Have a UTI? You May Want to Consider Zinc!5 years ago | Zinc
By Joy Stephenson-Laws, JD, Founder
If you’ve never had a urinary tract infection (UTI), consider yourself very lucky. In most cases, UTIs are nothing serious. They are just extremely uncomfortable, to say the least. A urinary tract infection occurs when certain bacteria enter the bladder (which is part of the urinary tract). This is why UTIs are also called bladder infections.
Symptoms of UTIs may include:
- Pain or burning when you urinate
- Fever, tiredness or shakiness
- An urge to urinate often
- Pressure in the lower abdomen
- Foul smelling urine or urine that looks cloudy or red in color
- Back pain or pain in your side below the ribs
Whether you will experience all of the symptoms usually depends on how soon your UTI is treated. Pain and burning during urination as well as an urge to urinate often are usually the signs that first tell you that you may have a UTI. The longer the infection goes untreated, additional symptoms, like fever and back pain, may surface. (Keep in mind, every person is different).
If left untreated, UTIs can be a much greater problem than being uncomfortable and having to run back and forth to the bathroom.
Famous singer Katy Perry knows all too well. Reportedly, when the pop star was in high school she suffered from urinary incontinence. She then found out the reason for this was due to an untreated urinary tract infection.
UTIs can be potentially very dangerous when they occur in older adults.
“If you have an aging parent or grandparent, chances are they’ve had a urinary tract infection, or UTI, at some point in life. But the risk of a UTI is greater when a person is frail, increasing their odds for delirium, hospitalization and death,” according to Cleveland Clinic.
Furthermore, “If a UTI isn't treated, there’s a chance it could spread to the kidneys. In some cases, this can trigger sepsis. This happens when your body becomes overwhelmed trying to fight infection. It can be deadly. Symptoms include extreme pain and issues with body temperature, heart rate, respiratory rate, and white blood cell count,” reports WebMD.
So how are UTIs treated?
Well, like with most bacterial infections, UTIs are treated with antibiotics. However, as you may already know, there are downsides to taking antibiotics. For example, taking antibiotics may:
- Harm gut health
- Increase risk of obesity
- Deplete essential vitamins and minerals from the body that we need to stay healthy
It is also important to be mindful that some people can be allergic to certain antibiotics.
You’ve also probably heard that the major issue with antibiotics is that bacteria are learning to become resistant to them. This increases the risk of having our antibiotics not working for us.
So not surprisingly, many medical professionals are looking for alternative, non-antibiotic treatment strategies for treating infections. And according to a recent study, the mineral zinc may be very effective in treating UTIs.
This is extremely important considering UTIs are one of the most common bacterial infections worldwide with about 150 million cases each year, according to one report discussing the study.
Furthermore, according to this 2018 report, “The bacteria responsible for causing most urinary tract infections is becoming resistant to the most common antibiotics, and researchers warn that it may be nearly impossible to identify when alternative treatments should be used.”
But according to researchers of the recent study that explored zinc as a non-antibiotic form of treatment for UTIs, there is a possibility that our immune systems can use zinc in a way that fights off uropathogenic Escherichia coli (UPEC), which is the bacteria majorly responsible for causing UTIs.
Zinc is actually toxic to bacteria, which the researchers were aware of before they conducted the study.
(It is widely known in the medical field that the mineral zinc plays a crucial role in helping wounds heal quickly and properly. Zinc also helps the immune system fight off bacteria and may reduce the incidence of colds. This is why you likely have seen zinc throat lozenges and throat sprays in your local pharmacy).
Additional research needs to be done, because bacteria are smart and learn ways to outsmart agents that are introduced into the system of the host these bacteria invade. The researchers are excited about zinc’s potential fighting powers, but they are also seeing that the bacteria that causes UTIs have a “two-pronged strategy” to survive the body’s immune response.
“We found that, compared to non-pathogenic bacteria, UPEC [the bacteria that causes UTIs] can evade the zinc toxicity response of macrophages [important cells of the immune system], but these bacteria also show enhanced resistance to the toxic effects of the zinc.”
But the good news is…
“These findings give us clues to how our immune system battles infections, and also potential avenues to develop treatments, such as blocking UPEC's escape from zinc to make it more sensitive to this metal.”
So this study was very informative and paves the way for treating a very common bacterial infection without antibiotics.
“Treatment strategies that don't use antibiotics have the advantage of bacteria not developing resistance; if we can reprogram our immune cells to make them stronger, or change the way they respond to bacteria, we would be better equipped to fight superbugs."
But it’s still up to us to be proactive.
The best way to fight off superbugs in general is to make sure our immune systems are in the best shape they can possibly be. And one of the best ways we can do this is through diet and making sure we get an adequate intake of all the essential nutrients, including zinc.
Along with zinc, other nutrients that may aid in improved immune system health include vitamin C, vitamin B9 (also called folate), vitamin B12 (also called cobalamin), vitamin E and selenium. You can read more about zinc and these immunity-boosting nutrients, including what food sources contain these nutrients, here.
And never forget the power of water, another essential nutrient that we cannot go long without. Water plays a key role in immune function. Water helps carry oxygen to cells in the body, and oxygenated cells are necessary for systems in the body, like the immune system, to function properly. Water also helps flush toxins out of the body that can cause infections.
If you drink alcohol, do so in moderation. And if you smoke, quit now! Abusing drugs and alcohol or smoking tobacco is a guaranteed method for depleting key nutrients from the body and weakening the immune system. Practicing these unhealthy habits will definitely deplete essential vitamins and minerals from your body and make you less capable of fighting off superbugs.
Also get adequate exercise and sufficient amounts of sleep each night and practice stress management, whether that’s listening to music and going for a walk or taking a yoga class.
And as always, it is highly recommended that you take routine nutrient tests to ensure you are nutritionally balanced. If you have too much or too little of a specific nutrient, a competent healthcare professional can work with you on making the necessary dietary changes and possibly recommend quality supplements you can take.
To learn more about how you can be proactive about urinary tract infections, check out one of our older blogs here.
Enjoy your healthy life!
The pH professional health care team includes recognized experts from a variety of health care and related disciplines, including physicians, attorneys, nutritionists, nurses and certified fitness instructors. This team also includes the members of the pH Medical Advisory Board, which constantly monitors all pH programs, products and services. To learn more about the pH Medical Advisory Board, click here.