Whether you have a urinary tract infection or have started to experience slowed bowel movements, it’s likely that you’ll be wondering “can a UTI cause constipation?”. After all, it seems like a logical explanation when coexisting symptoms surface.
Here’s what the experts have to say about the proposed link between UTIs and constipation.
What is a Urinary Tract Infection?
A UTI is when foreign bacteria enter the urinary tract system and begin to colonize. In most cases, they start out in the bladder but can work up to the kidneys. As explained by The Lancet’s analysis into Urinary tract infections in children, they are very common in children. Meanwhile, they are the most common outpatient infection for adult women and can cause recurrent problems. Symptoms include;
- Burning sensations when urinating
- A need to pass urine more frequently
- Feeling unable to hold your pee in
- Cloudy urine or blood in your pee
- Lower stomach pains
Can a UTI cause constipation?
Given that tummy pains are a symptom of urinary tract infections, it is very natural to ask “can a UTI cause constipation?” as stomach pains are also likely to accompany constipation. Over 626,000 hospital admissions are made in the US due to complicated urinary tract infections each year while there are millions of additional non-hospitalizations for complicated and uncomplicated UTIs.
UTIs are unlikely to be the direct cause of constipation but its impact on your body can contribute heavily to constipation. For starters, you may change your dietary habits as a result of a UTI, such as subconsciously drinking less water to avoid burning sensations when you urinate. Your stools will subsequently become firmer, which makes them harder to pass.
Infections can cause inflammation of the bladder. In turn, this places added pressure on the rectum and colon, which can make it harder for waste to travel through the digestive system. When this happens, more liquids will be absorbed by the digestive system and the poop will become even harder. Hard feces is what will cause constipation as well as stomach pains, bloating, and other common symptoms.
Meanwhile, the antibiotics prescribed to treat UTIs may lead to constipation as a result of removing key minerals that are needed for a healthy digestive system. A bacterial imbalance caused by killing both infection-causing and healthy bacteria may also lead some UTI patients to experience constipation as a direct side effect of medication.
How else can a UTI affect your bowel movement?
Studies into Do the urinary bladder and large bowel interact, in sickness or in health? confirm that “LUT dysfunctions often coincide with gastrointestinal dysfunctions and vice-versa”. The repercussions of this are not limited to symptoms of constipation.
UTIs may also cause you to poop more frequently as a result of urinating more regularly. Meanwhile, UTI medications can additionally cause diarrhea and other side effects that are not constipation.
Can constipation cause a UTI?
The short answer is yes. Experiencing constipation doesn’t suddenly mean that you will develop a urinary tract infection. Likewise, UTI symptoms aren’t always attributed to constipation, even if they follow recent struggles with your bowel movements. Nonetheless, constipation can lead to UTIs.
One of the main reasons is that constipation means that the stools accumulate in the rectum and colon, which subsequently places added pressure on the bladder. In turn, you will be unable to pass the full volume of urine that’s in your bladder, which allows any bacteria within the bladder to multiply. Coli in urine is shown to double in just 22.4 minutes, highlighting how influential obstructions can be.
Constipation and increased volumes of waste material in the rectum also means that E.Coli levels will naturally reach greater levels. Given that fecal bacteria making its way into the urinary tract is one of the leading causes of UTIs, it is another leading cause for concern. On a side note, you may pee less frequently as a result of pooping less regularly, which limits your ability to flush bacteria out of your body.
As well as contributing to UTIs, constipation may also cause the infection to spread because constipation may cause urine to flow backwards. It subsequently encourages the bacteria colonies to move up into the kidneys.
Conversely, diarrhea can cause UTIs as the bacteria from loose stools can easily find their way to the urinary tract.
How to relieve constipation
Most people will experience constipation from time to time while around 4 million Americans have a chronic condition that involves frequent instances of the condition. Some of the most common treatments to relieve constipation symptoms include;
- Laxatives or prescribed medications
- Drink more water
- Increasing your activity with a walk
- Eating more fiber
- Drink caffeinated coffee
How to treat a UTI
Mild UTIs often clear themselves, although several steps can be taken to help your body’s natural defenses. These include urinating more frequently to prevent bacteria growth and taking cranberry supplements.
However, more severe cases will require a short course of antibiotics. Research into Long-term antibiotics for prevention of recurrent urinary tract infection in older adults: systematic review and meta-analysis of randomised trials also highlights the potential to prevent repeated UTI problems.
When to see a doctor?
Constipation alone shouldn’t require a doctor’s appointment unless it lasts for longer than 3 weeks or you experience worrying symptoms like blood in your poop or have failed to see any improvement through treatments. If you experience UTI symptoms too, however, you may require antibiotics for the infection as well as treatment for the constipation.
When visiting your family doctor isn’t convenient, DrHouse can help you gain a video consultation with a qualified online doctor today. They can diagnose your digestive issues and help you get the right treatment from your local pharmacy.
Urinary tract infections and constipation are two separately occurring health conditions, but they can be closely linked as the bladder and rectum are in close proximity. When you experience coexisting symptoms, seeking an accurate diagnosis that includes an investigation into both conditions is vital. With the right treatment, it is usually possible to relieve the pain in a very short space of time.
- Kjell Tullus, Nader Shaikh, Urinary tract infections in children, The Lancet, Volume 395, Issue 10237, 2020, Pages 1659-1668, ISSN 0140-6736, https://doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(20)30676-0.
- Sabih A, Leslie SW. Complicated Urinary Tract Infections. [Updated 2022 May 27]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2022 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK436013/
- Malykhina AP, Wyndaele JJ, Andersson KE, De Wachter S, Dmochowski RR. Do the urinary bladder and large bowel interact, in sickness or in health? ICI-RS 2011. Neurourol Urodyn. 2012 Mar;31(3):352-8. doi: https://www.doi.org/10.1002/nau.21228 . Epub 2012 Feb 29. PMID: 22378593; PMCID: PMC3309116.
- Forsyth VS, Armbruster CE, Smith SN, Pirani A, Springman AC, Walters MS, Nielubowicz GR, Himpsl SD, Snitkin ES, Mobley HLT. Rapid Growth of Uropathogenic Escherichia coli during Human Urinary Tract Infection. mBio. 2018 Mar 6;9(2):e00186-18. doi: https://www.doi.org/10.1128/mBio.00186-18 . PMID: 29511075; PMCID: PMC5844997.
- Sonnenberg A, Koch TR. Epidemiology of constipation in the United States. Dis Colon Rectum. 1989 Jan;32(1):1-8. doi: https://www.doi.org/10.1007/BF02554713 . PMID: 2910654.
- Ahmed H, Davies F, Francis N, et alLong-term antibiotics for prevention of recurrent urinary tract infection in older adults: systematic review and meta-analysis of randomised trialsBMJ Open 2017;7:e015233. doi: https://www.doi.org/10.1136/bmjopen-2016-015233