Bladder infections are a common, frustrating condition mostly targeting women, and toting painful, more frequent urination.

Women are more prone to infection because of the proximity of the urethra (urine outflow) to the vagina and rectum, which leads to easier bacterial contamination of the bladder. For some women, this might mean one or two bladder infections throughout their lifetime, while others can suffer more frequent and long-term episodes. Many women notice that infections return after intercourse or with each menstrual cycle. Unfortunately, frequent infections often call for repeated rounds of antibiotics which can lead to recurring yeast infections, nausea or diarrhea.

Simple lifestyle changes can help decrease the risk of bladder infections. Women are encouraged to wipe the urethra then the rectum, or from front-to-back, after using the restroom. Emptying the bladder after intercourse can also decrease the risk of infection.

Patients need to meet adequate water intake. Seven to eight glasses of water a day are often needed to keep the body hydrated and allow the urinary system to remove potential dangers.

Patients with frequent infections can eliminate certain triggers. For instance, avoiding strong soaps and shampoos may lower the risk of infection by decreasing irritation around the urethra. Those who suffer, should decrease their sugar and caffeine intake, and should completely eliminate soft drinks from their diet. These ingredients can certainly be bladder irritants. Sugar also lowers the body’s natural immunity, decreasing its ability to defend itself against bacteria.

Patients can decrease stress on the bladder by improving bowel habits. This can be done by filling the digestive tract with probiotics (good bacteria). They often decrease in number due to frequent antibiotic use or poor diet, but these bacteria are necessary for many bodily functions and crowd out the bad bacteria that might lead to an infection.

D-mannose, a simple sugar thought to flush the bugs out of the bladder, combats infections caused by the bacterium E. coli, the cause of nearly 90 percent of all bladder infections. A dose of D-mannose is typically 1,000 mg and can be taken at the first sign of an infection, up to four times a day. It should be continued until the symptoms have completely subsided. D-mannose can be taken once or twice (1,000-2,000 mg) a day to help prevent infections. Though the treatment lacks the support of a large human trial, many have had positive results and it doesn’t produce the common side effects attributed to antibiotic use.

A second, and widely-acknowledged treatment, is cranberry. Taken as a supplement or juice, cranberry is believed to prevent bacteria from hanging onto the bladder wall, promoting their removal from the bladder. Cranberry juice has long been touted as a cure for bladder infections, but most forms of cranberry juice do contain high fructose corn syrup (HFCS). Too much of this sweetener can increase the risk of infection and may promote weight gain, further increasing infection risk. Look for a cranberry juice that has no sweetener added. It can also be taken as an extract in a capsule. Dosage of the capsules will vary, but typically 2-4 capsules a day are taken until symptoms subside.

Victims of bladder infections aren’t limited to adult women. Newborns and children can get bladder infections as the result of an outflow defect that allows urine to travel up from the bladder and into the kidneys. Children with urinary tract infections should be evaluated by a doctor. Older men commonly run the risk of infection when the prostate becomes too large. If the prostate becomes large enough, it can block efficient outflow of the urine. This stagnation provides an optimum environment for infections to grow. This condition should be evaluated by a physician, as specific treatment may be needed for the prostate.