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Urine Acidity and Diet Can Affect UTI Risk

Did you know our diet has a direct bearing on the acidity of our urine? The small molecules in our food can trigger bacterial growth in our urinary tract, which contributes to its infection.

According to researchers from the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, urinary tract infections are often caused by the E. coli bacteria. While antibiotics have been the primary recourse to get rid of the microbes, several findings revealed that the bacterial strain has developed resistance to the medication. For this reason, doctors are looking for new alternatives.

Senior author Dr. Jeffrey P. Henderson has this to say about antibiotics and how they went from being effective to feeble: “We often don't know why certain people seem to be prone to recurrent [urinary tract infections]. For a long time, we had inexpensive antibiotics that worked really well for this. But over the last 10 to 15 years, we have seen a huge jump in bacterial infections that are resistant to many of these drugs.”

For this study, the researchers were looking into how our body fends off the microbes. Knowing that E. coli can trigger infections, they cultured the organism, which they gathered from urine of healthy individuals and study how the vital immune protein present can keep the bacterial growth in check.

“We could divide these urine samples into two groups based on whether they permitted or restricted bacterial growth,” Dr. Henderson explained. “Then we asked, what is special about the urine samples that restricted growth?”

Siderocalin, a naturally occurring protein in our body, helps prevent urinary tract infection because it deprives the E. coli bacteria from essential minerals vital to its survival, the researchers observed.

While it may seem that highly acidic urine is better at killing the bacteria, that is not the case, Dr. Henderson noted. Urine samples having a neutral pH level close to pure water had more siderocalin which, in turn, is better at limiting bacterial growth.

By manipulating the pH levels, researchers suggested that they could inhibit or promote E. coli growth in urine. But Dr. Henderson added that “pH is not the whole story here.”

Aromatics are small metabolites that is associated bacterial growth, depending on our diet. While some are impressive at hindering E. coli growth, those that are most effective do not naturally occur in our body but are produced as we process food in our digestive system.

“Our study suggests that the body's immune system harnesses dietary plant compounds to prevent bacterial growth,” Dr. Henderson said. Cranberries are a great source of these bacteria-killing substances.