Research published today in the latest edition of JAMA Internal Medicine has found that drinking an extra 1.5 litres of water a day roughly halved the number of UTIs in the group of women studied.

This gives greater credence to traditional advice that drinking more fluid helps to prevent or cure the infections that are particularly common for women and cause stinging pain when urinating and the urge to pee more often.

The University of Miami study involved 140 premenopausal women who had recurrent UTIs (cystitis) and reported usually drinking less than 1.5 litres of total fluid (about six glasses) a day. Half of the women were assigned an extra 1.5 litres of water on top of their usual fluid intake for 12 months, while the other half continued with their normal fluid intake. The women told to drink more water had 1.7 UTIs during the year on average, compared with 3.2 UTIs on average for the women told to continue as normal.

The study – funded by a company that sells bottled water – involved self-reporting fluid intake so is unable to conclude how much extra fluid or water should be drunk to reduce the risk of UTIs in women with histories of recurrent infections. Neither can it confirm whether drinking extra water or fluid would be beneficial to women at lower risk of UTIs or who already drink more fluid than the women who signed up to the study.

But the researchers suggest that drinking more water is a safe and inexpensive alternative  to antibiotics in helping to prevent recurring infections, as increasing the volume of urine reduces the bacterial load in the bladder.

As the journal’s deputy editor pointed out, there were holes in the study: it was sponsored by a water company; the women’s fluid and water consumption was self-reported; and the trial wasn’t blind; however, the trial was effective and any safe drinking water would do.

Health Central checked out three health advice sites to see what advice was being shared currently about drinking fluids to prevent UTIs.

The Ministry of Health advises people with recurrent UTIs to drink plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration (but not fizzy, alcoholic or caffeinated drinks and most fruit juices).

UK’s National Health Service suggests that drinking plenty of water when you have a UTI may help flush infection out of the bladder but added how effective this actually was is unclear.

New Zealand’s Health Navigator site said the benefits of the traditional advice to drink lots of water to flush out the bladder was questionable because of the lack of proof it was helpful.

**subhead** Tips to prevent UTIs

  • Don’t delay urinating – avoid holding on.
  • Avoid dehydration – drink plenty of fluid.
  • Make sure your bladder is as empty as possible every time you go.
  • Women should always wipe from the front (vagina) to the back (anus) after urinating or having a bowel motion.
  • Urinate before and soon after sexual intercourse.

Some earlier studies suggested that drinking cranberry juice could reduce recurrent UTIs. A more recent study and review has shown no statistically significant benefit. Read Cranberries for preventing urinary tract infections Cochrane Summaries, 2013.


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