A urinary tract infection (UTI) is an infection in any part of the urinary tract, including the bladder, urethra, ureters, and kidneys. UTIs are among the most common infections treated in emergency rooms in the United States.
Some people experience recurrent UTIs, which prompts them to look for alternatives to antibiotic medications. Drinking a small amount of baking soda, or sodium bicarbonate, mixed with water is a home remedy that some people have tried for UTIs.
But, there is little research into the effectiveness of baking soda for UTIs, and it may not be safe for everyone to use. Read on to learn more about this remedy, other home remedies, and medical treatments to get rid of UTIs.
Taking baking soda for a UTI
Baking soda may neutralize acid in the urine. However, this treatment might pose a significant health risk when used incorrectly.
Baking soda is said to neutralize the acid in the urine, which allegedly reduces symptoms of a UTI and allows the body to fight the bacteria causing the infection.
People who support this remedy also claim that baking soda can stop the infection from spreading to the kidneys.
But there is little evidence to suggest that baking soda can cure a UTI, although some people may report that it reduces their discomfort and urgency.
Is it safe?
People must remember that baking soda can be very harmful when taken incorrectly. In addition to this, research does not support the use of baking soda as an effective treatment for UTIs.
The California Poison Control System reported on 192 cases of baking soda misuse, and almost 5 percent of these were related to people who were trying to treat a UTI.
Most people in this study required medical attention after trying to use baking soda. Some of the complications experienced included serious electrolyte and acid or base imbalances, and respiratory depression.
Also, the researchers in this study warn that using baking soda as a home remedy may cause people to delay medical care, which can lead to worsening symptoms and further complications.
Complications linked to taking too much baking soda include:
Other home remedies for UTIs
Drinking plenty of water is recommended for people with a UTI.
Some people like to try home remedies to treat UTIs, possibly because of the growing concerns over antibiotic-resistant bacteria, plus worries about adverse reactions caused by antibiotics.
While home remedies may work for some people, others will need to use medical treatments in conjunction with some of the additional methods listed below.
Possible additional home remedies for UTIs include:
A person with a UTI should drink plenty of water. This dilutes the urine, making it less acidic, while also helping to flush bacteria out of the urinary tract.
Several foods and drinks can irritate a sensitive bladder and people should avoid these if they have a UTI. Some of the worst include:
Cranberry juice is a popular home remedy for UTIs. Ingesting cranberry juice has been shown to lower the acidity of urine.
However, several clinical trials have tested cranberry juice for UTI prevention, but the findings are inconclusive, and the studies have several limitations.
Nonetheless, some people find relief from their symptoms after drinking cranberry juice. They should choose a sugar-free juice where possible, and stop drinking it if it causes diarrhea or an upset stomach.
Cranberry juice should be avoided by people taking blood-thinning medication, such as warfarin.
Essential oils may help to treat some types of bacterial infections.
For instance, one study suggests that lemongrass oil can fight several common pathogens, including Escherichia coli (E. coli), which is the bacteria responsible for most UTIs.
People are advised to speak with a doctor before using essential oils to treat a UTI.
It is essential to remember that essential oils should not be ingested. They must be inhaled through a diffuser, or applied to the skin in a diluted form, using a carrier oil.
Medical treatments for UTIs
The first-line treatment for a UTI is antibiotic medication. This can be used alongside home remedies to treat the symptoms or to cure the infection.
The type of antibiotics that a doctor prescribes will vary, depending on the bacteria found in the urine, and the individual's medical history and health status.
For a simple UTI, the following antibiotics may be used:
- Ceftriaxone (Rocephin)
- Cephalexin (Keflex)
- Fosfomycin (Monurol)
- Nitrofurantoin (Macrodantin, Macrobid)
- Sulfamethoxazole/trimethoprim (Bactrim, Sulfatrim)
In most cases, people will see their symptoms get better within a few days, and the infection clears up in a week or so.
Frequent or complicated infections may require different types of treatment. Often, a doctor will suggest:
- low-dose antibiotics for 6 months or more
- single-dose antibiotics after sexual activity if infections are caused by intercourse
- vaginal estrogen therapy for postmenopausal women
Hospitalization and treatment with intravenous antibiotics are sometimes needed for severe UTIs. In all instances, people must finish all medication, as prescribed.
If the pain and discomfort of a UTI are interfering with a person's quality of life and daily activities, a doctor may recommend a medication called phenazopyridine (Baridium, Pyridium) to be used alongside other treatments.
This medication will often change the color of a person's urine to bright orange or red and can stain underwear. It may also cause contact lenses to discolor.
Phenazopyridine is a pain-relieving medication that numbs the bladder and urethra so that urinating becomes less painful. However, it will not cure the UTI but will only relieve the symptoms.
Preventing UTIs may be possible by changing birth control methods.
People who are prone to UTIs can take certain steps to prevent them from developing in the first instance.
By doing the following, an individual may help prevent an infection of the urinary tract:
- avoid using soap, vaginal douches, and other feminine hygiene products in the genital area
- consider changing birth control methods, because diaphragms and spermicide-treated condoms can cause bacterial growth
- avoid holding urine in the bladder for longer than necessary
- stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water
- take a shower instead of a bath
- urinate before and after sexual intercourse
- wipe and wash well after intercourse
For women, it is also sensible to wipe from front to back after going to the toilet, to prevent bacteria spreading from the anus to the vagina and urethra.
Complications of untreated UTIs
UTIs rarely cause complications if promptly diagnosed and treated appropriately.
However, untreated UTIs can lead to the following:
- permanent kidney damage
- recurrent UTIs, especially in women
- risk of low birth weight or premature infants in pregnant women
- sepsis, a potentially life-threatening condition
- urethral narrowing or stricture in men
Baking soda may alleviate the symptoms of a UTI in some people. However, this treatment can pose a significant health risk, so it is important to speak with a doctor before considering the use of baking soda for a UTI.
Prompt diagnosis and appropriate treatments reduce the risk of UTI-associated complications.