Chicken Out of UTIs

Chicken Out of UTIs
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Half of retail poultry samples were found contaminated with strains of E. coli linked to human urinary tract infections.

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Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.

When people think E. coli, they think E. coli O157:H7, or other diarrheagenic E. coli strains in retail meats, particularly ground beef.

But have you ever heard of this E coli? You may not have heard of it, but if you’re a woman, odds are, you’ve felt it, or you will. This is within the class of E. coli that cause urinary tract infections.

Intestinal E. coli, like O157:H7, are bad, but fewer than 100,000 Americans are infected every year, and fewer than 100 die. But millions of women get urinary tract infections—extra-intestinal E. coli infections every year—with the potential to invade the bloodstream and cause fatal sepsis, or blood poisoning.

The strains of E. coli that cause extra-intestinal infection are an increasingly important endemic problem, and under-appreciated killers. Billions of health care dollars, millions of work days, and hundreds of thousands of lives are lost each year to extra-intestinal infections, due to E. coli.

We know where E. coli O157:H7 comes from—manure in the meat. But where do these other E. coli come from? They come from food, too. But which food? Researchers went to supermarkets, and tested 1,648 different types of food—and, they found it. We now think that urinary tract infections come from eating chickens. Half of retail poultry samples were found contaminated with the UTI-associated strains of E. coli.

Scientists now suspect that by eating chicken, women infect their lower intestinal tract with these meat-borne bacteria, which can then creep up into their bladder. In addition to the traditional hygiene measures aimed at preventing urinary tract infections—wiping from front to back; urinating after intercourse—women can now add avoiding poultry as a way to help fend off UTIs.

Now in chickens, the disease is called colibacillosis, one of the most significant and widespread infectious diseases in the poultry industry. Why? In part, because of the way we treat these animals. Studies have shown infection risk to be directly linked to overcrowding on these so-called factory farms. In egg-laying hens confined in cages, these so-called battery cages, the most significant risk factor for flock infection is hen density per cage.

Researchers have calculated that affording just a single liter of additional living space to each hen would be associated with a 33% decrease in the risk of a disease outbreak now linked to human urinary tract infections. That’s about equivalent to just a four-inch cube of space. If each of these birds just got a tiny bit more space, the risk drops by a third. Imagine if the birds could actually walk around, spread their wings, get some fresh air? How we treat animals can have significant public health implications.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.

When people think E. coli, they think E. coli O157:H7, or other diarrheagenic E. coli strains in retail meats, particularly ground beef.

But have you ever heard of this E coli? You may not have heard of it, but if you’re a woman, odds are, you’ve felt it, or you will. This is within the class of E. coli that cause urinary tract infections.

Intestinal E. coli, like O157:H7, are bad, but fewer than 100,000 Americans are infected every year, and fewer than 100 die. But millions of women get urinary tract infections—extra-intestinal E. coli infections every year—with the potential to invade the bloodstream and cause fatal sepsis, or blood poisoning.

The strains of E. coli that cause extra-intestinal infection are an increasingly important endemic problem, and under-appreciated killers. Billions of health care dollars, millions of work days, and hundreds of thousands of lives are lost each year to extra-intestinal infections, due to E. coli.

We know where E. coli O157:H7 comes from—manure in the meat. But where do these other E. coli come from? They come from food, too. But which food? Researchers went to supermarkets, and tested 1,648 different types of food—and, they found it. We now think that urinary tract infections come from eating chickens. Half of retail poultry samples were found contaminated with the UTI-associated strains of E. coli.

Scientists now suspect that by eating chicken, women infect their lower intestinal tract with these meat-borne bacteria, which can then creep up into their bladder. In addition to the traditional hygiene measures aimed at preventing urinary tract infections—wiping from front to back; urinating after intercourse—women can now add avoiding poultry as a way to help fend off UTIs.

Now in chickens, the disease is called colibacillosis, one of the most significant and widespread infectious diseases in the poultry industry. Why? In part, because of the way we treat these animals. Studies have shown infection risk to be directly linked to overcrowding on these so-called factory farms. In egg-laying hens confined in cages, these so-called battery cages, the most significant risk factor for flock infection is hen density per cage.

Researchers have calculated that affording just a single liter of additional living space to each hen would be associated with a 33% decrease in the risk of a disease outbreak now linked to human urinary tract infections. That’s about equivalent to just a four-inch cube of space. If each of these birds just got a tiny bit more space, the risk drops by a third. Imagine if the birds could actually walk around, spread their wings, get some fresh air? How we treat animals can have significant public health implications.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

19 responses to “Chicken Out of UTIs

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    1. Dr. Greger,
      Since farm raised chickens are administered copious amounts of antibiotics as a rule, why does this infection persist? Are these super bugs resistant?

      Also, couldn’t a man also get infected and subsequently pass it on sexually to the woman?

      1.  Resistant bacterial is part of the problem. The food industry isn’t interested in eradicating bacterial infections from the animals but only controlling the infections to maximize growth and their profit. In my experience bacterial infections in the bladder are not generally transmitted as are the sexually transmitted bacterial diseases. So if a women has a UTI(Urinary Tract Infection) she probably won’t give it to a man and vice versa. As Dr. Greger points out there are some hygiene steps to take to prevent UTI’s in women. I would add to his suggestions one other one that was shown in one study to make a significant difference. The days after intercourse women should not delay urinating when they get the urge to go. Women are more susceptible to UTI’s due to the fact that their urethra (the tube between the bladder and the outside world) is shorter and given it’s location it is not uncommon to have bacteria introduced to the bladder during intercourse. The trick is to make sure to minimize the extent that this happens and then not to let the bacteria set up housekeeping by drinking fluids and urinating when you have the urge. Men are less likely to get UTI’s due to length of urethra. The usual path to a bladder infection is  via the urethra but can get to the bladder by other routes. So we can now add avoiding chicken to the list of things patients can do to avoid UTI’s.

    2. Hello there,

      I have a question on the topic of UTI’s.

      I am a male 28, recently was diagnosed with a uti, and also an infection in the epididymus, very painful and uncomfortable.

      I was prescribed antibiotics/penecillin for 7 days, which seemed to cure the infection in the testes, however still 5 weeks prior to having the first symptoms, I still feel slight discomfort, not really pain though.

      But my follow up urine test showed I still had an infection in the bladder, which I was subsequently prescribed a new course of penecillin, 3 x a day for 14 days.

      I understand this sort of infection is more common in women, and I hope when I have my check next week, that it has all cleared up and I will be on the mend.

      I wanted to ask though, if water fasting is recommended at all, for this sort of issue, or in fact just in general.

      What other natural remedies or cures might you suggest.

      And how long can I expect before my epididymus goes back to normal, and is it normal for there to be a slight discomfort, which can be provoked by touch or certain movements in one of the testicles?

      Thanks, Liam

  1. I only buy a farmers market brand chicken that is labeled no antibiotics, no growth hormones, not fed animal by products and cage free. Have any of the tests on chicken been done on the organic or farmers market brand such as this?

  2. Would this effect a UTI that is caused by Group B strep? ie when a urine sample is given after symptoms of a UTI the only bacteria that shows up is >100,000 group B strep per ml.

  3. What is the efficacy of nano silver gel as a preventative treatment in UTI? Nano Silver would be a great topic for a few videos.

  4. There is active research into both silver and copper nanoparticle gels in preventing UTIs. There is evidence that they inhibit growth of the common bacteria that cause UTI. I cannot find that this therapy is approved for use or proven to treat or prevent UTIs. The published data is not in actual people, just in the lab. It does appear that you can order this on the internet, but buyer beware. More study is needed in people before advocating this as a treatment or preventive measure. -Dr Anderson, volunteer

  5. Thank you for the video, Doctor Greger.
    UTI is a huge problem for many women. I personally stopped eating meat 5 years ago and I’ve been getting UTIs for the last 3 years. I’d get a UTI caused by E.coli every single time after intercourse. Every single time! I do everything the doctors say and more but nothing seems to work. A friend of mine told me she had the same problem and she only stopped having UTIs after she went completely vegan. I’m trying this now but don’t know if it’ll help. I sure hope so! Do you have any additional information on that? I’ll also be trying D-mannose to see if it helps, I wonder if there’re studies on that too and if it’s okay to take it all the time.
    Please, if there’s anything that could help with UTI, please share it with us. I believe there should be a solution.
    Thank you for all you do!

  6. Hi Liza- I’m Dr Anderson, a volunteer with Dr Greger. Other than a single UTI being more likely after exposure to E coli (as in the chicken video), diet may not be a strong reason for recurrent UTIs like you seem to suffer. The strongest candidates for recurrent UTIs seem to be potential colonization of E coli in the bladder (despite antibiotic treatment) and problems with “host defense” where the bladder lining may not have a normal ability to resist infection. May I suggest you see a urogynecologist to evaluate if one of these issues is at play? This is a sub specialist best equipped to evaluate and treat your problem. Here is the most recent medical journal review of this frustrating problem: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28974905

    Best to you!

    1. SeekerJames79,
      I think a WFPB diet would definitely be worth a try. The gut microflora changes with diet. A WFPB diet encourages healthy bacteria and makes the body inhospitable to pathogens. Check out the following link discussing the evidence behind cranberries “preventing” and a recipe for sugar-free cranberry juice.
      blhttps://nutritionfacts.org/2014/02/04/can-cranberry-juice-treat-bladder-infections/adder infections

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