Increasing water intake by 1.5 liters a day keeps UTIs away, study says

(CNN) — Chalk up another win for Mom: She was right when she told you to drink more water to fight off pesky and painful recurring bladder infections.

Women who added 1.5 liters of water a day to their regular intake for 12 months were 50% less likely to get another urinary tract infection than women who drank less than that amount, according to a study published Monday in JAMA.

The reduction in recurring infections was probably because the increase in urine volume drove more frequent urination, both of which flushed more bacteria from the bladder, the study authors said. This study is the first randomized, clinical trial to examine the common recommendation of adding water to the diet, the authors said.

Drinking 1.5 liters a day is the equivalent of about six cups of water or four 12-ounce bottles of water.

The study was funded by Danone Research, which sells bottled water, including the brand used by women in the study. But an accompanying editorial by Dr. Deborah Grady of the University of California, San Francisco, says any safe-to-drink water will do. She’s deputy editor for JAMA Internal Medicine.

At least half of all women are at risk of what doctors call “acute uncomplicated cystitis” or “urinary tract infections” at some point in their lives. Once they get one, about a quarter of those women will get another within six months. Up to 75% of women will have another within a year.

The intense burning, itching and frequent urination can make life miserable.

But there’s another, bigger problem, said the study authors: Treating UTIs accounts for about 15% of all antimicrobial use, according to research, which contributes to the growing problem of antibiotic resistance. That’s why many women are encouraged to try lifestyle changes before or in addition to prescription medication.

A recent study shot down another home remedy, though: The use of cranberry juice was not shown to help prevent or cure UTIs. (sorry, Mom!)

But experts said women should know about other risk factors and be counseled on how to avoid them.

Common recommendations: Do not delay urination. Urinate immediately after intercourse, and practice good vaginal hygiene, which includes using “plain, unperfumed soaps to wash the area around the vagina (the vulva) gently every day,” according to the UK’s National Health Service. Avoid douches and perfumed soaps, as they can interfere with the natural balance of bacteria and pH levels.

And of course, listen to Mom and drink up.