Do I have a UTI or am I just eating too much beetroot?!
There are a number of foods and drinks that can affect the colour, smell and cloudiness of your urine which can mimic the symptoms of a Urinary Tract Infection (UTI).
Are you worried that your urine has a pink/red-ish colour to it? You may have read that beetroot can cause urine to turn red. This is thought to be related to the pH level in the stomach1 and is known to affect a small number of people.
Worried about smelly urine? It has also been found that asparagus can cause smelly urine as it triggers the release of sulfurous byproducts, although this may not happen for everyone. It is possible that not everyone produces the sulfurous smell, but it is also possible that everyone produces the odor, but only some can smell it2.
In addition to beetroot and asparagus, strong-smelling or dark-coloured urine can be caused by a number of foods and drinks, as well as dehydration3. These are not the most common symptoms of UTI, so are not necessarily cause for concern 4.
Caffeine and alcohol
Caffeine and alcohol are diuretics, meaning that they may make you want to go to the toilet more often than usual, which can cause dehydration. This overactivity in the bladder damages the bladder cells, making it more vulnerable to invasion by harmful bacteria. Invasion by harmful bacteria can cause a UTI, so avoid diuretics and keep hydrated by drinking plenty of water.
Highly acidic or alkaline foods and drinks
Higher pH levels are associated with lower levels of ‘good’ bacteria, making it easier for harmful bacteria to cause infection, so it is helpful to consider the pH of your diet. https://total-wellness.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/Alkalising-Food-Chart.pdf
Sugary foods and drinks (e.g. fruit juices, fizzy drinks) are highly acidic and can help the growth of bacteria.
If you do suspect a UTI, it is important that you do a urine test and seek help from a medical professional if your symptoms become more severe. The TestCard UTI test kit is available at both TestCard.com and Superdrug.com.
Luckily there are a number of foods and drinks that you can include in your diet to help reduce the risk of UTIs...
Antioxidant-rich and anti-inflammatory foods
Foods such as blueberries, cranberries and dark chocolate are antioxidant-rich and can protect the cells of the body against infections like UTI.
Anti-inflammatory foods including healthy fats e.g. fatty fish, nuts, avocado, and leafy greens have many health benefits as they are rich in vitamins and minerals.
While antioxidants protect the cells from damage, anti-inflammatory foods are needed to signal the end of an inflammatory response. So both have a role to play in fighting off a UTI.
Lowering PH levels
A vegetarian / vegan diet is associated with a lower pH in the bladder, meaning bacteria is less likely to grow, and the risk of foodborne (from meat or animal products) bacteria such as E.coli entering the body and causing a UTI is also reduced5.
Probiotic-rich foods, e.g., kimchi, sauerkraut, and plain yogurt, help the good bacteria to grow, which in turn stops the growth of harmful bacteria that could cause a UTI.
Prebiotic-rich foods, e.g.,garlic, onions, leeks, and asparagus, also have a positive effect on the growth of good bacteria.
High-fibre foods, e.g., whole grains, fruit and vegetables are important to avoid constipation if you suffer with UTIs, as constipation puts more pressure on the bladder, and may worsen UTI symptoms like the urgent and frequent need to pee.
AND MOST IMPORTANTLY...DRINK PLENTY OF WATER!
Drinking plenty of water flushes unwanted bacteria out of the urinary tract, and studies have consistently shown a reduction in UTIs for patients whose fluid intake is greater6.
PREBIOTICS AND PROBIOTICS
1 Mitchell, S. C. (2001). Food idiosyncrasies: beetroot and asparagus. Drug metabolism and disposition, 29(4), 539-543.
2 Pelchat, M. L., Bykowski, C., Duke, F. F., & Reed, D. R. (2011). Excretion and perception of a characteristic odor in urine after asparagus ingestion: a psychophysical and genetic study. Chemical senses, 36(1), 9-17.
4 Jump, R. L., Crnich, C. J., & Nace, D. A. (2016). Cloudy, foul-smelling urine not a criteria for diagnosis of urinary tract infection in older adults. Journal of the American Medical Directors Association, 17(8), 754.
5 Jakobsen, L., Garneau, P., Bruant, G., Harel, J., Olsen, S. S., Porsbo, L. J., ... & Frimodt-Møller, N. (2012). Is Escherichia coli urinary tract infection a zoonosis? Proof of direct link with production animals and meat. European journal of clinical microbiology & infectious diseases, 31(6), 1121-1129.
6 Scott, A. M., Clark, J., Del Mar, C., & Glasziou, P. (2020). Increased fluid intake to prevent urinary tract infections: systematic review and meta-analysis. British Journal of General Practice, 70(692), e200-e207.
Watson, W. C., Luke, R. G., & Inall, J. A. (1963). Beeturia: Its incidence and a clue to its mechanism. British medical journal, 2(5363), 971.
Watts, A. R., Lennard, M. S., Mason, S. L., Tucker, G. T., & Woods, H. F. (1993). Beeturia and the biological fate of beetroot pigments. Pharmacogenetics, 3(6), 302-311.