Urinary tract infections are common and sometimes very painful. They affect millions every year and are usually treated with a course of antibiotics. Fortunately, there are also a number of effective home remedies you can try to ease your symptoms and to prevent the infection from recurring.
What is a Urinary Tract Infection?
A urinary tract infection is a common infection that occurs anywhere in the urinary system including the ureters, urethra, bladder or kidneys. Most urinary tract infections (UTIs) involve a person’s lower urinary tract – the urethra or bladder.
While urinary tract infections can occur at any age and to any sex, women are more at risk than men. A woman’s urethra is shorter which makes it easier for any harmful bacteria to get into their bladder.
Infections that are limited to the bladder are often painful and uncomfortable but can be treated fairly easily. If the UTI spreads to the kidneys, the consequences can be more severe.
Types and Causes of a Urinary Tract Infection
A urinary tract infection typically occurs when bacteria enters the urinary tract via the urethra before multiplying in the bladder. The urinary system is actually designed to repel bacteria but the defenses can fail. When this happens, bacteria can take a hold and then turn into a full-blown urinary tract infection.
Women are affected more than men and most UTIs occur in the urethra or the bladder. The following are the most common causes of a urinary tract infection.
Bladder Infection (Cystitis) : This common UTI is typically caused by E. coli or Escheria coli. This bacteria is usually present in the gastrointestinal tract.
Urethritis : This is a type of UTI that affects the urethra. It can occur when gastointestinal tract bacteria spreads to the urethra from the anus. Because a woman’s urthra is so near the vagina, a number of sexually transmitted diseases like gonorrhea, herpes and chlamydia can also cause urethritis.
Symptoms of a Urinary Tract Infection
A urinary tract infection does not always cause symptoms. However, signs or symptoms can include :
- A strong and persistent feeling that you need to urinate.
- Burning sensation while urinating.
- Passing frequent and small quantities of urine.
- Cloudy urine.
- Urine that smells strong.
- Red or pink-colored urine. This is a sign that the urine contains blood.
- Pelvic pain for women.
What are the Risk Factors
Women are more at risk of developing a UTI than men because of the female anatomy. The following risk factors are specific to women :
- Sexual Activity : Women who are sexually active are more prone to developing a UTI than women who are not sexually active. More sexual partners can also increase the risk.
- Birth Control : Certain birth control methods can increase the risk of developing a UTI. These include diaphragms and spermicidal agents.
- Menopause : Following menopause, women produce less estrogen which can cause urinary tract changes that make them more susceptible to infection.
Urinary tract infections are usually treated with a course of antibiotics. Which specific drugs and the length of the course depends on which type of bacteria is causing the infection and your general health.
For a simple infection, the following medications may be prescribed :
Home Remedies for a Urinary Tract Infection
If you have a simple urinary tract infection, your doctor is likely to prescribe antibiotics. They are an effective treatment for most types of UTI and should help you recover fairly quickly. There are however a number of home remedies that you can try to ease your symptoms and to reduce the risk of recurrence.
Drinking plenty of fluids is one of the best things you can do to prevent a UTI. Even mild dehydration has been linked to an increased risk of urinary tract infection. (1)
Drinking more fluids means you urinate more frequently. this helps prevent infection because you flush the harmful bacteria out of the urinary tract. Several studies have explored the link between low volume of urination and urinary tract infections.
One 2003 study, involving 24 patients of both sexes with urinary catheters, found that a low output of urine was linked to an increased risk of urinary tract infection. (2)
Another study, published in the same year, looked at the effect of fluid intake and urine production in 141 young girls. The researchers found that infrequent urination and low intake of fluid were linked to recurrence of UTIs. (3)
An earlier study involving 17 women who monitored their own hydration status with a probe provided similar results. The study revealed that women who increased their intake of fluids reduced their risk of urinary tract infection. (4)
To sum up, it is important that you stay well-hydrated by drinking plenty of fresh fluids throughout the day. Make sure that you drink when you are thirsty and drink even more if you are exercising or living in a hot area. Avoid drinking too much caffeine and alcohol since these drinks cause dehydration.
Cranberry juice is among the most popular and effective home remedies for a urinary tract infection. Cranberry juice has been used to treat UTIs for a very long time and there is plenty of evidence to suggest it is a very effective remedy.
According to studies, cranberries are effective because they prevent bacteria from adhering to and accumulating in the urinary tract. (5)
A review, published in 2007, found that drinking cranberry juice and consuming other products with cranberries or blueberries helped reduce the amount of UTIs experienced in women with recurrent UTIs. (6)
One recent study, published in 2016, looked at the effect of drinking cranberry juice in women with a history of UTIs. The women were separated into two groups and either drank 8 ounces of unsweetened cranberry juice daily or a placebo for 6 months.
The results were very positive. Those who had drunk the cranberry juice experienced fewer urinary tract infections than the placebo group. (7)
Another recent study found that cranberry supplements in capsule form were also effective against urinary tract infection. Women who took capsules with the equivalent of 16 ounces of juice a day reduced their risk of developing a UTI by half. (8)
While many studies appear to support the use of cranberry juice as a remedy, we should point out that not all studies have been so positive.
A review published in 2012 looked at the results of over 20 studies involving more than 4000 participants. They noted that the results were mixed with some large studies finding that cranberry juice had no discernible benefits. (9)
Despite the mixed findings, cranberry juice remains one of the most popular home remedies for a urinary tract infection and it is a great way to make sure you stay hydrated.
Make sure that you purchase the unsweetened variety of cranberry juice to experience the potential benefits.
There is also evidence that increasing the amount of vitamin C you consume can protect you from urinary tract infections.
Experts believe that vitamin C is effective because it increases the urine’s acidity. This in turn helps kill off the harmful bacteria that causes infection. (10)
The results of several studies suggest that boosting your intake of the vitamin can help. One study published in 2007 found examined the effect of vitamin C supplements on pregnant women. The women who took 100 mg of the vitamin each day experienced a 50% reduction in UTIs compared to those given a placebo. (11)
One interesting study was published back in 1990. The researchers were looking at the link between various lifestyle factors and the risk of developing urinary tract infection. They found that vitamin C intake was a major factor with those who consumed a higher amount of the vitamin less at risk of infection. (12)
It is always better to get your vitamins form a natural source. It is not difficult to increase your intake of vitamin C by eating more fresh fruit and vegetables.
Fruits like oranges, kiwifruit and grapefruit can all provide you with your daily recommended intake of vitamin C in a single serving. Supplements are readily available if necessary.
There is also some evidence that probiotics can protect against urinary tract infection.
Not all of the bacteria in your body is harmful. Your gut is also home to billions of beneficial organisms often referred to as the microflora.
You can improve the balance of good bacteria in the body by consuming probiotics either in supplementary form or through certain foods. Probiotics are found in fermented food products like kimchi, kefir, yogurt and kombucha.
Probiotics have been linked to a wide range of health benefits from improved immune function to better digestive health and some recent studies suggest they may help reduce your risk of developing a UTI.
One recent study found that a common strain of probiotic called lactobacillus helped protect against urinary tract infections in women. (13)
Another study found that taking a combination of antibiotics and probiotics was a more effective course of action than treating the condition with antibiotics alone. (14)
Not only so probiotics help prevent recurrence of UTI but they also help restore the beneficial bacteria in the gut following a course of antibiotic treatment. They can also reduce the number of side effects caused by antibiotic use. (15) (16)
Uva-ursi, commonly known as bearberry is another potential natural remedy for urinary tract infections. It is available in several different supplementary forms and the leaves are used to make a tea.
One study found that bearberry leaf combined with dandelion leaf reduced the risk of a UTI recurring. (17)
Make sure you speak to your doctor before taking any herbal supplements.
Studies have consistently revealed that garlic has a wide variety of health benefits including antimicrobial properties that could help treat UTIs.
According to studies, garlic and garlic extract can inhibit the growth of the harmful bacteria responsible for urinary tract infection. (18)
We have already discussed the potential benefits of cranberries for treating urinary tract infections. D-Mannose is a sugar present in cranberries and available in supplementary form.
According to one recent study, D-mannose may be helpful in treating urinary tract infection and preventing their recurrence. (19)
It almost goes without saying that you can help prevent a UTI with by practicing good hygiene habits especially when it comes to bathroom visits.
First of all, it is important that you urinate as soon as you can when you feel the urge. Holding it in too long can result in bacteria building up which can then lead to an infection.
Make sure that wipe your genitals from the front to the back. Wiping from the back to the front may also cause the spread of bacteria into a person’s urinary tract and increase the risk of developing a UTI.
Urinating after having sexual intercourse bacteria from spreading and prevent is another way of reducing your risk of infection. (20)
On a related note, people prone to developing UTIs should not use a spermicide. Studies suggest that using a spermicidal agent can increase the risk of developing a urinary tract infection. (21)
A fair bit of research has demonstrated that the pH of a person’s urine is one of the major factors in allowing bacteria to develop and spread. Because the diet has a direct effect on the pH of urine, it can be manipulated to aid the body in fighting the bacteria responsible for a UTI.
A desirable and healthy pH level is usually high and allows a compound called siderocalin to block the bad bacteria. Antioxidant polyphenols also help block the spread of bad bacteria as far back inj the process as the digestive tract.
By consuming plenty of antioxidant rich food and drink, you can help keep your body in the optimum shape to prevent infection. Fruit and veg like blueberries, cranberries, oranges, kale, spinach and broccoli are rich sources of polyphenols and other antioxidant nutrients. Probiotic foods like kefir, natural yogurt and kimchi can also help.
Drink plenty of fresh juice like pomegranate and cranberry as well as plenty of water and try drinking antioxidant rich herbal teas.
Why Use Natural Remedies for UTIs?
UTIs are extremely common. In fact they are the most common of all infections. They are usually treated with a course of antibiotics but the over prescription of antibiotics has become an important medical issue.
Many strains of bacteria are becoming resistant to antibiotics, adapting and becoming stronger. This is a major cause for concern among health experts, which has led to a search for a natural and more sustainable alternative.
Why you Should Avoid Alcohol
If you are prone to frequent UTIs, it is a good idea to cut right back on your intake of alcohol or even to avoid it completely.
UTIs affect the bladder and urethra but can also become more severe affecting the kidneys. Certain substances can irritate the urinary tract and bladder and that includes alcohol.
While many people consider drinking alcohol in moderation to be harmless, it can have negative effects and increase the risk of developing a UTI. It can also increase the level of acid in the urine and may exacerbate your symptoms.
Drinking alcohol along with a prescription antibiotic may also cause other unwanted side effects such as stomach upset or drowsiness.
Urinary Tract Infections in Children
Urinary tract infections can occur at any time of life and they are quite common among children, even young children. They are usually caused by bacteria and treated with antibiotics.
Boys, especially uncircumcised boys, are more prone to UTIs. Not urinating often enough and poor hygiene habits are also contributory factors.
If your child suffers from recurrent UTIs, make sure that you consult a doctor. It could be a sign that the urinary tract is malformed or not functioning properly.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do I get rid of a UTI without antibiotics?
There are a number of ways to treat a urinary tract infection without antibiotics. These include cranberry juice, staying well-hydrated, vitamin C and probiotics. herbal remedies like uva-ursi and garlic may also be effective. However, a UTI can become serious if it spreads to the kidneys, so make sure that you speak to a doctor before trying to treat the condition yourself.
Is apple cider vinegar good for urinary tract infection?
No it isn’t. Proponents of apple cider vinegar claim that it has a wide range of benefits but very few have been supported by science. While it is true that apple cider vinegar might have some benefits, it is not an effective treatment for a UTI.
How long does a UTI last?
Urinary tract infections usually clear up quickly with the right treatment. Most common infections will be cured within 48 hours of starting treatment but a kidney infection might take a week or more to clear.
Does baking soda cure UTI?
Baking soda is sometimes used as a remedy for urinary tract infections. However, there is no evidence that it is effective.
- Urinary tract infections are extremely common infections that usually affect the bladder and urethra.
- They are normally treated with antibiotics but there are a number of potential home remedies which could help treat the infection and prevent any recurrence.
- Home remedies include staying well-hydrated and practicing good hygiene. Other potential remedies include probiotics, vitamin C and cranberry juice.