UTIs are the worst thing ever, especially when they keep coming back, over and over again. Caused by a proliferation of bacteria (usually E. coli), these infections are both incredibly common and insanely uncomfortable. And if you’re suffering from recurring UTIs, some of your everyday habits just might be to blame.
Surprising, simple and common routines can be at the root of those here-we-go-again UTIs. If you have any of the following six habits, it’s time to change them – and potentially get some relief from those frustrating infections. Plus, we’re sharing easy ways to change those UTI-causing habits and make them better for your health.
1. Your desk job
A sedentary lifestyle is associated with chronic health problems, and sitting is especially dangerous. Dozens of studies show lengthy sitting increases the risk of heart disease, mood disorders, some cancers – and, as it turns out, UTIs.
New research links prolonged sitting, like at a desk job, with a higher risk of kidney problems and UTIs. People who sit less and move more are less likely to develop UTIs or other urinary tract issues. Being in a seat all day impacts nerves, muscles and connective tissues related to bladder and urinary tract function.
If you live at your desk, take hourly breaks to get moving. Run up and down the stairs, jump rope or jog around the block, and set a timer to remind you when you’re due to move. Or, invest in a standing desk; you’ll find basic models for as little as $100.
See also: Sitting All Day? Give Your Spine a Stretch With This Backbending Sequence
2. Your date-night panties
Those clingy, sexy undies may be triggering UTIs. Tight underthings trap bacteria in the vaginal area and irritate sensitive tissue, leaving you vulnerable to infections. Even worse, bikinis and thongs made from nylon or synthetic fabrics trap moisture, allowing pathogens to proliferate and leaving you more susceptible to UTIs (and yeast infections). The same goes for tights, leggings, yoga pants and snug swimsuits.
Save racy, lacy lingerie for steamy encounters and stick to lightweight cotton panties for everyday wear. Change your undies frequently, and shed damp workout pants as soon as you’re done exercising. Hanging out in sweaty clothes lets bacteria flourish.
3. Your savage sweet tooth
Snacking on cookies, candy, soda and other sweets may be setting off your UTIs. Sugar disrupts the pH balance of urine, creating an environment in which E. coli thrive and multiply. Plus, blood sugar spikes impair immune function, weakening the body’s ability to fight off infections.
Cage that savage sweet-tooth beast, and snack on foods that lower your risk. Try:
- Serve hummus with strips of red bell pepper; they’re rich in vitamins shown to hamper bacterial growth, protect against UTIs and enhance immunity.
- Blend unsweetened cranberry juice concentrate with sparkling water and a squeeze of lime, and sweeten with stevia; research suggests cranberries reduce the risk of UTIs and prevent recurring infections.
- Stir chopped peaches into unsweetened yogurt; peaches contain D-mannose, a compound that blocks E. coli from adhering to and invading the urinary tract, and probiotics in yogurt balance intestinal bacteria and boost immunity.
- Spread almond butter on apple slices and top with a generous sprinkle of cinnamon; studies show it blunts the growth of bacteria and thwarts E. coli colonization.
4. Your personal hygiene routine
You’ve heard it before, but it bears repeating: After you go to the bathroom, always wipe from front to back. If you wipe from back to front, you’re transporting a slew of bacteria from the anus right to the urethra, where they can travel into the urinary tract and cause painful problems.
And when you have to go, don’t hold it. As urine lingers in the bladder, bacteria continue to multiply. Peeing flushes out troublesome pathogens and lessens your risk.
While we’re talking about personal hygiene: Douching irritates delicate tissues and throws off the balance of vaginal flora, allowing bacteria to flourish and increasing the likelihood of infections. The same goes for harsh or heavily scented soaps, cleansing wipes or bubble baths. Skip fragrant cleansers, and don’t over-wash; mild, unscented soap and warm water is really all you need.
5. Your carnal pursuits
Having sex is one of the best ways to trigger a UTI. During lovemaking, the urethra is exposed to a multitude of bacteria from the genitals, the anus, the mouth or toys. Having multiple partners heightens your risk, but even copious coupling with the same partner (especially over a short period of time) makes UTIs more likely.
When you’re feeling frisky, take care of yourself. Keep toys rigorously clean, protect against anal bacteria and pee right after. Emptying the bladder post-sex flushes out any bacteria that may have been introduced during bedroom play. You may also want to check your birth control. Spermicides contain nonoxynol-9, a chemical that alters vaginal pH and destroys protective microorganisms, allowing E. coli to flourish. In one study, women whose male partners used condoms coated with nonoxynol-9 had a significantly higher risk of UTIs.
See also: This Sex Meditation App Wants You to Tap Into Your Sexuality—And Yourself
6. Your Starbucks addiction
That venti caramel macchiato isn’t doing your bladder any favors. Like sweets, coffee disrupts pH balance and promotes bacterial proliferation. And sugary coffee beverages are a double-whammy.
Coffee’s diuretic effects also promote dehydration, making urine more concentrated and irritating the bladder. Curb your coffee habit, and swap your morning brew for green tea, which is rich in antimicrobial compounds that inhibit the growth of pathogens. Research shows drinking green tea daily enhances immunity.
You can also double down on daily hydration. Drinking more water dilutes urine, minimizes irritation and helps you flush out bacteria and other toxins.
See also: I Tried Mushroom Coffee—And It Helped Me Beat the 3 p.m. Slump