What’s worse than a urinary tract infection? One that comes back over and over again. If you suffer from recurrent UTIs, you might wonder what you’re doing wrong. But what if it has nothing to do with your daily habits? Is it possible that those pesky infections are actually a result of your family tree?
Recurrent UTIs are a common and painful experience, especially for women and kids. 27% of women will experience another UTI within six months of the first one and 40% of kids who get a UTI will get another one within a year. UTI symptoms typically include:
- Burning sensation when you pee.
- Constant urge to pee.
- Cloudy or bloody urine.
- A strange odour.
- Pelvic, abdominal, or side pain.
But what most women don’t realize is that UTIs can often be hereditary. Keep reading to find out what genetics have to do with UTIs and what you can do about it.
What are some of the causes of recurrent UTIs?
First off, it’s helpful to know what counts as recurrent. On average, two UTIs within six months or three within a year would be considered recurrent.
Your body goes through a lot to try and ward off those infections, especially if you need to endure round after round of antibiotics. The more infections you have, the more at risk you are for developing further complications, like kidney infections.
But why do recurrent UTIs happen in the first place? There are a few possible reasons.
- You’re a woman. Yep, that’s it. Since the female urethra is shorter than a man’s and located close to the vagina and anus, it’s far easier for bacteria to enter the urinary tract.
- Sex. Intercourse jostles all the bacteria in the vagina around and brings new bacteria in, especially if you’re alternating between different spots or using toys that haven’t been cleaned properly.
- Menopause. When women go through menopause, they experience a huge decline in estrogen. This changes the lining of the urinary tract and the pH balance in the vagina, making it easier for bad bacteria to thrive.
- Getting older. As we age, it’s natural for our bladder health to age with us. This can cause UTIs through incontinence, enlarged prostate, and even prolapse (when the bladder starts falling into the vagina).
- Certain medical conditions. Diabetes, spinal cord injuries, and multiple sclerosis are just a few of the health conditions that can make you more susceptible to UTIs, mainly because of how they impact the bladder and immune system.
But one of the lesser-known causes of recurrent UTIs is hiding in your genes.
Can UTI infections be hereditary?
Science says yes and about 10.2% of our customers said in a recent survey that they have a family history of UTIs. Several studies have shown that certain people are born with cell receptors that bacteria can simply stick to better. That’s why UTIs are more common in female relatives of women with recurrent UTIs — because they inherited those cells from them.
In fact, one study found that 6 out of 14 genes investigated in humans might be associated with how susceptible we are to recurrent UTIs. In other words, being prone to UTIs can be a genetic predisposition.
One of our customers, Debi, has experienced this first-hand in her family:
“My mom has had UTIs since she was a teenager. Now nearly 80, she still gets them and it's made it difficult for her to be out and about, as she's always been worried about where the bathrooms are. Now, my daughters have the same worries.”
What’s the science behind genetics and UTIs?
Alright, we’ll try not to get too science-y on you. But understanding how genetics play into your UTI problems can be helpful in preventing them.
Here’s the deal. Every infection has 3 main components:
- The host (aka your body)
- The pathogen (aka the bacteria or virus)
- The environment (aka where the bacteria is in your body)
The severity of a urinary tract infection depends on a few things. First, how strong the pathogen is. And second, how good the host is at fighting off that pathogen. The stronger your body’s defence mechanisms are, the better it will be at stopping infections before they start.
If UTIs happen to run in your family, your cells might be naturally receptive to bacteria. That means bacteria in your urinary tract is less likely to be flushed out by your body’s defence mechanisms.
A 2015 review in Current Opinion in Infectious Diseases echoed this when it found that susceptibility to UTIs depends on the pathways in your body that signal your immune system — and the genes that control those pathways.
Another 2009 study of over 1,200 women found that genetic variations in their cell receptors were the reason for their increased risk of UTI and kidney infections. Unfortunately, if UTI susceptibility is in your genes, you’re most likely going to experience them over and over.
How can I prevent recurrent UTIs?
Even if UTIs run in your family, you can still take action to prevent them. Here are a few simple ways to stay UTI-free in your daily life:
- Keep UTI test strips on hand to catch infections early.
- Take a daily D-Mannose supplement to stop E. coli bacteria from causing infection.
- Drink 6 to 8 glasses of water per day.
- Avoid holding in your pee for long periods of time.
- Always wipe from front to back.
- Wear cotton underwear and avoid tight fitting pants (especially for young girls).
- Take a daily probiotic.
But one of the most effective UTI prevention methods is Utiva’s Cranberry PACs supplement. Each dose contains 36 mg of PACs, an all-natural compound that is proven to stop bacteria from sticking to your urinary tract lining. Plus, it’s plant-based, high in antioxidants, and made in Canada.
Mary Lynne is another customer who suffered from hereditary recurrent UTIs, until she added Utiva to her prevention strategy.
“For years, my mother suffered from UTIs. Perhaps they run in our family, as I have also had issues. That is, until I discovered Utiva. I used to suffer from 6 to 8 UTIs annually, but since I started taking Utiva, I've only had one in the past 15 months. My mother had seven children and a wonderful "joie de vivre". I wish I'd been able to give her the gift of Utiva so she, too, could have been free of the discomfort of UTIs and the countless rounds of antibiotics she had to endure. In her memory, I will tout the benefits of Utiva and hopefully guide others I love to a UTI and antibiotic-free life!”
Don’t let your genes get you down. By staying educated on how you can prevent hereditary UTIs, you can break the infection cycle and keep your pee flowing free. Learn more at www.utivahealth.ca.