13 Dec Surviving the Festive Season with a Chronic UTIReading Time: 9 minutes
The festive season is usually a time for love, happiness, fun, family, friends and food. When it comes to someone with a chronic UTI, it can also be the season for unwelcome UTI flare-ups. Flares occur when bacteria embedded in the bladder wall become active (planktonic) and start to multiply in the urine, resulting in increased symptoms. Flare-ups can be triggered by a variety of things—the most commonly reported being stress (good and bad), sex, vigorous exercise, internal gynaecological procedures, bowel movements, drinking alcohol and consuming certain foods that individuals are sensitive to. Christmastime should be added to the list because it seems to be an extremely common time to experience flares, no matter where you live in the world. To help minimise the risk of a flare-up ruining your holidays, we asked people with chronic UTI to share their best prevention tips. This is what they told us.
Common Causes behind Christmas Flares
People with chronic UTI told us their symptoms were more likely to flare-up over the festive season due to:
- General Christmas stress
- Drinking alcohol
- Consuming different foods and drinks than usual
- Eating and drinking in excess ( eg higher than usual sugar consumption)
- Being less inclined to follow my treatment protocol over the festive season
- Being out of routine in my home or someone else’s
- Increased sexual intimacy.
Tips on Avoiding UTI Flare-Ups over Christmas and New Year
Here is a collection of tips people with chronic UTI shared on reducing or preventing festive season UTI flare-ups. Many of these tips you may have already discovered yourself by trial and error. It might be reassuring to know others have discovered the same things that work for you. You might also find some tips you’ve never considered that could help get you through Christmas and New Year without a major flare.
Foods and Alcohol
- Avoid drinking alcohol and make sure you drink plenty of water.
- Most of my Christmas flares are from sugary foods. I have found that if I have a teaspoon of activated charcoal or bentonite clay in a glass of water before I eat rubbish, the charcoal or clay absorbs a lot of it and I don’t end up with symptoms.
- To reduce flares I avoid inflammatory foods, i.e. gluten, other grains, sugar and dairy.
- At this time of year I tend to stay away from drinking wine and champagne because I think that still can aggravate my bladder. When I go out for Christmas parties, I go for bubbly water in a nice wine glass so I don’t feel like I’m totally missing out.
- At Christmas we’re exposed to foods we don’t normally eat. I try to avoid eating too many bad foods and stick with healthier options when I’m out. It’s easier said than done. Sometimes I’ll eat before I go out so I’m not tempted by party foods that might upset my symptoms.
- Diet is very important for me. I avoid caffeine, alcohol and sugar to the best of my abilities.
- My tip is to try a lactose free diet.
- Now that my infection is under control, I no longer have problems with certain foods that used to hurt my bladder. I used to notice a connection between eating sugary foods and increased frequency etc, so I still take caution consuming too many sugary foods and drinks at parties. I limit alcohol to just one or two drinks when I’m out and I make sure I have plenty of water so I don’t become dehydrated.
- I avoid drinking too much alcohol because that can upset my symptoms. I try to be careful with the foods I eat over Christmas too, which is hard. I let myself have a little bit of ‘bad’ food and if I feel my bladder niggling, I know I have to cut back.
- Make sure you drink plenty of water if it’s hot over Christmas. If I get dehydrated it almost always triggers frequency, pain and burning. Drinking alcohol also makes me dehydrated. If I go out and I know I’m going to have a couple of drinks, I make an effort to drink extra water. If I do get bladder or urethral burning, I’ll take one of those sachets or some bi-carb soda in water for a few hours until the burning subsides.
- When I reduce the amount of caffeine whilst having a flare (and after) to almost nil, I notice the pain is not as intense.
- No matter how tempting, stay off alcohol if it’s a trigger.
- I try not to overdo all the sugar, it makes my bladder feel like it has a UTI even if it doesn’t. I tolerate low-sugar cocktails like vodka soda much better. Mulled cider is awful on my bladder.
- I’m still in treatment and sex can sometimes still cause me to flare. I usually have a deliberate ‘sex-free’ period before events or special occasions so I don’t have to deal with this.
- I take an extra dose of D-Mannose after sex and one Nitrofurantoin after sex. I carry a bottle of Nitrofurantoin, so, if by chance, I feel a UTI coming on, I confirm with an AZO home UTI test strip and start the antibiotic IMMEDIATELY (no waiting 24-48 hours to see if “it gets better”).
Medication and Remedies
- D-Mannose works well for me and I find it helps to increase my dose before and after a night out.
- I take one teaspoon of D-Mannose EVERY morning and then don’t urinate for at least one hour to hold it in bladder and allow any e-coli to attach to it.
- To prevent flares, I take two spoonfuls of D-Mannose powder daily. Click here for more information on D-Mannose dosing.
- I take Uva Ursi tablets, Oil of Oregano capsules and Marshmallow root capsules when I experience a flare up of UTI symptoms.
- I followed this protocol successfully for minor flare ups: www.listentoyourgut.com/symptoms/63/bladder-infection-uti-or-cystitis.html Plus taking Biosphere D-Mannose sachets every three hours. Or: Following taking one half or full teaspoon of baking soda before a cup of Richard Whelan Uva Ursi tea recipe three to four times daily for flare-ups. Then reduce the amount of baking soda. Please Google search Richard Whelan, New Zealand naturopath for more information. He has a whole section dedicated to treatment of UTIs. I have yet to try AZO products for flare-ups but they sound widely promising.
- When flaring I have taken both an antihistamine and anti-inflammatory up to three times daily. This seems to relieve the constant awareness/discomfort in my lower abdomen.
- Whether you’re taking antibiotics, Hiprex, D-mannose or other natural treatments, make sure you have a flare rescue plan. If you don’t have one yet, ask your doctor what to do if you flare. I remind myself that even though my flares can come on suddenly when I least expect them, they always pass. If you have a plan and get onto a flare quickly, it should help minimise it.
- It’s always good to know what your triggers are and avoid them over the holidays. If it means no sex, alcohol or chocolate for you, it’ll be worth avoiding those triggers if it keeps you out of trouble.
- This might be an obvious one, but don’t get slack taking your antibiotics! If you’re well enough to be going out a lot, make sure you take your meds with you or put some in your car or your bag so you don’t get caught out. It can ruin a good party if you’re panicking about not taking your meds (been there and done that!).
- My tips are stick to safe foods and drinks, get enough sleep and avoid too much time spent with stresses (some family!).
- If you’re having a flare and are near the beach, it’s soothing to soak in the sea for 20 minutes.
- I’m one of those people who flares from stress. It can be good stress like getting excited about going on holiday, or bad stress like dealing with trouble at work. I haven’t found a way to avoid stress, but I manage my symptoms by increasing antibiotics and Hiprex for a few days (or longer) under the guidance of my doctor. This works for me most times.
- Christmas is a stressful time for women, I think, especially when you’re hosting a Christmas dinner or party or having family stay with you. The stress can get bacteria in your bladder going and cause a flare-up. My tips are: Try to pace yourself. Be realistic about what you can handle this year (there are other Christmases; if you don’t have to do Christmas dinner this year, let someone else!) Share the food preparation (most people don’t like coming empty handed and are more than happy to contribute). Try to enjoy the time with your friends and family instead of making everything perfect. Hopefully next Christmas you’re going to be a whole lot better.
- Try to enjoy the holidays the best you can and don’t get yourself too stressed over potentially flaring. Stressing just makes matters worse and the bacteria pick up on those stress signals. If you do have a flare, follow what you’ve done for past flares and then congratulate yourself on surviving another nasty flare. If you’ve been diagnosed with a chronic UTI and you’re being properly treated, it does take time to get better but it’s not going to be like this for the rest of your life.
- Have a checklist of things that you know help you when you’re struggling (medication, water, heat pack, lying down etc) It’s hard to think what helps when you’re in pain, so have it written it advance so you can follow it. Often I’d be struggling and then my partner would ask if I had done a, b and c. I would’ve totally forgotten to do the most basic things to help myself as I couldn’t think straight. It’s also OK to be a little selfish and have some time to yourself to recover/stay well etc. Don’t feel under more pressure to be social just because it’s the holidays. True family will understand.
- It can be a stressful time of year. If you have guests and you feel a flare coming on and you need some time out, take little breaks and have five minutes to yourself here and there. If you’re comfortable talking about your condition, tell your guests you’re not feeling the best. If your chronic UTI is private, ‘a headache’ is a fairly broadly accepted excuse for a time out without having to explain.
- The most important thing for me is pacing myself and not getting over tired. So if you have a busy day, have a quiet one the next. And don’t beat yourself up or feel bad that you can’t eat, drink and be merry all the time.
- I travel a lot and I always keep a prescription for my medication in my handbag in case I forget to pack what I need. This has honestly saved my bacon a few times! I also pack some of my medication in my suitcase AND in my handbag. If your suitcase goes missing, at least you’ve got a small supply in your handbag to get you through (and that spare prescription you keep in there too).
- I take test strips and a pre-written script away with me so that if I come down with an acute UTI, I can treat promptly.
- My tip is to be organised, especially if you’re going away for Christmas, and make sure you have enough antibiotics (or whatever treatment you are taking) to last over the holiday period. If you need a new prescription from your doctor or you need a prescription filled or to stock up on some of your herbals, do it before you get too busy and forget or the shops close.
- I’m feeling so much better this Christmas and everything is easier on reflection. My tip is for anyone out there suffering from their infection and dreading Christmas. Please be kind to yourself and lower any personal expectations you have. It isn’t about making the perfect pav or having a spotlessly clean house. It’s about spending happy times with the people you love. This Christmas I’ve decided I will enjoy this time with my kids while they still believe in Christmas and all the wonderful magic. I want them to have a happy mum and beautiful memories. I know this isn’t easy when you’re having a hard time. It will get better. The best thing you can do for your kids right now is not put so much pressure on yourself. Take the day as it comes. If your symptoms flare, so be it, it’s just one day of the year. Smile through it. Tomorrow is a new day and you’re one step closer to being better. I’m sending positive Christmas vibes to everyone out there. It gets better.
- My tip isn’t so much about flares but it is about my mental health and well-being over the holidays when it involves socialising and having family catch-ups. I’ve learned the hard way to be careful who I talk to about my chronic UTI. I know this goes against us needing to talk openly about chronic UTI to raise awareness, but I have some family members and friends who don’t understand the disease and don’t like or ‘approve’ of my treatment. I get comments like “Are you STILL on antibiotics?” “Surely that can’t be good for you?!” Earlier I would try explaining about chronic UTIs and why my treatment is long term. I don’t do that anymore because I find the judgement negative and stressful. Now when I’m with those family members or friends and someone asks how I am, I say I’m still in treatment and things are going well. I don’t give details, even if I’m flaring and having a bad day. For my own self-preservation, this is how I’ve chosen to handle people who are unsupportive and negative about my treatment. I’ve found my support network online and I turn there when I need to. I’m truly grateful for all the women in my Facebook group. I know I can always go there for support and understanding and there is never any judgement because everyone understands when you have ups and downs. Merry Christmas to everyone. I hope you all have a stress and flare free Christmas!
- Ask Santa to make us all better! ??
We hope you’ve found this list of UTI flare survival tips helpful. If you have tips of your own to share, please tell us in the comments section below. Your tips might help someone you’ve never met survive Christmas!