What is a urinary tract infection?
A urinary tract infection (UTI) is an infection that affects any part of the urinary tract, including the kidneys, ureters, bladder, or urethra.
Bacteria are the cause of 95% of urinary tract infections, but fungi can also cause infection.
The most common strains of bacteria that account for urinary tract infection cases are Escherichia coli and Staphylococcus saprophyticus.
Common urinary tract infection symptoms include:
- a burning sensation when peeing
- frequent urination
- cloudy or dark urine
- urine with a strong odor
- a feeling of incomplete bladder emptying
- pelvic pain
Though urinary tract infections can affect anyone, women are more prone to infection. This is because the urethra, the tube that carries urine out of the bladder, is shorter in women than in men. This makes it easier for bacteria to enter and reach the bladder.
About half of all women will experience a urinary tract infection at some point in their lives.
Antibiotics are used to treat urinary tract infections and are sometimes used in low doses long-term to prevent a recurrence.
There are also several natural ways to protect against infections and reduce the risk of recurrence.
Without further ado, here are the top 6 home remedies to fight urinary tract infection.
1. Drink plenty of fluids
Hydration status has been linked to the risk of urinary tract infection.
This is because regular urination can help flush bacteria from the urinary tract to prevent infection.
A study examined nursing home residents and administered a drinking schedule to participants to increase their fluid intake, which decreased urinary tract infections requiring antibodies by 56 percent.
An older 2003 study looked at 141 girls and showed that low fluid intake and infrequent urination were both linked to recurrent urinary tract infections.
In a randomized control trial, 140 premenopausal women prone to urinary tract infections participated in a 12-month study to test if a higher fluid intake would decrease their risk of recurrent cystitis and in turn their risk of developing a urinary tract infection. They found that an increase in fluid intake led to a decrease in urinary tract infection frequency.
To stay hydrated and meet your fluid needs, it’s best to drink water throughout the day and always when you’re thirsty.
Summary: Drinking plenty of liquids can decrease the risk of urinary tract infections by making you pee more, which helps remove bacteria from the urinary tract.
2. Increase vitamin C intake
Some evidence shows that increasing your intake of vitamin C could protect against urinary tract infections.
Vitamin C is thought to work by increasing the acidity of the urine, thereby killing off the bacteria that cause infection.
An older 2007 study of urinary tract infections in pregnant women looked at the effects of taking 100 mg of vitamin C every day.
The study found that vitamin C had a protective effect, cutting the risk of urinary tract infections by more than half in those taking vitamin C, compared with the control group.
Fruits and vegetables are especially high in vitamin C and are a good way to increase your intake.
Red peppers, oranges, grapefruit, and kiwifruit all contain the full recommended amount of vitamin C in just one serving.
Despite these studies, there is still more research needed to prove the effectiveness of vitamin C for reducing urinary tract infections.
Summary: Increasing vitamin C intake may decrease the risk of urinary tract infections by making the urine more acidic, thus killing off infection-causing bacteria.
3. Drink unsweetened cranberry juice
Drinking unsweetened cranberry juice is one of the most well-known natural remedies for urinary tract infections.
Cranberries work by preventing bacteria from adhering to the urinary tract, thus preventing infection.
In a 2016 study, women with recent histories of urinary tract infections drank an 8-ounce (240-mL) serving of cranberry juice every day for 24 weeks. Those who drank cranberry juice had fewer urinary tract infection episodes than the control group.
Another study showed that consuming cranberry products may lower the number of urinary tract infections in a year, especially for women who have recurrent urinary tract infections.
A 2015 study showed that treatment with cranberry juice capsules equivalent to two 8-ounce servings of cranberry juice could cut the risk of urinary tract infections in half.
However, some other studies suggest that cranberry juice may not be as effective in the prevention of urinary tract infections.
One 2012 review looked at 24 studies with a total of 4,473 participants. Though some smaller studies did find that cranberry products could reduce urinary tract infection frequency, other larger studies found no benefit.
Although the evidence is mixed, cranberry juice may help reduce the risk of urinary tract infections.
Keep in mind that these benefits only apply to unsweetened cranberry juice, rather than sweetened commercial brands.
Summary: Some studies show that cranberries could help reduce the risk of urinary tract infections by preventing bacteria from adhering to the urinary tract.
4. Take a probiotic
Probiotics are beneficial microorganisms that are consumed through food or supplements. They can promote a healthy balance of bacteria in your gut.
Probiotics are available in supplement form or can be found in fermented foods, such as kefir, kimchi, kombucha, and probiotic yogurt.
The use of probiotics has been linked to many things, from improved digestive health to enhanced immune function.
Some studies also show that certain strains of probiotics may decrease the risk of urinary tract infections.
One study found that Lactobacillus, a common probiotic strain, helped prevent urinary tract infections in adult women.
Suggested read: 7 symptoms of Candida overgrowth and how to get rid of it
Another study found that taking both probiotics and antibiotics was more effective at preventing recurrent urinary tract infections than using antibiotics alone.
Antibiotics, the main line of defense against urinary tract infections, can cause disturbances in levels of gut bacteria. Probiotics may be beneficial in restoring gut bacteria after antibiotic treatment.
Studies have shown that probiotics can increase levels of good gut bacteria and reduce side effects associated with antibiotic use.
Summary: Probiotics could help prevent urinary tract infections when used alone or in combination with antibiotics.
5. Practice these healthy habits
Preventing urinary tract infections starts with practicing a few good bathroom and hygiene habits.
First, it’s important not to hold urine for too long. This can lead to a buildup of bacteria, resulting in infection.
Peeing after sexual intercourse can also reduce the risk of urinary tract infections by preventing the spread of bacteria.
Additionally, those who are prone to urinary tract infections should avoid using spermicide, as it has been linked to an increase in urinary tract infections.
Finally, when you use the toilet, make sure you wipe front to back. Wiping from back to front can cause bacteria to spread to the urinary tract and is associated with an increased risk of urinary tract infections.
Summary: Urinating frequently and after sexual intercourse can reduce the risk of urinary tract infection. Spermicide use and wiping from back to front may increase the risk of urinary tract infection.
6. Try these natural supplements
Several natural supplements may decrease the risk of developing a urinary tract infection.
Here are a few supplements that have been studied:
- D-Mannose. D-Mannose is a type of sugar that is found in cranberries. Research suggests it’s effective in treating urinary tract infections and preventing recurrence.
- Bearberry leaf. Bearberry leaf is also known as uva ursi. One study showed that a combination of bearberry leaf, dandelion root, and dandelion leaf decreased urinary tract infection recurrence.
- Cranberry extract. Like cranberry juice, cranberry extract works by preventing bacteria from adhering to the urinary tract.
- Garlic extract. Research shows garlic and garlic extract to have antimicrobial properties and suggests it may be able to block the growth of bacteria to prevent urinary tract infections.
Summary: D-Mannose, bearberry leaf, and cranberry extract are natural supplements that have been shown to prevent urinary tract infections and decrease recurrence.
Urinary tract infections are a common problem and can be frustrating to deal with.
Suggested read: Cranberries: Nutrition, benefits, side effects, and more
However, staying hydrated, practicing health-promoting habits, and supplementing your diet with some urinary tract infection-fighting ingredients are good ways to lower your risk of these infections.