How Your Urinary Microbiome Affects Your Health, According To Research
What is the urinary microbiome?
Previous research has described the urinary tract as sterile because of the physical and chemical properties of urine. More recently, though, studies have identified a urinary microbiome in both male and female adults.
According to the American Society for Microbiology, the urinary tract (UT) involves the kidney, ureter, bladder, and urethra, and the urogenital tract (UGT) includes reproductive organs, including the vagina, cervix, periurethral skin, penis, pubic skin surfaces, and perineal area. "Depending on the sampling method, the urinary microbiota may consist of species residing within the bladder, UT, or UGT," they write.
The urinary microbiome is made up of different species of bacteria and can differ depending on age and sex, states the Current Bladder Dysfunction Reports. Men are more likely to have Corynebacterium, similar to the skin microbiome, while a female urinary microbiome is more likely to have Lactobacillus bacterium, similar to the gut.
How does it affect your health?
Though it's still not completely understood, many researchers are suggesting that the urinary microbiome may be responsible for the development of urinary tract infections (UTIs)—primarily in females.
Another study, published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, found that women experiencing urinary incontinence had a different bacterial makeup than women without incontinence. So, if you're regimented about your Kegels (and your reverse Kegels) but still experiencing symptoms of a weak pelvic floor, consider talking to a urogynecologist about your urobiome.
As for men? The research is less established; however, one study reveals that men with severe urinary symptoms are more likely to have detectable bladder bacteria, but it requires a catheter to collect and observe samples.
How do you keep the urinary microbiome healthy?
If your bladder health is a concern, working with a urologist, gynecologist, or primary care physician to find a personalized course of action is recommended. Antibiotics are often prescribed to patients with urinary tract infections, and urologist Vannita Simma-Chiang, M.D., also recommends non-antibiotic treatment options, like cranberry or d-mannose supplements.
Some studies suggest probiotics, particularly those containing Lactobacillus, may be beneficial for women with recurrent UTIs.* Though more research is necessary, this provides anecdotal evidence that probiotics may help balance dysbiosis in the urinary microbiome (or at least the vaginal microbiome), as they do in the gut.*
Abby Moore is an editorial operations manager at mindbodygreen. She earned a B.A. in Journalism from The University of Texas at Austin and has previously written for Tribeza magazine. She has covered topics ranging from regenerative agriculture to celebrity entrepreneurship. Moore worked on the copywriting and marketing team at Siete Family Foods before moving to New York.