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Can Stress Cause UTI? Treatment Options and Preventative Measures
Mental Health

Can Stress Cause UTI? Treatment Options and Preventative Measures

Wendy Lord, RD
Written by Wendy Lord, RD | Fact checked by Fact checked by Rosmy Barrios, MD check
Last update: March 17, 2023
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5 min

Wondering if stress can cause UTI? In this article, we explore how stress and anxiety may cause UTI and how to treat it when it happens. Take a look to find out more.

Can stress cause uti
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Stress has huge implications not just for your mental health but also for your physical health. Prolonged stress, or chronic stress, can cause problems in the body that make it much more susceptible to illness and infection.

In this article, we’re going to look at whether or not stress can cause urinary tract infections and how you should treat these UTIs when they occur. Take a look now to learn more.

Can Stress Cause UTI?

A urinary tract infection is a bacterial infection usually caused by E. coli, though it can be caused by a number of other bacteria too. While stress appears not to directly cause urinary tract infections, chronic stress does make you more susceptible to illness and infection, making stress an indirect cause of a urinary tract infection.

Stress can cause many physical symptoms, including diarrhea and nausea, and persistently high-stress levels lead to higher levels of cortisol in the blood. Cortisol is a stress hormone, and high levels of it can reduce your body’s ability to fight infection and inflammation.

A urinary tract infection causes inflammation in your bladder and the tubes that connect it to the kidneys. It is caused by an infection that is usually fought off by your immune system, but if you are stressed, your immune system doesn’t function properly, making it harder for your body to fight the UTI. In this way, stress can lead to UTIs.

Can anxiety cause UTI symptoms?

As with stress, anxiety leads to an increase in cortisol levels, which, in turn, leads to reduced immune system function and makes you more susceptible to infection. This means that while anxiety does not cause UTI or urinary tract symptoms, you are more likely to get them while anxious.

In addition, lower urinary tract symptoms and anxiety and stress are closely intertwined. Research suggests that people with urinary symptoms, like an overactive bladder, have higher levels of anxiety and stress. Having symptoms of a lower urinary tract infection can lead to increased stress levels, which can then make the symptoms worse too, and so a vicious cycle begins.

UTI Symptoms

The symptoms of a UTI are as follows.

  • Pain, stinging, or burning sensation when you urinate
  • Soreness in the lower back or abdomen
  • Cloudy, bloody, or dark urine
  • Frequent urination
  • Greater urgency to urinate
  • Fever

UTI Causes

Urinary tract infections are caused by bacteria, usually E. coli. However, they can be caused by other bacteria too, including:

  • Staphylococcus saprophyticus
  • Candida spp
  • Group B strep
  • Staphylococcus aureus

In addition, some people are at a higher risk of developing UTIs due to lifestyle factors, genetics, and other conditions. You are at higher risk if you have:

  • Frequent sexual intercourse
  • Age or injury-related changes to your vagina or vulva
  • Family history of UTIs
  • Kidney stones
  • Enlarged prostate
  • Used a catheter
  • Used vaginal diaphragms with spermicide
  • A non-secretor blood type

Treatment for UTI

As a UTI is an infection caused by bacteria, it is treated with antibiotics. However, there are treatment options you can use alongside antibiotics to ease symptoms. These include:

There are also ways that you can reduce your risk of UTIs, which are as follows:

  • Ensuring that you stay properly hydrated by drinking lots of water
  • Avoiding scented products in the vaginal area
  • Urinating when you need to, rather than holding it, to avoid bladder pressure
  • Drinking unsweetened cranberry juice (there is mixed data on this, but some research suggests that drinking cranberry juice can be beneficial for your urinary system and prevent bladder infection)
  • Speaking with your doctor about contraceptive health to ascertain whether your current birth control method is leading to bladder inflammation and UTIs

5 Tips to Help You Relax

As stress and anxiety can make you more susceptible to UTIs and make the symptoms worse, one way you can prevent recurrent UTIs is to relax and reduce stress levels. Below, we have a few tips for managing stress.

#1 Practice deep breathing

Deep breathing, breathing exercises, and what is known as Pranayama in yoga have all been used for relaxation for centuries. Research indicates that deep breathing helps to reduce sympathetic nervous system activity, ensuring that your body relaxes.

Practicing deep breathing can reduce stress levels and anxiety, which can reduce the risk of urinary health issues and may help to reduce the stress of symptoms. By using breathing exercises, you can bring your mind back to the present and stop yourself from overthinking and worrying about UTIs and UTI symptoms.

#2 Listen to calm and soothing music

Research suggests that the human brain responds well to music. In fact, it is thought that listening to calming and soothing music can actually reduce your cortisol levels. This means that listening to soothing music could actually help prevent stress-caused UTIs.

As increased levels of cortisol are what lead to reduced immune function and increased susceptibility to UTIs, anything that has the ability to lower cortisol levels is going to improve immune function and reduce your risk of UTIs.

In addition, if you have a UTI and are overthinking, stressing, and worrying about bladder symptoms, listening to soothing music could calm you down. Indeed, research has found that listening to music can reduce psychological stress and anxiety.

#3 Write it out

Journaling has often been used for psychological stress. In fact, it is thought to be an excellent, low-cost way to manage mental health conditions and can help to reduce anxiety and stress. It lets you get down what is worrying you, helping you to put things in perspective and worry less.

If you choose to journal, you may be looking for a convenient and portable method of journaling rather than having to carry a notebook around with you. Mental health apps often include journaling features that make it easy to write down how you feel wherever you are.

#4 Find what triggers you

Finding your triggers is a really easy way to reduce stress levels. If you know what makes you stressed and anxious, then you can learn to avoid these triggers or put coping methods in place to help you deal with them when it is necessary.

You can use your journaling to make a note of stressful situations when they arise and build up a list of situations where you have been triggered. Once you know where the issues are, you can implement strategies, like deep breathing, grounding techniques, and meditation, to help avoid stress and anxiety when triggered.

#5 Consider therapy

Therapy is one of the best ways to manage mental health. If you have been feeling stressed and anxious for a while, then speaking with a mental healthcare professional is a really good idea. There is no shame in getting help.

A therapist can help you identify possible triggers for anxiety, teach you about coping mechanisms, and support you in finding the root of the stress and anxiety you feel.

A Word From a Psychologist

Urinary tract infections are caused by an infection in the bladder tissue, usually caused by E. coli. While UTIs aren’t directly caused by stress, long-term stress leads to increased levels of cortisol, which can have an impact on immune function. This makes it more difficult for your body to fight off infections, making you more susceptible to UTIs.

While stress doesn’t cause UTIs, reducing your stress levels can help to prevent illness and infection, and is a good idea for your mental and physical health. There are many ways to reduce stress levels, including eating well, getting enough exercise, getting out in nature by going for a morning walk, doing deep breathing exercises, and seeking therapy.

Stress can cause many physical health problems, including diarrhea, constipation, and nausea, so reducing your anxiety and stress levels can help to keep you both physically and mentally well.

Conclusion

Stress causes your body to be more susceptible to infection and illness. While stress doesn’t actually cause UTIs, it can make them more likely. Reducing stress levels is good for your mental and physical health and will help to prevent any further illnesses.

Wendy Lord, RD
Written by
Wendy is a Registered Dietitian with a passion for writing about nutrition, health, and medicine. Her aim is to translate the medical jargon to make information accessible to everyone so that they can make informed decisions about their health.
The article was checked by Rosmy Barrios, MD
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