How sweeteners in foods and drinks can irritate the bladder and worsen UTI symptoms?


I am 64 years old and have suffered from urinary tract infections since I was a teenager. Now my daughter and my niece are also suffering. Is this genetic? And I read that cutting out sweeteners could help – is that true?

Recurrent urinary tract infections are very common, especially in older women. Typically, doctors diagnose this in someone who experiences the problem at least three times a year.

We know that women are at higher risk if their mother suffered from the same problem and they have acquired many infections throughout their childhood.

We are seeing more UTIs in women with incontinence and bladder problems that occur after menopause. Those who frequently use catheters are also at increased risk. Constipation can also increase the risk of a urinary tract infection. This is because pressure is placed on the bladder, preventing it from emptying completely. The more urine remains in the bladder for a longer period of time, the greater the risk of infection.

Recurrent urinary tract infections are very common, especially in older women.  Typically, doctors diagnose this in someone who experiences the problem at least three times a year

Recurrent urinary tract infections are very common, especially in older women. Typically, doctors diagnose this in someone who experiences the problem at least three times a year

It’s important to stay hydrated and always go to the bathroom when you feel the urge. However, certain intimate cleaning habits and wearing tight underwear can make the situation worse.

Some women benefit from taking an antibiotic preventatively. This can be used every night or when there is a known trigger – for example after sexual intercourse.

Lifestyle changes can also be helpful. It’s true that sweeteners in foods and drinks can irritate the bladder and worsen symptoms. This also applies to caffeinated and carbonated drinks. It might be worth giving it up for a while to see if it makes a difference.

A supplement called D-mannose is often used to prevent urinary tract infections, but there is limited scientific data to show that it works. Another remedy that could help is Hiprex – it can be prescribed by a family doctor.

I contacted my GP for help with swollen, painful knees that were making cracking noises. The nurse said it was osteoarthritis and prescribed an ibuprofen gel. A physiotherapist said there was nothing they could do about it because at 74 I was “too old”. I had a joint scraped out once, which helped. Do doctors not do that anymore?

If a patient is not satisfied with the treatment they are receiving, one option is to seek a second opinion. Many GP practices have a number of healthcare professionals such as physiotherapists and nurses who may treat a patient before a doctor. They are highly trained and specialized, but patients still have the right to speak to a GP and ask if there is an alternative course of action.

Osteoarthritis is the age-related degeneration of the joints. It tends to cause movement-related pain, as well as joint noise and stiffness, which can interfere with daily activities.

Knee osteoarthritis often improves without treatment, but it can get worse. In fact, the condition is the most common cause of knee replacements in the UK.

Guidelines for doctors say that the patient’s age is not a reason to refuse a referral for treatment, which is either a knee replacement or an arthroscopy – where a small camera is inserted into the joint to remove loose tissue or to scrape out bones.

Both are performed by an orthopedic surgeon.

The latter would be suitable for someone suffering from significant pain or stiffness that affects their quality of life. Experts agree that these referrals should be made before symptoms get really bad.

It can be daunting, but exercise is important for people with knee arthritis. Physical activity keeps joints moving and strengthens the muscles that support them.

It really hurts when I go to the toilet to empty my bowels. I try not to strain, but I end up feeling a burning, stabbing pain that lasts for hours and makes it difficult to sit. Is there a cream I can use? I’m too embarrassed to talk to a pharmacist.

I I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to speak to a pharmacist or doctor – no matter how embarrassing something may be.

Talking about symptoms related to the anus or genitals can feel very uncomfortable, especially for people of a certain age. However, it is important to seek medical attention to avoid missing a serious diagnosis.

Write to Dr. Ellie

Pain when opening the intestines can be due to a variety of underlying problems – for example, hemorrhoids, a fissure, an abscess, or infection. There may be a problem with the anatomy in this area or an internal problem in the lowest part of the intestine, the rectum.

A tear is a common cause of pain when opening the intestines. It is a tear in the tissue in the anus. The pain is usually severe and can last for hours.

There isn’t always an obvious cause, but fissures can be related to constipation, an underlying intestinal disease like Crohn’s disease, as well as infections like herpes. In some cases, the injury will go away on its own within a few weeks, but it may take longer.

It is important for healing that the stool is soft. This can be achieved by drinking lots of water, eating lots of fiber, and taking laxatives when necessary. Painkillers such as ibuprofen can help relieve the pain, as can sitting in a shallow, warm bath after using the toilet.

Doctors may also prescribe a numbing cream called GTN that can be used in the area and applied twice daily for up to two months to help the fissure heal.

Don’t follow the crazy TikTok fad staring at the sun

Some health advice is so obvious that it’s hardly worth saying. For example, don’t look directly at the sun. But believe it or not, some TikTok users seem to recommend the exact opposite, claiming it can improve eyesight.

The trend even has a name: sun gazing. And these videos are viewed hundreds of thousands of times.

I suspect being asked not to do this might be the least of your worries. However, if you are in doubt, it may cause retinal damage in the short term and cataracts in the long term. Just do not.

Some health advice is so obvious that it's hardly worth saying.  For example, don't look directly at the sun

Some health advice is so obvious that it’s hardly worth saying. For example, don’t look directly at the sun

It’s this kind of absurdity that made me turn off all social media for 24 hours last week.

I would recommend it to anyone who is feeling stressed or needs a break. Unsurprisingly, I found that I felt less anxious, less stressed, and noticeably happier. Staying up to date doesn’t mean you have to be plugged in all day.

I also had time to check in with some friends on the phone, which is far healthier than scrolling.

Do you have a cold? Don’t go to the emergency room

Emergency departments are seeing an increasing number of patients coming in with sore throats, coughs, earaches and even insomnia. There are also people who go to the hospital with hiccups, back pain and abdominal discomfort.

Miriam Deakin, a senior officer at NHS Providers, said these cases were “increasing pressure on an already overwhelmed emergency department”.

I can’t say I’m surprised by the situation. There are not enough dentists or family doctors. If someone can’t get an appointment, there is no other way out than the hospital.

But there also seems to be a lack of basic knowledge about how to manage minor ailments at home.

Would you feel the need to go to the doctor, let alone the emergency room, with a sore throat? And what would you do to solve this problem?