Q: Every time my mother eats black pepper, she gets a bladder infection. Her urologist told her that black pepper pieces travel through the bladder which irritates it and causes the infection. Also, the acid in orange juice has also caused bladder infections for her. Perhaps people who have many infections should try to eliminate this seasoning and/or juice.
A: According to the American Urological Association, the main cause of a urinary tract infection is bacteria. Infections are more common in women than in men, primarily because women have a shorter urinary tract, specifically the urethra (the tube that carries urine from the bladder), which makes them more susceptible. There are several factors other than foods that can increase the risk of a urinary tract infection. They include wiping from back to front, taking multiple courses of antibiotics that causes the hearty bugs to become increasingly resistant to them, having multiple sex partners, and ignoring the urge to urinate instead of emptying the bladder when your body signals. Pepper and other substances may irritate the bladder in some individuals but it doesn’t make them susceptible to UTIs.
For the benefit of other readers, symptoms of a UTI include urine that is cloudy and has a strong odor, frequent urination with pain, voiding a minimal amount at each attempt, burning and abdominal pain.
Beyond that and in the food department, one of the biggest offenders is products that contain sugar which should be avoided during an infection because the bacteria is believed to feed on the sugars contained therein. Tomatoes, grapefruits, oranges, lemons and limes – all high in acids – are also known to irritate the bladder. Beverages and foods that contain caffeine should also be avoided during a UTI but can be consumed once the infection has completely cleared. For those individuals with a sensitive bladder, specific spices including curry and black pepper are known to trigger symptoms. Other food items to avoid may include white flour, corn, oats, onions, beans, and nuts. This may all appear somewhat harsh; however, meat, cheeses, butter, green and root vegetables, and potatoes, can be enjoyed. While we all respond differently, it appears your mother has a sensitivity to pepper and at least some citrus products. For the rest of us, discontinuing some of the other foods mentioned might do the trick.
There are also alternative treatments that might help the symptoms of a UTI. They include drinking more water than usual to help “flush” the system, drinking 100% cranberry juice every day at the first sign of an infection, using UTI-Clear which is an herbal remedy, drinking caffeine-free tea, avoiding douching/using feminine deodorant sprays/wearing scented pads or tampons, wearing cotton underwear rather than synthetic blends, taking vitamin C, eating pineapple that contains bromelain with anti-inflammatory properties that may reduce symptoms, and staying active. Once steps have been taken to combat an existing infection, readers should be sure to continue with steps to prevent future infections.
Thank you for writing. Your letter certainly may have helped other individuals with a similar problem stamp out future infections.