Bacteria cause urinary tract infections (UTIs), so doctors usually treat them with antibiotics. But is it possible to treat a UTI without these drugs?
People increasingly want to know whether there are non-antibiotic treatments for UTIs. Below, we explore seven evidence-based home remedies for these infections.
UTIs are among the most common bacterial infections in the United States. They are especially prevalent in females, around
The symptoms can include:
- increased frequency and urgency of urination
- pain or burning when urinating
- a fever of below 101°F
- pressure or cramping in the lower abdomen and groin
- change in the smell or color of urine
- cloudy, murky, or bloody urine
Bacteria from the perineum that travels up the urethra cause UTIs. The
When E. coli reaches the bladder it invades the bladder mucosal wall, which causes the body to produce cystitis, an inflammatory reaction.
Females have a shorter urethra than males, which makes them more likely to develop this infection. Additional risk factors include:
- the use of a catheter
- manipulation of the urethra
- sexual intercourse
- the use of spermicides and diaphragms
- kidney transplants
- the use of antibiotics
Additionally, females who are experiencing menopause may be more likely to develop UTIs.
Research supports the use of some home remedies for UTIs. And some have been part of traditional medicine practices for thousands of years.
To treat a UTI without antibiotics, people can try these approaches.
1. Stay hydrated
Drinking enough water can help prevent and treat UTIs.
Water helps the urinary tract organs remove waste from the body efficiently while retaining vital nutrients and electrolytes.
Being hydrated also dilutes the urine and speeds its journey through the system, making it harder for bacteria to reach and infect the cells that line the urinary organs.
There is no set recommendation about how much water to drink every day — people’s needs are different. On average, though, adults should drink
2. Urinate when the need arises
Frequent urination can help flush bacteria from the urinary tract.
It also reduces the amount of time that bacteria in the urine are exposed to cells in the tract, limiting the risk of them attaching to and infecting these cells.
Urinating as soon as possible after the urge strikes
3. Drink cranberry juice
Cranberry juice is one of the most well-established natural treatments for UTIs. People also use it to clear other infections and speed wound recovery.
Cranberry juice also contains antioxidants, including polyphenols, which have antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties.
There is no set guidance about how much cranberry juice to drink for a UTI. To prevent them, a person might drink around 400 milliliters of at least 25% cranberry juice every day. However, more research is necessary to determine how much cranberry juice to drink for a UTI.
4. Use probiotics
Beneficial bacteria, called probiotics, can help keep the urinary tract healthy and free from harmful bacteria.
In particular, probiotics in the Lactobacillus group may help treat and prevent UTIs, according to some research. They may do this by:
- preventing harmful bacteria from attaching to urinary tract cells
- producing hydrogen peroxide, a strong antibacterial agent, in urine
- lowering urine’s pH, making conditions less favorable for bacteria
Also, antibiotic resistance may be reduced in people who take Lactobacillus supplements while they take antibiotics.
Probiotics exist in several products that contain dairy, are fermented, or both, including:
People can also take probiotic supplements, usually as capsules or a powder that mixes into water or other beverages.
5. Get enough vitamin C
It also reacts with nitrates in urine to form nitrogen oxides that can kill bacteria. It can lower the pH of urine, making it less likely that bacteria will survive.
However, there is little quality research that indicates whether consuming more vitamin C can prevent or treat UTIs.
According to the limited research, taking other supplements alongside vitamin C may maximize its benefits.
A 2016 study looked at data from 36 people with recurrent UTIs who took vitamin C, probiotic, and cranberry supplements three times a day for 20 days, then stopped for 10 days. They repeated this cycle for 3 months. The researchers concluded that this could be a safe, effective way to treat recurrent UTIs.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) recommend that females aged 19 and over consume at least
6. Wipe from front to back
UTIs can develop when bacteria from the rectum or feces
Once bacteria are in the urethra, they can travel up into other urinary tract organs, where they can cause infections.
After urinating, wipe in a way that prevents bacteria from moving from the anus to the genitals. Use separate pieces of toilet paper to wipe the genitals and anus, for example.
7. Practice good sexual hygiene
Some sexual intercourse
Examples of good sexual hygiene include:
- urinating before and immediately after sex
- using barrier contraception, such as a condom
- washing the genitals, especially the foreskin, before and after engaging in sexual acts or intercourse
- washing the genitals or changing condoms if switching from anal to vaginal sex
- ensuring that all sexual partners are aware of any current or past UTIs
Antibiotics are the standard treatment for UTIs because they kill the bacteria responsible for the infections.
Most UTIs develop when bacteria enter the urinary tract from outside the body. The species most likely to cause UTIs include:
While antibiotics can usually treat UTIs quickly and effectively, they can cause allergic reactions and other adverse effects and complications.
For instance, research suggests that about
Other potential side effects of antibiotic treatment for a UTI include:
More severe risks of using antibiotics include:
Creating stronger strains of bacteria
Over time, some species of bacteria have become resistant to traditional antibiotics. According to some
The more a person uses an antibiotic, the greater the risk of the bacteria developing resistance. This is even more likely when a person does not take the full prescribed course of treatment.
It is essential to continue taking antibiotics until the end date that the doctor provides. Also, never share antibiotics with others.
Damaging helpful bacteria
The body contains populations of bacteria and other microorganisms that help with bodily functions. Antibiotics may destroy some of these bacteria, which could increase the likelihood of other infections occurring, according to some
If a person suspects that they have a UTI, they should ask a healthcare professional for advice about the best way to treat it.
Antibiotics may not always be necessary, but it is still important to seek medical attention. This reduces the risk of developing a more severe infection that is harder to treat.
Below are answers to some frequently asked questions about treating UTIs.
Can UTIs go away on their own?
It is not uncommon for UTIs to go away on their own, without the use of antibiotics. Some research states that up to
However, keep in mind that there are risks to leaving UTIs untreated.
What happens if a UTI is left untreated?
Will a UTI last longer without antibiotics?
Every individual is different, so it is difficult to estimate how long a UTI will last without antibiotics. A
With treatment, an uncomplicated UTI may clear up within
Is it safe to treat UTIs without antibiotics?
Antibiotics are effective treatments for UTIs. Sometimes, the body can resolve minor, uncomplicated UTIs on its own, without antibiotics.
By some estimates,
Complicated UTIs require medical treatment. These are some factors that can make the infection complicated:
Most people develop a UTI at some point, and these infections are more common in females.
Many UTIs go away on their own or with primary care. Researchers are increasingly looking for ways to treat and prevent UTIs without antibiotics.
Several long-standing home remedies may help prevent and treat these infections.
Anyone who may have a UTI should speak with a healthcare professional before trying to treat the infection themselves.