Infections in the urinary tract are caused when bacteria from the rectum go into the urethra and into the bladder. Bacteria transfer takes place during sex, fondling and defecation and wiping. In women, the short urethra (a tube that connects the urinary bladder to the genitals) makes entry of bacteria into the bladder easier.
Yeast infections are caused by an overgrowth of candida, and are exacerbated by warm, moist conditions. Things like birth control pills, improper drying of underwear, use of scented soaps and the wearing of non-cotton underwear can help yeast to thrive. Many women get recurring infections, and more and more, they seek out at-home treatments to minimise the discomfort and to avoid repeatedly visiting the doctor.
Gynaecologist at the University Hospital of the West Indies, Professor Horace Fletcher said women who hold their urine are at greater risk of getting UTIs because the bacteria get a chance to grow and increase. The bacteria can even go into the kidneys through the urethra.
Dr Fletcher said one of the best ways to prevent a UTI is to empty the bladder regularly. This flushes out the bacteria. It also helps if the woman drinks a lot of fluids.
• Women should empty their bladders before and directly after sex.
• They should not hold their urine for an inordinately long period.
• They should wipe themselves from front to back after passing stool never back to front, as this will transfer faeces from the anus into the vagina.
• Drink adequate amounts of fluid to flush out bacteria. Cranberry juice is believed to reduce infections. However, most clear fluids like coconut water, spring water and apple juice will flush out the bladder. Some scientists, however, believe that cranberry juice (or dried cranberry or cranberry sauce) also prevents the bacteria from sticking to the bladder wall.
For yeast infections
While there are ways in which you can tackle the problem of yeast infections at home, you have to first ensure that what you have is actually a yeast infection. You can usually tell this if you have had one, or several, before. If you’re unsure, it’s best to visit your doctor. Some symptoms of a vaginal yeast infection are:
• An unusual thick, odourless, whitish vaginal discharge.
• Burning on the vulva during sexual intercourse.
• Uncontrollable itching and a burning sensation in the vagina and the skin surrounding the vagina (vulva).
• Unexplained swelling and redness of the vulva.
• Burning sensation during urination.
Home remedies for yeast infections
Some of these remedies have been tested and tried by women for ages. If symptoms persist, it’s best to visit your doctor.
• Yoghurt is said to be very effective in treating and preventing yeast infections when added to your diet and when added directly to the vagina. An easy way is to simply dip a clean tampon into yogurt and insert it into the vagina overnight. Ensure that the yoghurt used is plain with no flavourings, sugars or fruit, and that it also contains live cultures.
• Garlic is said to have antibacterial and antifungal properties. Just like yoghurt, garlic may be used both as a dietary supplement and also directly applied to the vagina. Yoghurt and garlic are the two leading choices among yeast infection home remedies. Women who have used it advise that you either eat a clove of fresh garlic once or twice per day at the onset of yeast infection or apply garlic directly to the vagina. A fresh garlic clove can be wrapped in gauze and inserted into the vagina overnight for treatment, until the symptoms ease.