The mineral that might replace antibiotics to treat UTIs

Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are one of the most common bacterial infections in the world. About 150 million occur each year. And 60 percent of women will have a UTI in their lifetime.

So, chances are you’ve had a UTI before. And if you have, you know how they’re treated — antibiotics.

For many women, UTIs become chronic… which means taking antibiotics does too. This combined with the number of UTIs that occur on a global scale, make UTIs one of the top contributors to antibiotic resistance.

Now, in case you need a refresher, antibiotic resistance refers to the fact that bacteria have gotten wise to all the antibiotics we’ve been taking for years, and they’ve developed resistance to them.

This means many bacterial infections that were once easily treated with common antibiotics won’t be soon. We’ll need to find new treatments or else face serious consequences… like losing a good chunk of the human population.

But even if all this antibiotic resistance stuff doesn’t bother you, you probably know that taking antibiotics frequently is bad for your health. They kill the good bacteria in your gut, leading to an unbalanced microbiome. This imbalance can trigger everything from chronic digestive issues to serious autoimmune diseases.

So, there are two fantastic reasons to find a new treatment for UTIs. And researchers from the University of Queensland may have done just that…

Zinc zaps bladder infection bacteria

Researchers from the University of Queensland just discovered something interesting about how our immune systems fight the E. coli bacteria that causes most UTIs…

Our immune cells release zinc to kick this bladder-harming bacterium to the curb.

Researchers have known for quite a while that zinc kills bacteria. But now, they watched with their own eyes as immune cells known as macrophages fought the bacteria that causes most bladder infections with zinc.

This means zinc could be an effective alternative to antibiotics when treating UTIs. But there’s one problem…

Researchers also noticed that E. coli bacteria find clever ways to evade zinc. So, they need to figure out how to prevent those sneaky suckers from getting away if they want to create a zinc-based treatment for UTIs in the future.

Getting more zinc

Here’s more good news: zinc not only fights E. coli. It fights Mycobacterium tuberculosis (the bacteria that causes tuberculosis), Salmonella (the bacteria that causes food poisoning) and Streptococcus (the bacteria that causes strep throat). That means, making sure your body has enough zinc is critical to fighting off more than just UTIs.

Related: At-home taste test can reveal zinc deficiency

Unfortunately, there’s not enough research to suggest that you rely on zinc solely to clear up UTIs. But there is enough research to suggest getting your recommended daily allowance of zinc to keep your immune system strong against all infections. That’s 8 mg for women and 11 mg for men.

You can also take a little extra zinc (up to 40 mg per day) when you’re fighting off an infection, whether it’s bacterial or viral.

If you prefer to get your zinc from foods rather than supplements, there are plenty of delicious dishes that give you a healthy dose of zinc, including:

  • Oysters
  • Grass-fed beef
  • Pastured pork
  • Chicken
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Yogurt
  • Cashews
  • Chickpeas
  • Cheese
  • Oatmeal
  • Grass-fed milk
  • Almonds
  • Kidney beans
  • Peas
  • Mushrooms
  • Kale
  • Salmon
  • Flounder
  • Sole
  • Edamame
  • Lentils
  • Black beans
  • Pine nuts
  • Brown rice
  • Quinoa
  • Dark chocolate

Sources:

  1. Zinc could help as non-antibiotic treatment for UTIs — MedicalXpress
  2. Uropathogenic Escherichia coli employs both evasion and resistance to subvert innate immune-mediated zinc toxicity for dissemination — PNAS
  3. What are the side effects of antibiotics? — Medical News Today
  4. Consumption of a cranberry juice beverage lowered the number of clinical urinary tract infection episodes in women with a recent history of urinary tract infectionThe American Journal of Clinical Nutrition
  5. Zinc: Fact Sheet for Health Professionals — National Institutes of Health
  6. 10 Best Food Sources of Zinc — Everyday Health
Jenny Smiechowski

By Jenny Smiechowski

Jenny Smiechowski is a Chicago-based freelance writer who specializes in health, nutrition and the environment. Her work has appeared in online and print publications like Chicagoland Gardening magazine, Organic Lifestyle Magazine, BetterLife Magazine, TheFix.com, Hybridcars.com and Seedstock.com.