By Cheryl Ryan
Women’s health has long been a less studied and less funded segment of our overall healthcare. There are several possible reasons for that, but the good news is that we see some changes. Increasingly, women entrepreneurs and women in leadership roles are beginning to address health issues that affect them personally. This, coupled with patients’ increased interest in researching proactive, less invasive solutions for their own healthcare, is leading to new research and product options. First up is the Urinary Tract System and an interview with Jenna Ryan at Uqora (Uqora.com).
A Few Urinary Tract Infection (UTI) Facts
The Urinary Tract is the body’s drainage system and comprises two kidneys, two ureters, a bladder and the urethra. It is part of the overall Urogenital Tract. A urinary tract infection (UTI) is an infection in the urinary tract. UTIs are the 2nd most common reason for a doctor’s visit in the US, second only to the common cold. If you’ve ever had one, you understand the painful urgency of getting to a doctor as soon as possible. That translates into 7 million visits or 1.6 billion dollars annually. 50-60 percent of all women will get a UTI. And for many women, UTIs can become a recurring problem that can be difficult and painful to break. Or worse yet, it can lead to kidney disease. Unfortunately, the long-standing medical protocol has been to prescribe an ongoing, low dose of antibiotics, leading to potential antibiotic resistance.
Antibiotics are amazing. They wash through the body, killing or stopping the multiplying of bacteria that cause infections. The problem with taking antibiotics regularly is that you can become resistant to them, making them less effective when you need them.
Finding A Solution
Jenna Ryan and the founding of Uqora
And this was where Jenna Ryan found herself in 2014. After suffering from eight UTIs in a year, she became increasingly frustrated that the only solution was to get a prescription for a low dose of antibiotics for an indeterminate amount of time. So she and her then-boyfriend (now-husband) Spencer Gordon set out to find a different solution.
“Spencer’s background is in molecular biology and my background is in direct-to-consumer marketing.” Says Ryan. “Together, we are committed to finding better options for proactive urinary tract health. We combined our experience and got to work culling the best research from universities and hospitals. We partnered with industry experts to develop our proactive care product line and launched Uqora.com in 2017.
How It Works
Uqora’s reactive products are a supplement made up, in part, of D-mannose, a naturally occurring sugar compound that attaches to E. coli bacteria. E. coli is the bacteria most commonly found in urinary tract infections. Once our product binds to the bacteria, it then works alongside other key components to expel it. The idea is that the bacteria doesn’t get the chance to attach to the uterine lining, causing prolonged infection.
Who are your customers?
I was surprised to learn that women of all ages are affected by UTIs. When I set out on this journey, I thought mainly women my age got them. But in fact, the numbers are fairly equal among the three age categories. Thirty and younger, 31-50 and the 50+ age groups each make up about 30% of our customers. The triggers can differ by age, but in some cases, it’s simply because of anatomical and physiologic tendencies, like the shape of certain women’s urinary tracts.
Some triggers in younger women can be brought on by sex or exercise. As we get older, it can be brought on by sex but can also be exacerbated by hormonal shifts and changing vaginal pH balances. Then, as we continue to age, additional factors such as lax muscles, which do not expel all the urine, can lead to an opportunity for bacteria to gather.
Men do get them, but their numbers are less, mainly due to the anatomical placement of the urethra.
Who It Helps
Tell Us About Your Company
“The misconception is that people who struggle with UTIs are doing something wrong—that they aren’t peeing after sex or maintaining proper hygiene. But most people who struggle with UTIs are doing those things, but they need extra support because of anatomical and physiological reasons.” Says Ryan.
It’s always been important to me to talk openly and directly with our customers about urinary health because it’s been a topic that’s been stigmatized and marginalized. We go above and beyond to treat customers like friends because they’ve often been through a lot on their journey to urinary health.
One exciting outcome has been our customers. They’re upending long-held ideas about keeping this subject taboo. Because of their openness, we have over 16,000 customer testimonials to date, giving detailed product reviews and openly discussing their journeys’.
It’s been a great example of the pent-up desire for women to talk about their shared experiences. But it’s also so helpful for women searching for solutions to their own urinary tract health issues. As a result, our customers have become our product ambassadors.
Aside from urinary tract health, what does overall wellness look like to you?
Health is key to wellness. I’m grateful that my urinary health is good and that I’m healthy overall. For me, wellness is the alignment between my mental and physical health. I’ve always been active. I love to hike, swim, run, and get beat up in a boot camp class.
I’m like one of those dogs that need to be run a lot. Staying active and getting outside are closely related to my mental health. I feel most calm and connected when getting outside and moving my body.
Full disclosure: Jenna Ryan is my daughter and I do not get UTIs, so I have not tried this product personally. Many of my friends and their daughters’ who suffer have used these products and had great success. So in the time-honored tradition of women sharing what they’ve heard from other women, I am sharing what I’ve heard with you.