urinary tract infection

A US-based research group explores the credibility of the commonly held belief that drinking more water can lessen urinary tract infection risk in females with recurrent infections.

Urinary tract infection (also known as UTI, cystitis) is a common occurrence in many people across the world, particularly amongst women. Infection of this region often presents with general discomfort and pain, as well as a decreased quality of life associated with these symptoms. Additionally, if a urinary tract infection is left untreated, patients increase their risk for further infection of other related organs such as the bladder or kidneys.

Little data to support the effectiveness of simply drinking more water

A common piece of advice that sufferers hear from both doctors and internet gurus alike is simple: drink more water. However, little clinical data is available to support the effectiveness of this at-home treatment. This simple dietary change, if effective, could not only reduce these recurring infections but also reduce the use of antibiotics in treating these patients.

In a new report published in JAMA Internal Medicine, Dr. Thomas M. Hooton and colleagues clinically explore the relationship between urinary tract infection and fluid intake. This group conducted a randomized clinical trial of 140 premenopausal women with recurring urinary tract infections that drank less than 1.5 litres of water daily. Of the 140 women, one group was instructed to increase their daily water consumption by 1.5 litres, while the control group maintained their normal low levels of water intake. Data were collected on these women for twelve months.

Higher water intake did decrease the incidence of UTIs

In support of the folk wisdom, researchers found that higher water intake decreased the average incidence of urinary tract infection in patients by nearly half –from an average of 3.2 infections to just 1.7 per year. Furthermore, the patients drinking additional water were prescribed fewer antibiotics over the course of this trial. They also had longer times between infections and overall increased urinary hydration.

This important study has validated long-standing anecdotal observations with clinical data. More such studies are crucial to decipher between at-home treatments that are actually beneficial and those that may be placebo effects or just tall tales. Although the participants were not blinded and many results were self-reported, the research question is simple and the findings of the trial are solid.

Notably, Danone Research, the bottled water company that provided the water used in this study, funded this trial. However, the conclusions presented in this report suggest that the essential variable is the water itself, not its source.

These findings provide concrete evidence supporting the long-held idea that drinking more water will reduce the risk of urinary tract infection. Moreover, it provides new confidence for physicians in the recommendation of dietary hydration as a preventative approach. This could ultimately reduce the necessity for antibiotic use and lessen patient discomfort associated with this common ailment. Findings from this trial provide a feasible at-home solution to those who suffer from recurrent urinary tract infection.

Written by Stacey Aggarwal, PhD

Reference: Hooton TM, Vecchio M, Iroz A, Tack I, Dornic Q, Seksek I, et al. Effect of Increased Daily Water Intake in Premenopausal Women With Recurrent Urinary Tract Infections. JAMA Internal Medicine. 2018 Nov;178(11):1509.

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