The down low on women’s health and nutrition

Wednesday, 28 September 2016

While it’s not unheard of for men to suffer from infections “down below” it is much more common in women, especially those living with diabetes.  Up to 50% of women experience infections like thrush and urinary tract infections (UTIs) which cause pain and discomfort.

In addition to the medical advice we get from our doctor, there are a couple of nutrition tweaks that can help lower the risk of developing thrush or a UTI.

Firstly, and possibly most importantly, bugs love sugar! If your food choices are causing your Hba1c or daily blood glucose levels (BGLs) to rise above your ideal range, the extra glucose can feed the nasty bugs that cause UTI’s and thrush making infections more likely to occur, and be harder to treat. So, as a starting point, good blood glucose control is key. If you are struggling with this seek the support of your health care team or dietitian, that’s what we’re here for!

Extra nutrition boosters:

  1. Keep your water up – plenty of water and regular bathroom breaks reduce the risk of UTIs by regularly flushing the urinary tract. Drink it plain, chilled, sparkling or hot aiming for 6-8 cups per day and only consume alcohol and caffeinated drinks in moderation.
  2. Improve bacterial balance – probiotics can help restore good gut bacteria and boost the immune system which is especially useful after a course of antibiotics. Include regular probiotic yoghurt or probiotic milk drinks, and if you are taking antibiotics go for an extra boost by getting probiotic capsules from your pharmacy.
  3. Feed your good bacteria – prebiotics feed your good gut bacteria helping them thrive which will boost your natural defences to fight off infections. Prebiotics can be found in things like witlof, onion, garlic and asparagus or anything high in fibre like legumes, lentils, vegetables and whole grains.

Cranberry controversy

When it comes to the evidence, the jury is still out as to whether cranberry products or supplements help prevent UTIs and more research is needed. If you are a recurrent sufferer and would like to give it a try, seek advice from your health care team and pharmacist first to make sure they won’t have any negative impact on your health or BGLs and to re assess the possible causes and treatments available to you.

Note: these nutrition tips do not replace medical advice and are aimed at prevention rather than treatment of existing infections. If you are currently experiencing symptoms please seek medical advice.

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