This week I’d like to outline a few hygiene concepts that have allowed me to never catch another UTI again.
Just to clarify – I don’t believe that we women who are very prone to catching UTIs are less hygienic than other women. We may simply have more pathogens in our gut, our immune system may not be as efficient and our bladders may not be working as they should (I explore the root causes of UTIs in other posts).
I don’t believe in the common theory that our perineum (the space between anus and vagina) is just shorter – evolution is smarter than that.
The truth is, the bacteria are probably going to get into the bladder one way or another. It’s a matter of the body getting rid of them again.
One strategy is to stop the bacteria from getting into the bladder in the first place.
While this does not treat the root problem it can prevent another infection from occurring while we are dealing with the root problem.
Clothing for better hygiene
Bacteria thrive in damp, warm and dark environments. A lot of the clothes we wear today create exactly this kind of environment.
How can we create a more favorable environment?
- Avoid synthetic fabrics. They don’t allow the skin to breathe and can trap moisture (ever went hiking with rainproof clothing? Hello, sauna!)
- Avoid G-strings. They can make it easier for gut bacteria to travel to the bladder opening.
- Choose natural fibers such as cotton and bamboo. They allow moisture to escape. Bamboo also has antibacterial properties.
- Go for organic. Chemicals present in conventional fabrics may irritate the area further.
- Wear loose clothes such as dresses and skirts. These allow more airflow to the area, which should reduce heat and moisture.
How to prevent Bacteria from getting into the Bladder
Unfortunately the truth is that most UTIs are caused by our own bacteria. These bacteria can migrate from the gut via the anus to the bladder opening.
This is both annoying and empowering – it gives us the chance to stop the migration simply by washing the bacteria off.
This is also why it is important to always wipe front to back!
I have found the most effective method of preventing bacteria from getting to the bladder opening is ‘bottle washing’ as developed by Angela Kilmartin in her excellent book The Patient’s Encyclopaedia of Cystitis, Sexual Cystitis, Interstitial Cystitis. Read her book for detailed descriptions of this and other procedures.
I recommend using this method after each bowel movement if you can (unless you’re having a shower afterwards anyways) and potentially before bed and intercourse if you are very prone to UTIs.
- Fill a half liter bottle with warm water
- Wet and soap your anal area with a natural and non-irritating soap (such as Castile or olive oil soap) and then wash your hands thoroughly with soap
- Sit on the toilet with your back slouched forwards
- Pour the water downwards from the vagina and clean all areas front to back with your other (clean) hand
- You could use a shower or bidet as well but always ensure the water flows front to back
Passing urine whenever you feel the urge and after intercourse is also important to flush out any bacteria that did get into the bladder.
Hygiene Procedures to Avoid
The body is very good at regulating itself and the reason why some women are prone to UTIs is not usually a lack of hygiene but underlying issues such as reduced immune function of an imbalanced gut flora.
Excessive hygiene is not a good idea though as it can disrupt the pH of the vagina and it can kill the good bacteria that help protect us against pathogens.
While a stricter hygiene regimen is recommended to avoid further infections until the root cause has been addressed, please avoid the following:
- Vaginal douches: this can disrupt the pH of the vagina. You should only ever use pure water for cleaning this delicate area.
- Harsh soaps: again, these disrupt the natural pH and kill off good bacteria that are protective.
- Scented panty liners and tampons: these are full of chemicals and disrupt the pH. A menstrual cup is a great alternative (and much more hygienic than one might think).
- Lubricants full of chemicals: again, these just aren’t healthy. Try and find a natural lubricant with soothing ingredients such as aloe vera.
As I’ve mentioned before, hygiene is not usually the root cause of UTIs but following these simple hygiene hacks could help to prevent recurring infections until the root cause has been established and dealt with.
Let me know if any of this has worked for you in the comments!
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