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Written by

Kate Dyson

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Kate is a content specialist who is passionate about women's health. She's also mum to three kids, two dogs and unsurprisingly, a lover of wine.

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Glossary

For words you might want to know more

Urobiome

A key hormone in the female reproductive system, responsible for preparing the uterus for pregnancy and maintaining the uterine lining.

Overactive bladder (OAB)

Describes a condition characterised by a sudden and uncontrollable urge to urinate, often exacerbated by hormonal changes during menstruation.

Pelvic floor exercises

These exercises, such as Kegels, target the muscles that support bladder control and can help reduce urinary leakage and improve overall bladder function.

The Urobiome: Why does it matter for our bladder health?

No doubt you've heard about gut 'microbiome', but have you heard of 'urobiome'? Likely not, and yet when it comes to bladder health it's just as important as the bacteria in our gut for our urinary health. If you're experiencing Overactive Bladder, the urobiome link is especially important to know.

Understanding the Urobiome

So what IS the 'urobiome'? The urinary microbiome - aka the bacteria in your urinary system - is the diverse community of microorganisms that reside within the urinary tract, including the bladder, urethra, and kidneys. This intricate ecosystem plays a crucial role in maintaining the health and function of the urinary system.

In a similar way to the increase in understanding of gut microbiome and the link to our brain and whole body health, research is starting to learn more about this delicate balance of bacteria and how it contributes to problems such as overactive bladder and leaks.

Why does the Urobiome matter?

The urobiome helps to prevent the overgrowth of harmful bacteria, which can lead to conditions like urinary tract infections (UTIs), overactive bladder, and interstitial cystitis. Additionally, the urobiome interacts with the immune system, helping to regulate inflammation and protect against pathogens. The urobiome can also influence the body's ability to metabolise certain nutrients and compounds, impacting overall metabolic health.

Fascinatingly, emerging research also suggests that the urobiome may differ between men and women due to anatomical and hormone differences.

Is there a link between the urobiome and Overactive Bladder?

Overactive bladder (OAB) is a common condition characterised by a sudden, uncontrollable urge to urinate. While the exact causes of OAB are not fully understood, growing evidence suggests that imbalances in the urobiome may play a significant role. An overgrowth of certain bacteria in the urinary tract can lead to inflammation and irritation, triggering the sudden urge to urinate.

Additionally, a less diverse urobiome, with a lack of beneficial bacteria, has been associated with OAB and other urinary tract disorders. Imbalances in the urobiome can also contribute to chronic inflammation in the bladder, which can exacerbate OAB symptoms.

Lastly, for those suffering with interstitial cystitis, studies have found differences in the urobiome compared to healthy individuals. Specifically, interstitial cystitis is associated with lower bacterial diversity and higher abundance of Lactobacillus in the urobiome. This imbalance in the urobiome may contribute to the chronic bladder inflammation seen in interstitial cystitis.

Can urobiome protect against chronic UTIs?

According to the search results, the urobiome plays a key role in preventing urinary tract infections (UTIs) and interstitial cystitis. The urobiome helps prevent infections by harmful bacteria in several ways:

  1. The urobiome creates a barrier that prevents pathogens from invading the urinary tract. The diverse community of microorganisms in the urobiome outcompetes and inhibits the growth of harmful bacteria.

  2. The urobiome interacts with the immune system, helping to regulate inflammation and protect against pathogens. This immune function is important for maintaining a healthy urinary tract.

  3. The acidic pH of urine, along with organic acids produced by the urogenital epithelium, creates an environment that discourages bacterial growth and infection.

  4. The high turnover rate of the urogenital epithelium, driven in part by the urobiome, helps flush out compromised cells and prevent infection.

How does the urobiome impact on our body and hormone health beyond the urinary system?

Beyond its direct impact on the urinary system, the urobiome has been linked to a range of other health outcomes. The urobiome interacts with the immune system, helping to regulate inflammation and protect against pathogens. Imbalances in the urobiome have been associated with autoimmune conditions.

The urobiome is part of a larger, interconnected system known as the gut-bladder axis, where the health of the gut microbiome can influence the urobiome and vice versa. Emerging research also suggests that the urobiome may be closely linked to hormonal health, particularly in women. Fluctuations in hormones during the menstrual cycle can affect the urobiome, potentially contributing to changes in bladder function and urinary symptoms.

Additionally, the hormonal changes associated with menopause may also impact the urobiome, potentially leading to an increased risk of urinary tract infections and other urinary tract disorders. Furthermore, the urobiome may play a role in the regulation of hormones, such as oestrogen and progesterone, which could have implications for conditions like polycystic ovarian syndrome and endometriosis.

Finally, can we improve the Urobiome through diet and supplementation?

Dietary modifications can help nourish the beneficial bacteria in the urinary tract and improve the urobiome. Consuming a diet rich in prebiotic and probiotic-rich foods, such as fermented vegetables, yogurt, and kefir, can help to promote the growth of beneficial bacteria in the urobiome. Prebiotics, which are types of dietary fibre that feed the good bacteria, and probiotics, the live microorganisms themselves, work together to maintain a diverse and balanced urobiome.

In addition to dietary changes, targeted probiotic supplementation has also been shown to positively impact the urobiome and may help to reduce symptoms of conditions like overactive bladder. Specific probiotic strains, such as Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium, have been studied for their ability to colonise the urinary tract and outcompete harmful bacteria. By restoring the proper balance of microbes, probiotic supplements may help alleviate urinary tract issues and support overall urinary health.

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