By Amy Gorin, MS, RDN
Yes, there’s such a thing as home remedies for UTI and natural remedies for UTI! Urinary tract infections are no fun at all, but these tips and tricks will help make everything at least a little bit better.
I've been wanting to write this blog post for a long time now. Because urinary tract infections (UTIs) suck, plain and simple. And in pretty much every female-oriented Facebook group I belong to, there are always a slew of questions about how to prevent and treat UTIs, especially the chronic variety.
So after years of getting way too many UTIs, I thought I should share everything I've learned. And I promise you, as a registered dietitian nutritionist, I've thoroughly vetted all the advice I'm sharing with you!
What is a Urinary Tract Infection?
Let’s start with first things first. In my opinion, having a UTI is one of the absolute worst things that can happen to you as a woman. I’ve had UTIs so bad that I cried in bed because it hurt to move.
Unfortunately, women have a greater risk than men for developing UTIs, according to the Mayo Clinic. A UTI is an infection of the urinary system—so it can involve the kidneys, ureters, bladder, and urethra. The majority of UTIs take place in the bladder and urethra, which make up the lower urinary tract. But more serious infections can get into the kidneys.
Symptoms of a UTI
Sometimes, UTIs can be a silent infection. But some people will get telltale signs. These include:
- A strong and persistent urge to urinate
- A burning feeling when urinating
- Urinating in small, frequent amounts
- Cloudy urine
- Pink, red, or brown urine
- Urine that has a strong smell
- Pelvic pain
Women can have a difficult time distinguishing between UTIs, yeast infections, and bacterial vaginosis—all unpleasant! That’s why I like to keep a supply of UTI test kits on hand. They’re a pretty inexpensive drugstore buy, and if a test shows up positive I know I need to do something about the infection—and fast.
How Do You Know if You Have a UTI?
The best way to get diagnosed is to go to the doctor, where the doctor will ask you to urinate in a cup. Your urine sample will then be sent off to a lab to get tested. The reason: Different strains of infections are typically treated with different types of antibiotics.
I like keeping at-home test strips on hand because this way, I at least know what to worry about—and in the days of virtual medicine, I can call my doctor, relay the results, and begin to get treatment.
Natural Remedies for UTIs
Thankfully, you can use a handful of tricks as home remedies for UTIs—and also as ways to prevent UTIs from happening in the first place. Here are my favorite tips. And no, they don’t involve drinking cranberry juice or taking cranberry pills!
One of the simplest UTI remedies is drinking enough water. In addition to causing fatigue, dehydration can also lead to headache and dizziness—which can make your energy dip. In addition, dehydration has been connected with UTIs and kidney stones, both of which can zap energy levels.
How much water you need to drink daily depends on so many factors, such as your age, gender, and health status. But following the guidelines from the National Academy of Sciences recommendation is a good start. So women should aim to drink 91 ounces a day, and men should shoot for 125 ounces daily. Remember that food such as fruit, vegetables, and even oatmeal and yogurt contains water, too! And so does tea and coffee (up to the first four cups or so of coffee).
Take a Daily Probiotic
While I don't recommend inserting yogurt into your vagina (Google “natural UTI cures,” and you’ll find some crazy things out there!), I do recommend taking a daily probiotics.
Now, if you already take a probiotic for immune or digestive health, that’s wonderful. But that’s not going to help your urinary tract health, so you’ll need to add an additional probiotic to your regimen. And yes, you can take multiple types of probiotics at the same time.
There’s some pretty cool research out there that shows the benefits of probiotic supplementation for helping to prevent UTIs. In fact, a June 2018 study in Archives of Italian Urology and Andrology found that supplementation with Lactobacillus acidophilus La-14 may help in alleviating recurrent urinary tract infections.
I once spoke with a scientist who works at a company that makes women’s probiotics. And he told me something very interesting: that not all probiotics strains work for all women. This is why I highly recommend all three of the products below.
I've found that Jarrow Formulas Jarrow-Dophilus Women works best for me, and this is what I use myself daily. But I recommend that you try all three to see which set of good bacteria works best for you. Note that with probiotics, you'll need to take them for several weeks to see what works. Without further ado, here are the three probiotics that have the power to help prevent UTIs!
Jarrow Formulas Fem-Dophilus
This women’s probiotic contains 1 billion CFU per serving. It supports vaginal and urinary tract health by providing two patented and clinically documented probiotic strains, Lacticaseibacillus rhamnosus GR-1 and Limosilactobacillus reuteri RC-14. You can buy Jarrow Formulas Fem-Dophilus here.
Jarrow Formulas Jarrow-Dophilus Women
This women’s probiotic contains 10 billion CFU per serving and helps restore healthy vaginal flora, in addition to supporting urinary tract health. It does all this by combining the most prevalent vaginal Lactobacillus species. These include L. crispatus LbV 88, L. gasseri LbV 150N, L. jensenii LbV 116, and L. rhamnosus LbV 96. Give Jarrow Formulas Jarrow-Dophilus Women a try!
Metagenics UltraFlora Women
This is a great probiotic for women who are prone to vaginal infections or urinary tract infections. The blend of probiotics helps you maintain healthy vaginal flora. Note that this probiotic is practitioner grade, meaning a healthcare practitioner such as a registered dietitian nutritionist will need to “prescribe” it to you via a service such as Fullscript—which I’m a provider on! Connect with me on Fullscript to give Metagenics UltraFlora Women a try.
Practice Good Hygiene
I know, I know. This tip sounds obvious, but it’s worth repeating just in case. Good hygiene for preventing UTIs includes both wiping front to back, wearing breathable cotton underwear, and also peeing before and after sex.
You might ask why it’s important to urinate after sexual activity? Well, the thrusting of sex can push bacteria to places you don’t want bacteria. The easiest way to flush them out? Peeing.
Try an Herbal Treatment
One of the most embarrassing moments of my life was when I got a UTI while on vacation in Germany. My now husband and I, with the help of Google translate, explained the situation to a pharmacist. Now, in Germany, antibiotics aren’t given out at the drop of a hat like they are here in the United States. So the pharmacist sold me Bionurica Canephron N Tablets, which were amazing.
The tablets are made of centaury, lovage, and rosemary. Unlike many alternative treatments, this one is actually clinically proven. A study published in February 2013 in Research and Reports in Urology found that the herbal treatment is shown to be effective in the treatment of UTIs, compared with standard therapy, both in adults and children. As well, pregnant women taking Canephron had earlier relief of symptoms when taking the herbal treatment in addition to other treatment.
I still use Canephron to this day. If you feel the start of a UTI coming on, you can start taking it and the infection may subside on its own. For non-mild infections, I’ve also taken it alongside antibiotics—and I really am convinced that my healing is expedited. Because it’s not sold in stores in America, I order it online via Amazon.com.
The After Effects of a UTI
I’m one of the many women who often gets a yeast infection after a round of antibiotics. Thanks, modern medicine! Luckily, I’ve learned a few tricks to decrease the likelihood of this happening.
As you can see, probiotics are the answer for many things! When you’re taking antibiotics, that medicine is helping you fight infection. But it's also killing the good bacteria in your gut. So you need to replenish that bacteria. One of the best probiotics to do so is Saccaromyces boulardii. Of course, make sure to take the probiotics at a different time of day than you take your antibiotics.
Keep Test Kits on Hand
Just like I like to keep test kits on hand for UTIs, I also keep test kits on hand for yeast infections. The reason: It's always hard to tell if you have a yeast infection, bacterial vaginosis, or something else. If the test comes up positive, you know you need to get treatment ASAP.
For me, I’ve found that a prescription for fluconazole, aka Diflucan, is much more effective than over-the-counter (OTC) options. And yes, you folks in Canada are super lucky because you can buy these yeast infection treatments without a prescription unlike us U.S. folks!
When to See a Doctor
Now, I’m all about home remedies for UTIs when possible. But UTIs are infections that can get really serious—and fast. So if you have any doubt that your infection isn’t getting better, go to the doctor ASAP. You don’t want to play around with your urogenital health, since an untreated UTI can quickly lead to a kidney infection, which can be very scary.
Also, most docs will prescribe you a medicine to help with UTI pain, as well as an antibiotic. But if your doc doesn't, you can purchase OTC options such as Cystex or AZO Urinary Pain Relief Maximum Strength.
- Mayo Clinic
- National Academy of Sciences recommendation
"Recurrent bacterial symptomatic cystitis: A pilot study on a new natural option for treatment," Archives of Italian Urology and Andrology
"Efficacy and safety of the phytotherapeutic drug Canephron® N in prevention and treatment of urogenital and gestational disease: review of clinical experience in Eastern Europe and Central Asia", Research and Reports in Urology
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