There is a known correlation between UTIs and constipation. Why does constipation cause UTIs? In this post, I explain the mechanics of the process (not a good post to read during a meal) and will list some easy peasy preventive measures.
Let’s be clear on the definition. According to WebMD here are the symptoms of constipation:
- Straining during a bowel movement more than 25% of the time
- Hard stools more than 25% of the time
- Incomplete evacuation more than 25% of the time
- Two or fewer bowel movements in a week.
Why constipation causes UTI
Here are three main reasons why constipation increases the risk of UTI:
1. Bladder obstruction
Your rectum and your colon are right behind your bladder. If you accumulate the waste, the rectum (with the stool) starts pressing on the bladder. Therefore this might prevent you from emptying your bladder completely when you pee. The longer the urine sits in the bladder, the greater chance that bacteria will grow in the urine leading to UTI.
2. Backward urine flows
The pressure from the colon can also cause the urine to flow backward from the urethra to the bladder, lifting any bacteria which might have been in your urethra up to the bladder.
3. Disrupted flora & UTI
Most importantly, constipation can lead to high levels of the Escherichia coli (E. coli) bacteria in the rectum, increasing the risk that they could spread to the urinary tract. If you think about the reasons for constipation, they often include poor diet and an inactive lifestyle. Both factors also contribute to and are connected with the diversity of your gut microbiome. It is still unclear if a change in microbiome is a cause or a consequence of constipation but
Bacteria in my poop could...
“Growing evidence indicates that alterations in intestinal microbiota may contribute to constipation and constipation-related symptoms. The intestinal microbiota is a collection of microorganisms that live within the gastrointestinal tract, and perform many important health-promoting functions. The intestinal microbiota aids in the breakdown of food products into absorbable nutrients stimulate the host immune system, prevents the growth of pathogenic bacteria and produces a great variety of biologically important compounds,” concludes an article titled Intestinal microbiota and chronic constipation.
4. Laxatives and UTI
If you ever had to go through a colonoscopy or your constipation was treated with a laxative delivered via enema. Unfortunately, laxatives, especially enemas, could seriously alter our natural gut microbiome.
If you are choosing a laxative, go with bulk-forming fiber-based laxatives. It takes longer for them to work (typically 12-36 hours) but this is a bacteria-friendly approach.
Examples of bulk-forming laxatives:
- Psyllium (Metamucil®)
- Inulin (Metamucil® Simply Clear)
- Wheat dextrin (Benefibre®)
- Methylcellulose (Citrucel®)
- Polycarbophil (FiberCon®, Prodiem®).
Try to avoid using mineral oil as a laxative, it might affect vitamin absorption and likely to have an adverse impact on your gut flora.
Simple measures to prevent constipation
Here are some simple steps to normalize your bowel functions:
- Increase fiber intake by adding more fruits, whole grains, and vegetables
- Drink more water and tea!
- Walk, run and exercise to be more physically active.
- Decrease binding foods like rice, bananas, and cheese.
If you are a caregiver to an elderly person, keep in mind that when you fight constipation with too many laxatives it can lead to diarrhea and increase the chances of unhygienic conditions around the genital region, that in turn can cause urinary infections. Most infections arise from E. coli bacteria, which lives in the colon. Also, after female menopause, there is a decrease in the protective normal vaginal bacteria, so if stool bacteria gets into that area it can easily grow and travel into the bladder.
Bottom line (pun intended), fight constipation! But also remember to practice good personal hygiene habits and double down on preventive methods to decrease the number of E. coli in your gut, improve vaginal health, and use D-Mannose to decrease your chances of contracting a UTI.
Read next: Preventing UTI with probiotics.