It’s a topic we might not talk openly about, but it's still extremely important to our health. Our urinary tract is vital to our digestion and the removal of toxins from the body. Learn what you can do to keep your urinary tract healthy.
What Exactly is the Urinary Tract?
The urinary tract is one of the body’s waste disposal systems. It has the significant function of not only removing waste products from your bloodstream but also excess fluids. Your urinary tract is composed of several organs that work together to filter out these harmful substances– the kidneys, bladder, ureters and urethra. Men and women have all four of these organs, but the placement in their bodies is different, which contributes to the unique health concerns that men and women might encounter with their urinary tract.
Avoiding Bladder Irritation
Urinary health issues can be caused by genetics, medications and even some medical treatments like chemotherapy. However, for the vast majority of us, the main culprit for bladder problems is due to the type of foods we eat and beverages we drink. Foods that are highly acidic or spicy can irritate the urinary tract. Citrus foods and spicy foods are teeming with beneficial ingredients but they can be problematic if you are experiencing bladder issues. If this is the case it may be best to enjoy them in moderation or perhaps avoid them completely. If your bladder and digestive system is healthy, citrus fruits and spicy foods generally will not present much of an issue for you.
Protect Your Urinary Health
There are certain practices that can improve your bladder health. Drinking plenty of water throughout the day is the number one priority for a healthy bladder. Shoot for six to eight 8-ounce glasses of water a day. When you feel the urge to go, go. Holding it in for too long weakens your pelvic floor bladder muscles. In addition, urine remaining in your bladder for too long can encourage harmful bacteria to grow. Both men and women can strengthen these muscles with Kegel exercises. The same muscles you use to stop the flow of urine are what you will contract during this exercise. Contract the pelvic floor muscles for five seconds and then release. A set of five Kegels a day can help strengthen weak bladder muscles. Another best practice for females– wipe front to back to minimize the chance of bacteria traveling up the urethra into the bladder. Females have a much shorter urethra than males, putting them at a greater risk of contracting a urinary tract infection.
Nutrients for a Healthy Urinary Tract
If you want to know which foods are best for your bladder, remember these three qualities: low acid, high fiber and high water content. This would include foods like watermelon, broccoli, pears, potatoes and bananas. Healthy individuals can handle acidic foods like tomatoes and oranges, but if you are experiencing any bladder issues, these foods could exacerbate it. Of course, speak to your physician for detailed diet recommendations and care for any serious bladder problems. Looking for more healthy food tips? Check out our healthy food swaps for wellness.
Interestingly, there is one type of acid that may promote bladder health. Malic acid is found in pears, apples, berries, bananas and many other fruits along with some vegetables. Eating fresh fruit is all that is needed to get plenty of malic acid in your diet.
Cranberries and the Urinary Tract
Cranberries’ usefulness in promoting urinary health has been well documented in numerous clinical studies. One study showed that cranberry taken in tablet or capsule form was more effective than cranberry juice in the prevention of recurrent urinary tract infections in healthy individuals.* The proanthocyanidins in cranberry seem to be the main component that provides the bladder health benefits.* Proanthocyanidins are what give cranberries their deep red pigment. They are polyphenols which possess anti-inflammatory qualities. It is believed that the plant pigments discourage harmful bacteria from attaching to the lining of the bladder, but more research is needed to fully understand the mechanism in which cranberries provide health benefits.*
The Best Supplements for Bladder Health
As mentioned, cranberries are one of the top foods for a healthy bladder. One of the advantages of taking cranberry as a supplement is that you can get the benefits of cranberries without putting a dent in your diet with additional sugar and calories. Nature's Lab Cranberry 5400 mg contains a concentrated cranberry extract and organic cranberry powder.
Another nutrient traditionally used for urinary health is the herb Tribulus terrestris. Many clinical trials have shown that it promotes hormonal precursors and enhances libido in men and women.* Recent studies have focused on its potential antibacterial qualities which can be useful for the urinary tract. Tribulus terrestris extract is the main ingredient in Nature’s Lab Tribulux Max 1500mg.
Omega-3 fatty acids are another helpful supplement for the bladder and kidneys.* It’s highly anti-inflammatory which promotes healthy urinary tract function. You can add omega-3 fatty acids to your diet by eating walnuts, chia seeds and flaxseed, or using a fish oil supplement like Triple Strength Omega-3 Fish Oil. To learn more about the importance of omega-3s, read our blog all about healthy fats.
J. Xia, C. Yang, D. Xu, H. Xia, L. Yang, G. Sun (2021, September 2). Consumption of cranberry as adjuvant therapy for urinary tract infections in susceptible populations: A systematic review and meta-analysis with trial sequential analysis. PLOS ONE. Retrieved May 19, 2022, from https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0256992
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (n.d.). The Urinary Tract and How It Works. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Retrieved May 19, 2022, from https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/urologic-diseases/urinary-tract-how-it-works
Rodgers AL, Webber D, de Charmoy R, Jackson GE, Ravenscroft N. (2013, November 9). Malic acid supplementation increases urinary citrate excretion and urinary ph: Implications for the potential treatment of calcium oxalate stone disease. Journal of endourology. Retrieved May 19, 2022, from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24059642/
Kalantar Hormozi E, Delavar M, Kianbakht S, Payani MA. (2003, January 1). The antimicrobial effects of Tribulus terrestris fruit extract on some gram negative and positive bacteria in comparison with some in use antibiotics. www.SID.ir. Retrieved May 19, 2022, from https://www.sid.ir/en/Journal/ViewPaper.aspx?ID=47276
Lange, J. N., Mufarrij, P. W., Easter, L., Knight, J., Holmes, R. P., & Assimos, D. G. (2014, October). Fish oil supplementation and urinary oxalate excretion in normal subjects on a low-oxalate diet. Urology. Retrieved May 19, 2022, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4243483/