Bidets and UTIs

Ahh, the dreaded UTI.  A burning, need-to-pee feeling, lower back pain, strange-smelling urine nightmare that will affect 50% of women during their lifetimes.

What is a UTI?

For those that are lucky enough not to have gotten one, UTI stands for urinary tract infection.  It is caused by bacteria entering the urethra (the tube your body uses to urinate) and creating an infection.  These bacteria can then spread farther, reaching the bladder and sometimes even the kidneys.

What are the symptoms?

  • Burning sensation while urinating.
  • An achy lower back/abdomen caused by the infection reaching the bladder and kidneys.
  • Fatigue and possibly fever.
  • Strange-smelling urine that looks as strange as it smells (dark, cloudy, sometimes bloody).
  • Needing to pee, but unable to produce much to alleviate the feeling.

How can UTIs be caused?

UTIs are most commonly caused by the bacteria from one’s own bum (E. coli is the most common UTI causing bacteria).  Traitors!  Women are often taught from a young age to wipe from the front to back after using the toilet, and for good reason; if you wipe from the rear to the front, you can easily introduce those sneaky butt-teria to the urethra.  With regards to the female genitals, this easy to remember rhyme can save you a lot of unnecessary woe, “Wipe away, shout hooray.  Wipe toward, prepare for horrific UTI causing bacteria to board”.

UTIs can also be caused by sexual activity as some bacteria that haven’t been able to enter the area can be delivered right to their easily infect-able destination.

Another relevant tidbit of UTI info regards the recurrence of the infection.  Most women will only have to deal with a UTI once.  However, nearly 20% of women suffer from reoccurring UTIs.
Some are unlucky enough to be plagued by a guerrilla group of bacteria that have established colonies beyond the reach of both medication (antibiotics) and the immune system.  These colonies can send out bacteria again and again, causing infections that blossom regardless of hygiene habits.

How are UTIs cured?

Most UTIs will be cured with antibiotics and taking extra care to maintain a thorough cleaning of the area after using the bathroom.

This is really the only truly effective method.  There is a lot of talk about a tannin in cranberries that can shut-down E. coli, but a recent (2012) review of 24 different studies on the efficacy of cranberries on UTIs did not note any significant improvement in patient condition.

How do bidets have anything to do with this?

Prevention.

Bidets do a superior job of removing bacteria from the anal and genital areas.  Imagine how clean you’d feel if you had poo all over your hands and were given a bunch of tissues to clean it with.  Now, water alone won’t be as effective as soap and water, but an article by The Atlantic points out the benefits of water alone, which are hardly insignificant.

 

Even more relevant is a study The Gerontologist ran that involved senior females at a senior care center. Jiska Cohen-Mansfield, PhD and James R. Biddison, BA conducted the study, titled “The potential of wash-and-dry toilets to improve the toileting experience for nursing home residents.” 

The results of their study were that the residents had a better bathroom experience (duh, bidets are pretty awesome) and “Bacterial content of urine decreased in the experimental group and increased in the comparison group during the trial.”

Treatment

Decreasing the bacteria content of urine (essentially how much bacteria is in the urethra) can do wonders for shortening a typical UTI when combined with a doctor prescribed antibiotic, as the bacteria on-the-loose will have fewer reinforcements to draw from to prolong the infection.