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A urinary tract infection (UTI) is a common condition that often needs medical treatment, but home remedies can also help.
The urinary tract consists of the bladder, kidneys, urethra, and ureters, which process and expel urine from the body.
A UTI can cause pain and a need to urinate frequently. It can also lead to severe complications, including kidney damage and sepsis. Many people have recurring episodes.
Antibiotics can treat a UTI, but there are concerns about overuse leading to antibiotic resistance. For this reason, experts have been considering how some home remedies may support treatment for this type of infection.
Before using home remedies, it is essential to seek medical advice, as incorrect treatment can lead to life threatening complications.
Studies have suggested that those who increase their water consumption from less than 1.5 liters of water a day to 2.2 liters a day may have fewer episodes of a UTI than before.
Current guidelines note that, for those with limited water intake, drinking more may be beneficial.
Experts recommend drinking six to eight 8-ounce glasses of water in a day, but people can check with their doctor how much water they need, as too much may not be beneficial.
One of the symptoms of a UTI is pain when urinating. For this reason, it can be tempting to avoid using the bathroom.
A person with a UTI may also avoid going to the bathroom because there is often no urine to release, although they feel they need to go.
Drinking plenty of fluids may help ease the discomfort of urination.
A UTI can cause pain in the pelvic area. Applying a heat pad to the bladder or pubic area can help to relieve pain and discomfort temporarily.
- never apply heat directly to the skin
- ensure the heat is moderate, to prevent burns
- apply for short periods only
Heat pads are available for purchase online.
Loose fitting clothing can prevent moisture from accumulating in the pelvic area. This may help stop the infection from getting worse.
To maximize comfort and reduce perspiration:
- avoid tight clothing
- use cotton underwear and avoid synthetic fabrics
- keep the pubic area clean and dry
These actions may help prevent the growth of bacteria and the recurrence of a UTI.
Dietary factors may help manage and prevent UTIs, according to the American Urological Association.
Foods to avoid
Foods that may irritate the bladder include:
- citrus fruits
- tomato-based foods
- artificial sweeteners
- spicy foods
Foods to eat
The following foods, on the other hand, will not irritate the bladder and also provide nutrients:
- green beans
- winter squash
- lean proteins
- bread, especially whole grain
According to a 2020 study, following a vegetarian diet may lower the risk of developing a UTI. This might be due to the antibacterial effect of antioxidants, which are plentiful in a plant-based diet.
Processed foods provide fewer antioxidants and other nutrients than fresh foods. Instead, they may increase levels of free radicals, the toxic substances that can lead to inflammation and cell damage.
A healthful, balanced diet that focuses on fresh, plant-based ingredients may help quicken recovery and prevent another episode.
Cranberry is a longstanding home remedy for UTIs. There is evidence that it may reduce the risk of infection.
Cranberries contain proanthocyanidins (PACs), which appear to help prevent the bacteria from sticking to the lining of the urinary tract.
Amid concerns about the need to reduce antibiotic use, recent guidelines have cautiously recommended cranberrry as a preventive measure, whether as a juice, capsule, or tablet.
Concerns remain that the PAC content varies between products, meaning a person cannot be sure exactly what will be in their cranberry product or how well it will work.
It is best to choose unsweetened cranberry juice to avoid added sugar.
Over-the counter (OTC) medications, such as acetaminophen (paracetamol), can provide pain relief.
A UTI can sometimes affect the kidneys. If this happens, a person should not take nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), as they could cause further damage.
An individual is best speaking to a medical professional before taking pain relievers for a UTI.
For those who want to try vitamin C, the best way to consume it is through food sources, such as:
- red and green peppers
If a doctor recommends vitamin C supplements, they are also available for purchase online.
D-mannose is a sugar that features naturally in fruits and vegetables, such as apples, cranberries, and seaweed. It may stop bacteria from sticking to cells in the urinary tract, according to research.
A 2016 study found that it may help treat a UTI, but more research has yet to confirm this.
D-mannose is available as a supplement in powder form, but people should speak to their doctor before using it at home.
Research in the past has shown that probiotic lactobacillus may help treat or prevent a UTI. Current clinical trials are investigating whether applying a medical form of lactobacillus to the vagina could help prevent UTIs.
However, taking it in the wrong form for the wrong type of bacteria may not be safe, say some scientists.
There are not yet guidelines in place that recommend probiotics in the prevention or treatment of UTIs, but research is promising.
Some other options may help with a UTI, but research does not support their use. People are best speaking to a doctor before using these treatments, as they can have adverse effects.
Some people use essential oils for UTIs. Eucalyptus oil, for example, may have antibacterial properties.
Experiencing the aroma of essential oils has been found to have therapeutic value. People can also dilute essential oils and massage the diluted solutions into the skin.
People must always dilute an essential oil with a carrier oil before applying, and never take an essential oil by mouth or apply it directly.
People must check with a doctor before using essential oils, especially during pregnancy. Essential oils are not suitable for children.
A traditional UTI remedy involves consuming up to a teaspoon of baking soda dissolved in water. The idea is that this will neutralize the acid in the urine and enable the bladder to heal.
However, medical research does not support this use, and it may have dangerous side effects.
Click here to learn more about baking soda.
Apple cider vinegar
Apple cider vinegar (ACV) may have antibacterial properties. Some people have an ACV bath to promote wound healing and help fight bacterial and fungal infections.
Researchers have predicted that ACV might have an impact on the pathogens that cause a UTI. In one older study, consuming 100 milliliters of diluted rice vinegar every day for 4 weeks appeared to reduce levels of bacteria in the urine.
However, science has not yet confirmed that using ACV in any way will prevent or cure a UTI.
People must never apply vinegar directly to the skin without diluting it first.
Learn more here about the possible health benefits of apple cider vinegar.
Preventing UTIs is not always possible, but some steps may help minimize the risk:
- After using the bathroom, wipe from front to back.
- Urinate after sexual activity to help expel bacteria.
- Fully empty the bladder when urinating.
- Take showers instead of a bath.
- Avoid using perfumed intimate products.
- Avoid using barrier methods of birth control that need spermicidal lube.
Many UTIs produce mild symptoms and resolve in 2–3 days with home treatment.
However, a person should see their doctor if:
- symptoms are severe
- symptoms persist for more than a week without improving
- the infection keeps recurring
- the person has a weakened immune system or other factors that cause an infection to worsen
Antibiotic treatment may be necessary to prevent complications.
Home remedies may ease the symptoms of a UTI, support recovery, and help prevent future episodes.
However, they are unlikely to be as effective as a prescription treatment. If symptoms persist, it is essential to see a doctor, who may recommend medical treatment.
Some home remedies may have adverse effects. For this reason, people must always talk to a doctor before trying any new remedy.