Research shows that 50 percent of women in the United States will contract a UTI during their lifetimes. A third of women will have a UTI by the time they are 24. If you suffer from recurrent UTIs, you’re not alone. While you can get antibiotics from a doctor to treat the condition, many cases will clear up themselves when given time and proper care.
This handy guide offers a list of home remedies for UTIs. From drinking tons of fluids to alleviating symptoms with hot compresses, we’ve got you covered. Check out this list of natural ways to treat UTIs.
What Is A Urinary Tract Infection (UTI)?
A UTI is classified as an infection that afflicts the bladder, urethra, or kidneys. Most urinary tract infections occur in the lower urinary tract and affect both the bladder and the urethra. Women tend to contract the infections more frequently than men. The most severe cases affect the kidneys and can cause side effects including kidney stones.
The main causes of UTIs are bacteria, fungi, and viruses. The most common cause of recurrent urinary tract infections is bowel bacteria that isn’t eliminated properly. Bladder UTIs are most commonly caused by the Escherichia coli (E.coli) bacteria. Other bacteria that frequently cause UTIs include Staphylococcus saprophyticus and various forms of lactobacillus bacteria.
People who have suppressed immune systems may also suffer from recurrent UTIs. Other risk factors include unprotected sex and the use of certain types of birth controls including diaphragms. If you have a catheter or recently had urinary related procedures, you may also be more prone to contracting UTIs (1).
Types of UTIs
Acute Pyelonephritis (Kidneys)
This type of UTI is the most severe. It affects the kidneys and can cause symptoms including upper back pain, side pain, vomiting, nausea, and high fever.
UTIs affecting the bladder can result in pelvic pressure and discomfort in the general lower abdomen region. The bacterial infection is accompanied by frequent urination and painful urination. One of the hallmark symptoms of the disease is blood when urinating.
While harmful gastrointestinal bacteria are the leading cause of cystitis, sexual intercourse can also cause the infection. The infection can also be caused simply by the structure of the female anatomy. The short distance between the urethral opening and the bladder makes it easier to transfer bacteria that cause a UTI (1).
This type of UTI has symptoms that include a burning sensation when urinating and discharge. Sexually transmitted diseases including herpes can cause infections in the urethra. Urethritis also occurs when bacteria from the anus is transferred to the urethra (1).
The 9 Best Natural Remedies For UTI
1. Increase Fluid Intake
Drinking water is one of the best home remedies for UTI treatment. It’s also one of the best ways to prevent them from occurring. Fluids are essential for maintaining proper health. While you can drink any fluids including sports drinks and juices, experts at the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases say water is best (2).
By drinking enough water, your body can properly flush out harmful bacteria. If you’re dehydrated, it’s easier for bacteria to lodge itself in healthy cells and cause infections. Drink lots of water throughout the day to prevent and treat UTIs.
2. Unsweetened Cranberry Juice
Cranberry juice and cranberry extract are some of the best home remedies for UTI—plus it’s backed by extensive scientific research. Cranberry juice is packed with antioxidants that have antibacterial properties and vitamin C, which helps to boost the immune system and fight infections.
One study showed that cranberry juice helps to prevent bacteria such as E. coli from attaching to the bladder wall (3). By drinking cranberry juice regularly, researchers believe you may be able to prevent recurrent UTIs. Drink a glass of cranberry juice or eat cranberries on a regular basis to prevent UTIs.
3. Don’t Hold Your Pee
People that wait a long time to urinate tend to have a higher risk of developing a urinary tract infection. That’s because bad bacteria have a longer time to infect cells. Experts recommend urinating as soon as you need to. This will help flush out bacteria and lower the risk of developing a UTI.
4. Take Probiotics
Another way to prevent UTIs is to make sure you have lots of good bacteria in your gut. The easiest way to do this is to take probiotics or eat foods rich in probiotics. Good bacteria prevent bad bacteria from adhering to the bladder, urethra, and kidneys. They also produce chemical reactions that create hydrogen peroxide—a natural antibacterial agent. Good bacteria can also lower the pH of urine, making the environment less hospitable for bad bacteria.
Avoid foods that are high in caffeine and don’t eat spicy foods. Alcohol, acidic fruits, and artificial sweeteners can all irritate the bladder and make symptoms worse. Try to eat foods such as yogurt, kefir, and probiotic-rich cheese. If you don’t like these foods or are lactose intolerant, you can take probiotic supplements instead.
5. Supplement With D-Mannose
Studies show that D-mannose may help to prevent the occurrence of UTIs. One such study published in the World Journal of Urology examined the use of D-mannose and the prescription antibiotic Nitrofurantoin in treating UTIs. Scientists examined a group of 98 patients and discovered that D-mannose was just as effective as Nitrofurantoin in preventing recurrent UTIs (4).
6. Practice Good Hygiene
When you go to the bathroom, always wipe from the front to the back. This helps prevent the spread of harmful bacteria to the urethral opening. You also want to practice good sexual hygiene. Try to urinate immediately after having sexual intercourse. You should also wash your genitals after intercourse to prevent bacterial infections. Practice safe sex by using contraception including condoms and make sure to change them out if switching between anal and vaginal sex.
7. Dandelion Root and Uva Ursi (Bearberry Leaf)
Uva ursi is a berry that Native Americans used to treat urinary tract infections. It was also widely used to treat bladder infections before antibiotics were developed. One study found that a combination of dandelion root and uva ursi may help treat UTIs (5).
Another double-blind, placebo-controlled trial found that uva ursi demonstrates antibacterial properties against pathogens including E.coli (6). Research is ongoing in the field and experts recommend caution when using uva ursi to treat UTIs. The berry can be toxic and cause kidney problems, so consult a qualified healthcare professional before using.
8. Heating Pad
A heating pad can help alleviate symptoms of UTI including pain and discomfort. The warmth helps to decrease inflammation and relieve pressure that can cause painful urination. Alternate using a hot pad for 10 minutes and then rest for 10 minutes. Repeat as needed throughout the day.
9. Essential Oils
Essential oils boast antibacterial properties that can help fend off infections. They can also help you relax and distress, alleviating pain and discomfort. Diffuse an essential oil such as clove oil or lavender oil to help unwind. You can also combine the oils with a carrier oil and rub directly on your stomach or lower abdomen where you are experiencing pain.
Treating Urinary Tract Infections Naturally
Urinary tract infections are one of the most common types of infections in women. Fortunately, you don’t need to get antibiotic treatment to treat minor UTis. If you’re suffering from UTI symptoms, try these natural remedies to feel better fast. They’ll help alleviate the symptoms while working to eliminate the bad bacteria that caused the infection in the first place.
If you have a severe UTI accompanied by a kidney infection or one that causes kidney pain, talk to a healthcare professional. These types of UTIs are more difficult to treat at home and can cause adverse side effects if they aren’t treated properly.