Can Alcohol Cause a Urinary Tract Infection (UTI)?

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Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are often painful and uncomfortable for anyone experiencing them. According to the CDC, a UTI is defined as a common infection in which bacteria from the skin or rectum infect the urinary tract. Common symptoms associated with a UTI include pain during urination, frequent urination, a sensation of needing to urinate despite an empty bladder, blood in urine, and cramping in the lower abdomen.  

Although alcohol does not cause urinary tract infections, it may contribute by inducing bladder pain, reducing hygiene, increasing risk-taking behaviors such as frequent sexual encounters, and impairing one’s immune system. In addition to the contributing factors alcohol can have with UTIs, it is also essential to understand the risks associated with mixing alcohol and antibiotics. We will learn more about UTIs, how alcohol may increase the associated risks, and how you can begin taking steps toward wellness today. 

It may be time to evaluate your treatment needs if you are experiencing frequent medical problems such as UTIs due to excessive alcohol use. At Guardian Recovery, we have empathetic and skilled medical health professionals available to meet you where you are in your journey toward wellness. We have a customized, comprehensive treatment program to address the needs of individuals suffering from alcohol dependence. If you or a loved one are exploring treatment options, we are here to help. Contact us today to learn more about our various levels of care and evidence-based therapies. 

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Does a Painful Bladder After Drinking Alcohol Mean I Have a UTI?

Although having pain when you urinate can be a symptom of having a urinary tract infection, it does not always mean it is exclusively the case. The sign of bladder pain is known as cystitis. The most common indicator of cystitis may be a UTI, but other factors contribute to cystitis, such as diabetes, kidney stones, or HIV. 

Common Symptoms of Cystitis: 

  • Pain or burning during urination.
  • Feeling of urgency or increased frequency of urination.
  • Urine that is dark and strong-smelling.
  • Pain in the lower abdomen. 
  • Feeling achy and tired. 

Even with both conditions sharing similar symptoms, there is a difference between cystitis and a UTI. In addition, alcohol on its own can trigger bladder pain. If you are ever experiencing bladder pain, it is essential to seek medical assistance. The symptoms of a UTI can be dangerous if left untreated. 

Why Does Alcohol Make My Bladder Hurt?

Alcohol can still trigger pain for many people because alcohol is known to increase acidity in urine. Like other dietary foods with high acidity (tomatoes, chocolate, coffee, soda, juices, etc.), increased acidity will irritate the lining of your bladder. 

In addition to the acidity, alcohol dehydrates the body, which can aggravate an infection if one already has cystitis or a UTI. Less water to flush out the system means an increase in bacteria and a possible risk of the infection spreading.  

Hydration, specifically from water, can help improve one’s health, especially when someone suffers from a UTI. A study from the Journal of American Medical Association indicated that when a woman drank 1.5 liters of water daily, she was 50% less likely to get a UTI than women who drank less than that amount. 

Finally, alcohol may cause pain in people’s bladders because alcohol increases inflammation in the body. This irritant can trigger pain if one already has an infection, make healing more complicated, and aggravate the symptoms of cystitis or UTI. 

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Does Alcohol Cause UTIs?

Alcohol does not directly cause a person to develop a UTI. However, people who drink alcohol in excess do get UTIs more often than people who do not drink alcohol in excess. Alcohol increases one’s chances of developing bacteria through increased sexual activity. Research indicates that alcohol does lead to sexually risky behavior, such as not using condoms. 

Additionally, excessive alcohol use can lead to a reduction in hygiene. Self-care practices may fall by the wayside when focusing primarily on alcohol use. Examples include a reduction in bathing, brushing teeth, and maintaining the proper self-care of cleaning and wiping correctly after using the bathroom. This lack of hygiene spreads bacteria and leads to UTIs. 

Alcohol use is also known to impair one’s immune system. Research indicates that alcohol significantly weakens the immune system, predisposing people with alcohol-use disorders to various health disorders, including infections and systemic inflammation.

Can I Drink Alcohol If I Have a UTI?

Most likely, if you have been diagnosed with a UTI, you will be prescribed an antibiotic to help treat the associated symptoms. It is imperative that if you are taking antibiotics, especially Bactrim, you should not drink alcohol while taking this medication.  

Bactrim, also known as Sulfamethoxazole/trimethoprim, is a common antibiotic used to stop the growth of bacterial infections. The dangerous combination of alcohol and Bactrim includes significant side effects that may increase and slow treatment effects. Additionally, it can take up to 3 full days after completing the antibiotic regimen until alcohol can be used safely.  

Alcohol & Bactrim Side Effects:

  • Rapid heartbeat.
  • Warmth or redness under the skin.
  • Nausea. 
  • Vomiting. 
  • Tingling sensation.
  • Low blood pressure when standing.

In addition to the uncomfortable side effects when drinking while taking antibiotics to treat a UTI, it is also not a good idea as alcohol may aggravate symptoms, increase further infection, and prevent healing. 

The Misconception of Cranberry Juice & UTIs

One of the biggest misconceptions about UTIs is that cranberry juice has been found to prevent or effectively treat a UTI. The truth is there are varying results in research studies regarding the effectiveness of cranberry juice in preventing UTIs.

People may often cite this as a reason to drink alcohol mixed with cranberry juice, that what they are doing is considered ‘healthy’ because cranberry juice is a good choice for preventing UTIs. Not only does it not prevent a UTI, but juice and alcohol contain high amounts of sugar, which will only aggravate UTI symptoms and increase systemic inflammation in the body.

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If you are concerned about chronic conditions related to alcohol-use disorder, we’re here to help. When you call, we’ll link you with a Treatment Advisor who will conduct a free assessment over the phone. The information gathered will help create an individualized plan to meet your needs. We also offer a free, no obligation insurance benefit check if you are insured.

We work with most major health insurance providers, ensuring our programs remain as accessible as possible to those who need them. However, we will help you explore alternatives, such as self-pay and private pay, if you are uninsured or underinsured. 

It can be frightening to reach out for help, and our goal is to ensure our streamlined process is stress-free from beginning to end. Contact us today to begin your new life in recovery!

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Disclaimer: Does not guarantee specific treatment outcomes, as individual results may vary. Our services are not a substitute for professional medical advice or diagnosis; please consult a qualified healthcare provider for such matters.

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Reviewed professionally for accuracy by:

Ryan Soave

L.M.H.C.

Ryan Soave brings deep experience as a Licensed Mental Health Counselor, certified trauma therapist, program developer, and research consultant for Huberman Lab at Stanford University Department of Neurobiology. Post-graduation from Wake Forest University, Ryan quickly discovered his acumen for the business world. After almost a decade of successful entrepreneurship and world traveling, he encountered a wave of personal and spiritual challenges; he felt a calling for something more. Ryan returned to school and completed his Master’s Degree in Mental Health Counseling. When he started working with those suffering from addiction and PTSD, he found his passion. He has never looked back.

Written by:

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Cayla Clark

Cayla Clark grew up in Santa Barbara, CA and graduated from UCLA with a degree in playwriting. Since then she has been writing on addiction recovery and psychology full-time, and has found a home as part of the Guardian Recovery team.

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