Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are quite common, especially among women. If you're dealing with the discomfort and pain of a UTI, you're likely looking for a quick fix.
This article looks at some of the most commonly prescribed home remedies for UTIs, and provides recommendations for improving your urinary health.
What Is a UTI?
A UTI is an overgrowth of micro-organisms or bacteria in any part of the urinary system including the kidneys, ureter, bladder or urethra. Infections most commonly occur in the bladder or urethra.
Half of all women worldwide will have a UTI at some point in their life. While men can get UTIs as well, women are at a much greater risk due to their anatomy.
Some will suffer from recurrent UTIs. This involves two or more infections in a six-month period of time, or three infections over 12 months (1).
Most researchers believe vaginal or bowel sources of bacteria cause UTIs. Other causes include antibiotic overuse, sexual intercourse, menopause, certain types of birth control, kidney stones, catheter-use and poor immunity (1).
One study found that bacteria can actually live in reservoirs inside the lining of the bladder and cause recurrent infections (2).
Summary: A UTI is an overgrowth of bacteria in the urinary system. They're fairly common, especially among women.
Not everyone experiences UTI symptoms, but the most common include:
- Urge to urinate
- Frequently passing small amounts of urine
- Burning sensation when urinating
- Cloudy urine
- Urine that appears red or pink due to blood in the urine
- Strong-smelling urine
- Pelvic pain (women)
If you believe you have a UTI, contact your doctor. You may need antibiotic treatment.
Common Home Remedies For UTIs
Against popular belief, there are no proven home remedies for treating a UTI.
However, healthcare professionals recommend some commonly used methods, even though they lack adequate, evidence-based research.
People have been recommending cranberry juice and cranberry tablets for decades.
The theory is that cranberries contain a powerful polyphenol that interferes with the bacteria that often causes UTIs.
Unfortunately, the research data is inconsistent and limited, which means cranberry should not be recommended as the sole form of prevention or treatment (3).
A growing number of people are turning to D-mannose, a natural sugar, for the treatment of UTIs.
Although there's promising research showing its effectiveness, the studies are too small to be considered reliable at this time (4).
Some researchers believe that Vitamin C can acidify urine, thus decreasing the risk for UTIs. As an antioxidant, it can also boost the immune system.
However, only limited and outdated research is available to support this claim(5, 6).
Additional Home Remedies For UTIs
Summary: Cranberry, D-mannose and vitamin C may help prevent and/or treat UTIs for some people, but more research is needed to prove their effectiveness.
The following UTI home remedy recommendations also lack satisfactory research, but they may benefit your urinary system and overall health.
One of the most common recommendations for preventing and treating UTIs is increasing your fluid and water intake.
Even so, there is not enough valid research to prove this as an effective form of prevention or treatment for UTIs (1).
That said, hydration is essential for overall optimal health. Drinking adequate fluids can protect you from a wide range of other health problems such as kidney stones, dehydration and diabetes (1, 7).
The Institute of Medicine recommends a total fluid intake of 11+ cups for women and 15+ cups for men, including water and fluids from food and beverages (8).
Practice Good Sexual Hygiene
Many health practitioners recommend that you urinate after intercourse to prevent UTIs.
One large study found that good sexual hygiene, including urinating after intercourse, leads to a decreased risk of UTIs in women aged 18-30 years (9).
Since there are no adverse risks from practicing good sexual hygiene, this continues to be a popular and supported recommendation.
Maintain a Healthy Weight
In a large study looking at more than 95,000 people over a 5-year period, an elevated body mass index (BMI) was associated with an increased risk of getting a UTI (10).
Specifically, women with an elevated BMI of 30-34.9 were significantly more likely to suffer from a UTI.
Of course, maintaining a healthy weight is not only beneficial for your urinary tract, but your overall health.
Probiotics are live microorganisms that are beneficial to your health. They're the good bacteria that live in your gut. You can find probiotics in food, dietary supplements and various body products.
Researchers believe that the use of probiotics can reduce your UTI risk by blocking the bad bacteria from attaching to the cell walls in the urinary tract. One study found a 73% reduction in episodes of recurrent UTIs compared to those not using Lactobacillus probiotics.
Unfortunately, many other studies show no therapeutic effect, and most lack consistent probiotic strain and dosing recommendations, as well as repeatable results (11).
Still, the known benefits of probiotic use, including improved digestion, increased immunity and better mood, is enough to keep probiotics on the list of recommendations, especially given their minimal adverse side effects (1).
Home Remedies for UTIs
Summary: Adequate fluid intake, good sexual hygiene, maintaining a healthy weight and taking probiotics may help to prevent or treat UTIs.
There are no proven home remedies for preventing or treating UTIs. However, there is promising research for the use of cranberries, D-mannose and vitamin C.
Just note that there are several other easy ways to support your urinary system.
Staying hydrated, practising good sexual hygiene, and maintaining a healthy weight can help you avoid UTIs and improve your overall health.
And of course, there are prescription medications for UTIs that are safe and effective too.