A urinary tract infection is an infection that occurs in the kidneys, ureters, bladder or urethra, though the most common locations for UTIs are the bladder and urethra. Serious consequences can occur if UTIs are not properly treated, including painful bacterial kidney infections, which can permanently damage the organ, and low birth-weight babies when the infection occurs in pregnant women.
Urinary tract infections do not always produce clear symptoms. Many people with UTIs are not aware they have them. According to the Mayo Clinic, overt symptoms vary according to the location of the infection, but common clinical signs include a strong, persistent urge to urinate, a burning sensation while urinating, passing frequent, small amounts of urine, cloudy, pink or cola-colored urine, strong smelling urine, pelvic pain in women and rectal pain in men. Kidney infections can produce symptoms including back and side pain (sometimes severe), high fever, nausea, vomiting, shaking and chills.
Because women's urethras are near their anuses and their urethral openings are close to their bladders, women have a greater risk of developing UTIs simply because any invading bacteria have less distance to travel. Other risk factors include sexual activity, diaphragm and spermicidal use in women, menopause, urinary tract abnormalities, blockages in the urinary tract, including kidney stones or an enlarged prostate, suppressed immune system and catheter use.
Antibiotics are the typical conventional treatment for UTIs. The ones used depend on the health of the patient and the type of bacterium. Analgesic medicine that numbs the bladder and urethra are often given when a significant amount of pain is present. Experts at the Mayo Clinic also recommend those with UTIs drink plenty of water to flush out the bacteria, using a warm heating pad on the abdomen to decrease discomfort and to refrain from drinking coffee, alcohol or soda with citrus or caffeine.
Cranberry and Blueberry Juices
Though experts at the Mayo Clinic state no definitive proof exists that cranberry helps prevent urinary tract infections, some evidence supports it, particularly with women who experience frequent UTIs. Experts at Health Communities recommend 16 oz. per day of either cranberry or blueberry juice free of added sugars because antibacterial properties in the juices decrease the bacteria's ability to adhere to tissue walls.
Magnesium as a Preventative
Although Health Communities states some controversy surrounds the validity of pH's effect on urinary tract infections, there is some evidence to suggest more alkaline urine (which is higher on the pH scale) decreases bacterial growth in the urinary tract. Minerals such as magnesium, when used in a citrate form (such as magnesium citrate), are believed to alkalinize the urine. The Life Extension website recommends taking 100mg of magnesium three or four times daily to help treat recurrent UTIs.