We have received listener questions on how to prevent urinary tract infections (UTIs) and how to suppress genital viral infections like Herpes Virus (HSV).
Urinary tract infections can be miserable and very frustrating if it becomes a recurrent problem. While a short course of antibiotics will clear up an infection, it is best for your health to avoid frequent use of antibiotics. Prevention measures will limit the need for antibiotic treatment. Here are some simple prevention measures you can take:
- Drink plenty of water, and relieve yourself often. The simplest way to prevent a UTI is to flush bacteria out of the bladder and urinary tract before it can take hold. If you’re well-hydrated, it will be tough to go too long without urinating.
- Wipe from front to back. Bacteria tend to hang around the anus. If you wipe from front to back, especially after a bowel movement, they’re less likely to make it to the urethra.
- Wash up before sex and urinate after it. Use soap and water before sex. This keeps bacteria away from the urethra. And urinating afterward pushes any bacteria that entered the urinary tract back out.
- Don’t use irritating feminine products. Skip douches, deodorant sprays, scented powders, scented panti-liners or pads and other potentially irritating feminine products.
- Rethink your birth control. A diaphragm, spermicide, or spermicide-lubricated condom can make you more likely to get a UTI because they all can contribute to bacterial growth. If you often get UTIs and use one of these birth control methods, switch to a water-based lubricant for vaginal dryness, and consider trying another birth control method to see if it helps.
- Other lifestyle changes. Some providers also advise women who get a lot of UTIs to wear cotton underwear, take showers instead of baths, and avoid tight clothes that can trap bacteria near the urethra. Although these methods are not supported by scientific data, you should continue these techniques if they work for you.
- Focusing on vaginal health. Taking measures to maintain vaginal health can really aid in the prevention of UTIs.
For premenopausal women this can include:
- Changing tampons or pads frequently
- Use a vaginal pH balancer, especially after the period. OTC Rephresh can be used by inserting the gel vaginally once or twice a week
For menopausal women, methods include:
- Adding vaginal estrogen if that is appropriate for you. This is usually dosed twice a week.
- Consider vaginal rejuvenation treatments like Mona Lisa Touch or Votiva. These are vaginal laser treatments, usually a series of three sessions performed at a medical office, usually urology or gynecology office.
Other methods appropriate for pre or postmenopausal women include:
- Taking a cranberry supplement. I have found that the supplement TheraCran daily has really helped my patients.
- Taking a probiotic that addresses vaginal health will contain Lactobacillus. A couple of options include Garden of Life Raw Probiotics Vaginal care and Pro B by Rephresh.
- Using a prescription antibiotic just one cap after intercourse.
- For recurrent UTIs sometimes a daily antibiotic for up to six months is prescribed to correct the problem.
If you have children, you can help them instill good bladder hygiene by encouraging the following habits:
- taking bathroom breaks every 2 to 3 hours
- completely emptying the bladder
- taking time while peeing
- teaching girls to wipe from front to back after urinating
- avoiding tight underwear or clothes
- avoiding bubble baths
- staying hydrated
Herpes Simplex Suppression:
First of all, what is herpes and how is it caused?
The herpes simplex virus, also known as HSV, is an infection that causes herpes. Herpes can appear in different parts of the body, most commonly on the genitals or mouth. The herpes simplex virus is a contagious virus that can be transmitted from person to person through direct contact. Children will often contract HSV-1 from early contact with an infected adult. They then carry the virus with them for the rest of their lives. There are two types of the herpes simplex virus.
- HSV-1: primarily causes oral herpes, and is generally responsible for cold sores and fever blisters around the mouth, on the face and sometimes in the nose.
HSV-1 can be contracted from general interactions such as:
- eating from the same utensils
- sharing lip balm
The virus spreads more quickly when an infected person is experiencing an outbreak. An estimated 67% of people ages 49 or younger have blood tests that show they have been exposed to HSV-1, though they may never experience an outbreak. It’s also possible to get genital herpes from HSV-1 if someone who performed oral sex had cold sores during that time.
- HSV-2: primarily causes genital herpes, and is generally responsible for genital herpes outbreaks.
HSV-2 is contracted through forms of sexual contact with a person who has HSV-2. An estimated 20 percent of sexually active adults in the United States are infected with HSV-2, according to the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD). HSV-2 infections are spread through contact with a herpes sore. In contrast, most people get HSV-1 from an infected person who is asymptomatic, or does not have sores.
Risk Factors for contracting HSV-2 include:
- having sex without protection using condoms or other barrier methods
- having multiple sex partners
- having sex at a younger age
- being female
- having another sexually transmitted infection (STI)
- having a weakened immune system
Symptoms can include:
- blistering sores (in the mouth or on the genitals)
- pain during urination (genital herpes)
- swollen lymph nodes
- lack of appetite
- General illness (from mild illnesses to serious conditions)
- Physical or emotional stress
- Immunosuppression due to AIDS or such medications as chemotherapy or steroids
- Trauma to the affected area, including sexual activity
How is it Diagnosed?
During an exam by your provider, a herpes culture can be obtained by collecting fluids using a swab on the genital tissue that is affected. This test looks for the presence of the actual virus. A blood test can be ordered to check for antibodies to HSV1 and HSV2. This is not checking for active disease but will determine if you have been exposed to the virus.
There also self tests available to check for the presence of herpes. One such company is LetsGetChecked.
How is it Treated?
There is currently no cure for this virus but outbreaks can be treated or prevented using prescription antiviral medications like acyclovir, famciclovir or valacyclovir. They can be taken whenever an outbreak occurs or taken daily to prevent an outbreak. Taking an antiviral daily can also reduce the chance of transmission to someone else.
Other ways to help reduce outbreaks:
- The OTC supplement L-lysine 1 gram three times daily to treat an outbreak and 1 gram daily to prevent outbreaks. You can also include foods in your diet that are high in L-lysine. Some examples are:
- parmesan cheese
2. Support your immune system by reducing stress, getting enough sleep, eating a healthy diet, exercising and taking supplements like Vitamin C 500-1000 mg daily and Zinc 20-40 mg daily. You can also support your immune system by taking an adrenal support supplement.
To our listener who asked what else she can do to prevent HSV outbreaks, if you are taking a daily RX antiviral for prevention, taking L-lysine and doing all you can to support your immune system and STILL having outbreaks, I recommend that you have a blood test to check your immunoglobulin levels and make sure they are in the normal range. If they are low, you need to see an immunologist who can determine if you need immunoglobulin therapy.