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Heather Hanks
Written by Heather Hanks

Reviewed by Dr Andre Budihardjo, MM on July 14, 2022

Top 7 Causes Of A Kidney Infection

A kidney infection can be treated with antibiotics, but addressing the root cause is a much more natural way to go. Learn how simple lifestyle hacks can help keep your kidneys healthy.

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If you are prone to getting a kidney infection often, then it could be due to your lifestyle habits.

Although every case is different, things like smoking and holding in urine for too long can increase your risk.

In this guide, we’ll discuss 7 common causes of a kidney infection and how you can make lifestyle changes to avoid them.

What Is A Kidney Infection?

A kidney infection starts in the bladder and moves to the kidneys. The frequent urge to urinate is an early symptom.

The medical term for a kidney infection is pyelonephritis. It’s a type of urinary tract infection (UTI) caused by a bacteria infection of the kidneys, most commonly E. coli. The condition usually starts in the bladder before and spreads to one or both kidneys.

Symptoms of a kidney infection include: 

  1. Fever
  2. General pain in the back or sides
  3. Nausea
  4. Vomiting
  5. A burning sensation while urinating
  6. A sudden urge to urinate with increased frequency
  7. Smelly, cloudy, or bloody urine 

People who are most at risk of kidney infection are: 

  1. Women: Since females have a shorter urethra, it is easier for bacteria to reach the kidneys.
  2. Pregnant women: Theories suggest that the hormonal changes and shifts in the position of the urinary tract make pregnant women more prone to kidney infection.
  3. Men with enlarged prostates
  4. People with kidney problems, such as kidney stones
  5. Diabetes patients or anyone with a weakened immune system
  6. People suffering from UTI
  7. People having trouble with their bladder or urinary tract (urinary retention, a narrowed urethra, etc.) 

7 Possible Kidney Infection Causes

There are several habits that may increase your risk of infection.

Smoking or being a second-hand smoker 

Smoking, dehydration, and holding in urine can increase your risk of a kidney infection.

Infamous for its health dangers, smoking is a risk factor for kidney fibrosis. Furthermore, since cigarette smoke contains toxic chemicals, second-hand smokers can be equally susceptible to kidney tissue injury.

Consuming substances that damage the kidneys 

Too much salt can increase blood pressure, triggering narrowed and damaged vessels in the body, including the kidneys. You shouldn’t consume more than 2.3 milligrams of sodium daily. Reduce your salt intake through these methods: 

  1. Buy fresh ingredients and cook them from scratch. Prepared or packaged foods contain added salt.
  2. Check for sodium levels on bread and other food package labels.
  3. Use spices, herbs, and sodium-free seasonings.

Protein is good for you, but an excessive amount can overwhelm the kidneys. When your body uses protein, it produces waste that your kidneys will remove. Therefore, more protein means more work for the kidneys. 

To protect your kidneys, you can try probiotics and herbal supplements like Kidney Tonic Herbal soup that can tonify the organs. 

Not drinking enough water

Waste and toxins, including the bacteria responsible for a kidney infection, leave your body when you urinate. To maintain a healthy amount of urine, it is important to drink plenty of water.

Holding in urine for too long 

For the same reason as the above, you should go to the bathroom when you feel like urinating. Don’t hold it in for too long. 

Poor genital hygiene 

After urinating and defecating, wipe your bottom carefully from front to back. This is vital to stop E. coli bacteria, which normally live in the bowels, from transferring to your urethra. 

What’s more, the bacteria can move to your genitals during sexual intercourse. Try going to the bathroom before and after sex, and ensure you clean up well. 

Excessive exercise and alcohol use

Strenuous exercise and heavy drinking have been linked to a condition called rhabdomyolysis. Involving the rapid dissolution of damaged or injured skeletal muscle, this can cause complications like acute kidney injury. 

Drinking tea after alcohol

Many people assume that drinking tea after alcohol is a good way to sober up quickly. However, according to TCM, theophylline in tea can affect the Kidneys if alcohol hasn’t been processed.

Using painkillers irresponsibly 

Apart from antibiotics, painkillers may help with a kidney infection. However, long-term use or high dosage can ruin your kidneys, especially when you take them when you are dehydrated or if you have low blood pressure. Take note of this when consuming painkillers. 

Final Thoughts On Kidney Infection Management

A kidney infection can be quickly treated with antibiotics, but it’s even easier to be prevented through lifestyle changes. Nurture your kidneys by keeping things in moderation, quitting smoking, and drinking adequate amounts of water. And remember to upkeep your personal hygiene.

This is an adaptation of an article, “Bad Habits Ruin a Man’s Kidney”, which first appeared on the Eu Yan Sang website



  1. National Center for Biotechnology Information. 2021. Acute Pyelonephritis  
  2. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. 2017. Definition & Facts of Kidney Infection (Pyelonephritis)  
  3. National Health Service. 2007. Kidney Infection  
  4. Oxford Academic. 2017. Smoking and chronic kidney disease: seeing the signs through the smoke?  
  5. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. 2019. Eating Right for Chronic Kidney Disease  
  6. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. 2019. High Blood Pressure & Kidney Disease
  7. National Center for Biotechnology Information. 2015. Rhabdomyolysis: Pathogenesis, Diagnosis, and Treatment  
  8. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. 2018. Keeping Kidneys Safe: Smart Choices about Medicines  

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