection, Dr. Hooton said.
The study focused on women, since they are more likely to get UTIs than men in part because the urethra is shorter, meaning it is easier for bacteria to travel from the rectum and vagina to the bladder.
Researchers monitored 140 healthy premenopausal women who had at least three UTIs in the last year and reported low daily fluid intake.
Half of the women (70) who served as the control group continued their usual daily fluid intake, while the remainder were told to drink 1.5 liters of water a day – which equates to about three 16-ounce glasses – on top of their usual daily fluid intake.
After a year, women in the control group had an average of 3.1 UTIs, compared to 1.6 UTIs among those in the water group – a 48 percent reduction.
The water group, therefore, had fewer bouts of antibiotics (1.8) than the limited-water group (3.5) – a reduction of 47 percent – which also helped to decrease their risk of antibiotic resistance.
Researchers followed the women throughout the year using visits and telephone calls.
They documented that over the course of the study, on average women in the water group increased their daily water intake by 2.5 pints for a total daily fluid intake (including water and other beverages) of 2.8 liters, whereas women in the control group did not increase the amount of water they drank and had a total daily fluid intake of 1.2 liters.
‘If a woman has recurrent UTIs and is looking for a way to reduce her risk, the evidence suggests that if she increases the amount of water she drinks and stays with it, she’ll likely benefit,’ Dr. Hooton said.
Forty to 60 percent of women will develop a UTI during their lifetimes and one in four have a repeat infection, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. UTIs lead to more than 10 million doctor visits a year, according to the National Kidney Foundation.