Because life is unfair, roughly 50 percent of women will get a urinary tract infection (UTI, aka cystitis) at some point in their lives and up to 70 percent will have another one within that same year. Meaning? If you've got a vagina, chances are you'll suffer from the burning sensation and general misery that occurs when bacteria travels up the urethra.
While you can reduce your risk by wiping properly—front to back—and peeing right after intercourse, which can help clear harmful bacteria that might have travelled up the tube during the act, a new JAMA Internal Medicine study suggests there could be an additional (and easy!) way to gird your loins:
Drink more water.
Proof that this strategy, which doctors have long suggested without firm proof of effectiveness, may actually work comes from researchers based in Texas, Florida, and France who teamed up to find out exactly how fluid intake affects UTI risk. In a 12-month study, they tracked 140 women who suffered from recurrent UTIs and reported consuming less than 1.5 liters (about 6 cups) of water daily. In the name of science, half the women were asked to drink an extra six cups of it a day while the others carried on without changing anything, business as usual. After a year, the low-fluid intake group reported 216 UTIs (about 3.2 incidents per person) while the women who drank more reported 111 infections (about 1.7 each).
"Increased water intake is an effective antimicrobial-sparing strategy to prevent recurrent cystitis in premenopausal women at high risk for recurrence who drink low volumes of fluid daily," the study authors concluded in their published paper, which also notes that more research is needed to determine just how much extra H2O can help UTIs happen less often, and whether women who already drink plenty or get UTIs infrequently will benefit from the strategy.
Lead author Dr. Thomas M. Hooton, professor of clinical medicine at the University of Miami, later told The New York Times that while the study was funded by Danone, the makers of the Evian H20 used during the study, plain old tap water will do. "We can now say there are data that show that if you want to reduce your UTI risk, drink more fluids,” he said.
Praise be! And pass the water.
This article originally appeared on Cosmopolitan.com. Minor edits have been made by the Cosmo.ph editors.