A friend with many children had found to her dismay that she was very prone to urinary tract infections that would quickly escalate, and mastitis if she missed even one feeding at night in her baby's first year.
Her mom had some of the same tendency - called it "poor ductwork" - and after LOTS of hassle after each pregnancy, she had come to dread the first year postpartum because she could become very sick in a matter of hours.
Interestingly, and fortunately, she had never had a problem with her "ductwork" during pregnancy. So my first rabbit hole of research was to try to figure out if there was something specific to pregnancy that would explain that. This turned out to be far too complicated to explain it. During pregnancy the immune system changes month by month, so we were back to looking at her different behavior during pregnancy to explain it. She drank more water and used the bathroom more often. She drink less coffee and no alcohol, so perhaps that was part of it. And the higher hormones might be exerting a protective effect.
After deciding that it wasn't useful to dissect the strengths of the pregnant immune system, we turned to other factors. As a child, she had been exposed to Salmonella and likely harbored it as a low-level chronic immune drain. Her epithelial cells - the lining of her bladder and milk ducts - might not have the immune factors necessary to shed infections, and in the case of UTIs, bacteria often change into forms called biofilms that adhere to the wall of the bladder and protect themselves from the host's immune system. So we focused on general immune building and tried to find her particular missing piece.
She already watched her sugar intake and ate plenty of protein, and she had figured out that cutting out coffee, tea, and juice didn't influence her bladder enough to be worth it. She drank water throughout the day and did all the lifestyle things to help avoid UTIs. She had also figured out that daily d-mannose and vitamin C and grapefruit seed extract if she started to feel symptoms would slow and sometimes prevent the development of a full-blown infection. She would take these throughout the day and drink a TON of water, and try to rest, but she didn't like having to watch it so carefully.
Since UTIs often gain a foothold in older women whose hormones are decreasing, or women with disrupted vaginal flora, we talked about ways to ensure a good mix of bacteria. Since she tolerates dairy well and eats yogurt daily, I took a visit to the store to compare the different probiotic strains in different brands. Lactobacillus Rhamnosus and Bulgaricus are associated with a lower incidence of UTIs, and plenty of brands include these, so she switched from Mountain High to Oikos, both commonly available in our area.
In addition, she added zinc lozenges several times per week, on top of her regular multivitamin and other supplements, to give an extra boost to her immune system. She used one of the commonly available brands like Sambucol Elderberry and Zinc.
With these last two tactics - probiotics and zinc - on top of her generally good habits, she has enjoyed her first postpartum period without even a sign of a UTI or breast infection. She's delighted to have figured out what works for her, and so far she's been able to enjoy nine months with her new baby and an improved immune system.
Perhaps these same tips would work for you or a friend, or perhaps there's a different missing piece for your immune health. Keep looking and experimenting!